In defence of Dawn Barnett (and even of Tony Janio)

Once again, a democratically elected councillor might be prevented from representing her constituents because councillor Dawn Barnett is being taken before the ‘Standards’ Committee following an anonymous complaint, allegedly from a fellow councillor.

In early summer, shortly after the election of the first-ever Green Administration, councillor Barnett handed out letters to travellers encamped in her ward (Hangleton and Knoll) giving them directions to open spaces in Green-held wards.

I thought it was an imaginative and hilarious protest by councillor Barnett. So much of local politics is taken too seriously. While much of what local government does is serious stuff, occasionally a light hearted and irreverent intervention is to be welcomed. Councillor Barnett’s made one such intervention.

I like, for example, the style of councillor Tony Janio who has strongly held views that can be summarised as small local government, big third and private sectors. He takes a special delight in winding up Green councillors as witnessed by the wearing of a Stars and Stripes tie at Full Council meetings.

Now it may come as a surprise to my three regular readers (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave) that I might not entirely support each and every political view articulated by the Hangleton Twins (Barnett and Janio). But I like their style.

But back to the attempt to discipline councillor Barnett. I am shocked that the hearing by the ‘Standards’ Committee might be held behind closed doors. Papers relating to the hearing have not been published because the council believes that “the public interest in maintaining the exemption outways the public interest in disclosing the information”. According to Tim Ridgway at the Argus, “It is believed the decision was made by council lawyers as they wanted to ‘downplay’ the publicity surrounding the hearing”.

This is not a matter of process, it is a political show trial. On the panel will be Tory councillor, Ann Norman, Green councillor Leo Littman, and Labour councillor Jeane Lepper. Two ‘independent’ members of the panel (which is scheduled to meet at 10am on Tuesday morning) are Peter Rose and Dr. Michael Wilkinson.

If council officials thinks that by “downplaying” the panel hearing that there will be less publicity, they are completely wrong. Try keeping something confidential, you can be assured it will leak.

And if Labour and Green councillors take a stance against Dawn Barnett because they disagree with her views regarding travellers, the issue will come back to bite them on the butt. For mark my words, if Dawn Barnett is suspended from office for even a micro-second, if she is censured for her actions, she will become a bigger legend in Hangleton and Knoll than she is already. Any chance of Labour regaining that ward will be lost; any thoughts that the Greens might have of gaining a foothold in that ward will be lost.

I opposed the Standards Committee action against Jason Kitcat, against Averil Older, and will do so against anyone else brought before this panel. The only group entitled to replace a democratically elected representative should be the voters who put them there in the first place.

I support the right to recall as strongly as I oppose the Standards Committee. I call on the person who made the complaint against councillor Barnett to withdraw it, and I call on councillors Norman, Littman and Lepper to refuse to hear this matter.

17 Responses

  1. I will be at Hove Town Hall at 10am on Tuesday morning. I will refuse to leave the building unless I allowed to witness this hearing. I have no criminal record but will not leave Hove Town Hall without making a hell of a lot of noise if any attempt is made to prevent members of the public from attending this meeting.

  2. Best post you’ve ever made.

    Many feel that whatever the outcome, this is a win-win situation for us.

  3. Difficult to disagree with any of this BPB. I’m sure those due to sit in judgement will read it as well and hopefully respond as you suggest.

  4. I have got to know Dawn well over the last month as she has helped me in Westbourne. The trespass onto Greenleas at the start of the summer holidays really was terrible for local people. Dawn was under great pressure and Tony was on holiday that week. She received no help from the Police (who I am afraid should have acted on this one) and the Council were implementing their ‘toleration’ policy so just stood by as well.
    It was impossible to use that park. My son, who is 6’3”, and his mate who lives at Hangleton were scared to play football there (hopefully he does not read this!) but most important of all the families who live in social housing without gardens at Hangleton could not play in the park.
    I am very concerned about prejudice against travellers (which undoubtedly is a major problem) but the Green Council and local Police approach and inaction on this occasion only added to the problem.
    Dawn spoke up to try to get something done and now she is facing the stress of this hearing and possible suspension. Contrary to the impression some have of Dawn, she is finding this very worrying. I am pretty sure she does not read blogs so will pass this on. The support of someone from the other side of the political spectrum will be heartening.
    NB – re the by election I have avoided commenting on that on this site until now. I think the residents of the ward will be glad it is over (I suspect they are ‘leafleted’ and ‘canvassed out’.) My opponents have beaten me on the poster stakes. There is just one for me – but I console myself that everyone not displaying a poster is obviously a Cox supporter!
    Happy Christmas to yourself and all your readers.

  5. I could not agree more with the blogger. Perhaps what I find most unfair is the way Dawn Barnett’s name has been leaked here, there and everywhere, whilst the accuser – Councillor Phelim MacCafferty – manages to stay spider-like in the shadows.

    What has become of the principle of innocent until proven guilty?

    For all their “democratic” and “being different” talk, the Greens play the same sleazy, political games as all the other parties.

  6. Interesting news from Norwich.

    The Brighton Greens will claim that this gent is either insane/racist/fascist/homophobic etc etc

  7. I know the Green games all too well. A few years ago I was featured in a photo on the cover of The Argus having a go at Keith Taylor, after the meeting where the Greens u-turned and voted in favour of the horrific Gehry towers at the Kind Alfred site. I told Keith Taylor and Georgia Wrighton that they were dead in the water come the next election. The next thing I knew was the police were contacting me, and I was dragged into Hove police station to be questioned, accused of threatening to kill two Green councillors. This went on for months – I was banned from council meetings against my rights as a resident and had to go to the police station several times to try to clear my name. They just did it to try and bully someone who dared to speak out against them, perhaps hoping the stress of it all would drive me into an early grave. Well, fortunately I’m still here. Eventually months later, I got a letter from the police saying that they and the prosecution service were not pursuing the matter. Of course not – this was just to a complete setup by the Greens. I wonder how much taxpayers money and police time they wasted. Looks like they’re going to waste even more in this vendetta against another person who doesn’t agree with them, namely Dawn Barnett.

    • What Dawn Barnett did was nasty and spiteful, if imaginative and populist. I think she does have a case to answer and if it has caused her sleepless nights so much the better. She’ll think twice next time before causing problems for others elsewhere than British West Hangleton.

      There is no point in expelling her from the council. She or her proxy would be returned in a byelection but she should be censured though not suspended.Suspension would make her St Dawn.

      • Perhaps we can circumvent the hyperbole? What has she actually done that’s so “nasty and spiteful”? I don’t see it myself.

      • She approached the travellers under the guise of friendship in order to try to get rid of them, with maps suggesting that they move to a Green-held ward. Hard to see what isn’t spiteful about that, on a number of levels.

        I agree with Zombie that suspension wouldn’t be appropriate for the reasons he outlines. As to whether the hearing should be public, I don’t know … you wouldn’t hold an industrial tribunal in public, would you?

        The blogger now has his/her wish, I believe, in that the Standards Board is to be abolished under the localism agenda. In condemning the Board the blogger has never addressed the point I’ve made several times about the Peter Willows case. If there was a case that demonstrated the need for some kind of standards authority, it was that one – surely?

      • The Peter Willows affair was a criminal matter which was dealt with by magistrates who, erring in law, found Mr Willows guilty. This verdict was subsequently overturned by a Judge sitting at Hove Crown Court. Mr Willows has no criminal record.

  8. My mistake, I thought the Standards board were involved in that case. I still think that some other form of recourse other than the criminal law is appropriate where there are serious issues about the conduct of those elected to positions of responsibility.

  9. While on a stall in Westbourne, a fellow came up and introduced himself. He told me that he was Peter Willows. I had not met him before but then recognised him from memory of a picture. He said that he is now living in Worthing. He had an interesting view of the by-election.

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