Dawn Barnett found guilty – a day of shame for the City’s political processes

Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett has been found guilty by Brighton and Hove City Council’s ‘Standards Committee’ of bringing her office or the local authority into disrepute. In the summer councillor Barnett handed out letters to travellers camped in her Hangleton and Knoll Ward directing them to open spaces in Green-held wards.

A full write up of the hearing can be found in Brighton and Hove News, and excellent and up to the minute online newspaper serving Brighton and Hove.

Until now I have not named the councillor who made the complaint. I had hoped that he would withdraw it. The complaint was made by Green councillor Phelim MacCafferty, who represents Brunswick and Adelaide ward. I actually think Phelim is a lovely man but that he got this one wrong. The use of the ‘Standards Committee’ system is unnecessary. Political differences should be sorted out politically rather than using a procedural process designed to silence dissenting voices. I am delighted that the days of the Standards system are numbered.

If there is one silver lining to this cloud it is that no sanction is being imposed on Dawn Barnett. I am just sorry that she, as with Jason Kitcat and Averil Older before her, have been subjected to the stress of such a hearing.

I conclude by quoting the Tory MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley: “The standards committee is not a forum to stifle freedom of expression based on political disagreements.” Absolutely right. I hope that this discredited system is not used again in Brighton and Hove.

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33 Responses

  1. I went along to witness this whole farce (and where were you, young BPB?!) and a very, very interesting fact emerged. This was that what she was being “tried” for was NOT in Councillor Phelim MacCafferty’s complaint. In fact she had already been CLEARED of the issues in his complaint. Perhaps the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that this was, as I said before, a sleazy political game, cooked up by the Greens.

  2. I was at the hearing today. I am not a party political person. There are good councillors and bad ones. I am honoured to have met three good present and former councillors, Sven Rufus (Green), Francis Tonks (Labour) and Dawn Barnett (Conservative). In local elections I vote for individuals rather than for political parties.

    Standards for England is to be abolished on 31 March 2012 and good riddance to it.

    It is noteworthy that the councillor (Ted Kemble, Conservative) who used the Standards device against Jason Kitcat lost his seat at the subsequent election.

    Phelim MacCafferty will no doubt be hoping that the electors of Brunswick and Adelaide ward have short memory spans when the next elections come around.

  3. I totally agree with Tony and Jason, two characters that I had many interesting conversations with during my Regency days.

    What Dawn did was brilliant. I’m not going to waste time pretending that she should have made the point in a different way. She had a valid point to make and did it in an innovative way. Who cares if it offends a few Greens? Not me.

    Others should have the guts to say when something is wrong like Dawn did, not pretend that the invasion of our local green spaces is suddenly acceptable. Going through with this hearing at taxpayers’ expense is another own goal for the Greens in a month of mistakes in which no sane trader, motorist, council tax payer, parent with kids at school or anybody who cares about the appearance of our city could ever possibly consider voting for what has turned out to be a very nasty Green Party indeed.

    This whole thing was clearly political. I hope that it doesn’t change Dawn being Dawn in any way. That’s what the people of Hangleton & Knoll love her for after all.

    • I agree. The Greens (Cllr. McCafferty) go on about how racist her actions were and how this singled out a group that was undermined by our policies. This from a party that probably has the lowest ‘ethnic minority’ representation.

      The sooner the Greens understand that people in this city don’t care about the ethnicity or political persuation of the camper. If the gypsy/roma/traveller put their caravans in an area that is not allocated for this purpose, then they can expect residents to want the full force of the law to be enforced- equally. Well done Dawn for speaking up for her ward.

      Dawn was trying to make a point and I assume would have done the same thing whether the campers were black, white, roma, gay or had spots on them.

    • Completely agree. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  4. PS Add ‘Albion’ fan to list of those pissed off by Greens in past month.

  5. Dawn was found ‘guilty’ by the Standards Committee who then took ‘no action’.
    This is the equivalent to magistrates finding someone guilty but imposing an ‘absolute discharge.’
    When I was in the police we always understood an absolute discharge as a rebuke to us from the magistrates – i.e. you really should not have brought this case (or more directly – ‘why on earth are you wasting our time with this rubbish prosecution, haven’t you got something better to do?’).

  6. I’ll repeat what I have said before about this. If a Green (or Labour) councillor had handed out maps to encamped travellers in their ward, directing them to a Tory ward, there would have been hell to pay – national press, TV, the works. That councillor’s life would have been made a living hell.

    And I doubt somehow whether Mike Weatherley would have put out a press release declaring this to be a freedom of speech issue.

    • I believe this would have remained a local issue whatever the political colours of the complainant and the accused. It is the abuse of the Standards device that is at issue. Politicians of various political hues have misused this soon to be abolished device.

  7. To summarise, then: if someone parks their caravan on your front lawn, the right and proper way to deal with it is to tell them to go and park it on one of your neighbour’s lawns. And then get really annoyed and accuse your neighbour of scoring points and being ‘political’ when they get a wee bit ticked off about it.

  8. Well Clive … illuminate us! What *should* she have done?

  9. The argument that ‘Clive’ makes is most bizarre. It could not possibly happen the other way around. The whole point is that the Greens are not defending those residents in Hangleton, Portslade, Patcham, Withdean, etc, where green spaces are being misused. There is no reverse analogy.

    Nobody is surprised that the Greens used the Standards Board for political purposes following bad policy. The surprise is that they could expect people to vote for them again after doing so.

    • The point I am making is simple. No councillor should defend the residents of their own ward by dumping on the residents of another ward, just because they happen to have elected a councillor of a different political persuasion.

      And in any case, if was all about ‘the residents’, then how come there was an Argus photographer to snap Dawn in action? Did they just happen to be passing? This was an ill-considered stunt, and while it might appeal the Richard Littlejohn tendancy, it won’t go down well in the liberal centre ground – where most elections are won and lost.

  10. Green was heard to say “Green, my friend, is more than Marxism, just as Catholicism is more than the Roman Curia. There is a mystique as well as a politick. Catholics and Greens have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent. I would rather have Dawn’s blood on my hands than water like Pilate”….I’m shocked!.

  11. I completely disagree with you BPB. Phelim rightfully highlighted an attack on a ethnic minority by an elected official who should have been wiser. If we condone this casual racism we also make it acceptable which does nothing to improve community relations. Councillor Barnett made a cheap political point by attacking a group without a political voice, Phelim has spoken up for them and this makes me proud to be a member of the Green Party even if other things do not.
    Populist remarks like hers give credence to the worst of the Daily Mail and the BNP. The point is she is in a position of authority and so when she says something stupid, it gets heard.
    I don’t know what Councillor Barnett’s views on the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust, I would hope she condemns it outright. It is often forgotten that millions of Romany gypsies were also gassed and slaughtered. Is she going to condone that?
    I thought this blog would be wiser than to promote bigotry. Obviously I was wrong.

    • So dear old Phelim and council officers went up there and verified that they were gypsy romany travellers? What a pile of crap. Haven’t you figured out yet that people in the ‘travelling as a free holiday camp site’ fraternity are wise when it comes to the technique of fraudulently playing the race card? In fact it even came out at the hearing that the ‘travellers’ in question had said they were “on holiday”. This was also corroborated by a witness.There was no dispute from the panel or council officers. Nice to see Godwin’s Law in action (compare everything you disapprove of to the Nazis). And as for “no political voice” – let me get my violin out. a) genuine travellers DO have a political voice and b) phoney travellers do too – at the bricks and mortar residencies where their license plates are registered and where they appear on the electoral roll.

    • Your comparison of what Dawn [rightfully] did to the Holocaust is sick, cheap and offensive and I suggest that you retract it immediately.

      What Dawn did was to stick up for local residents who are sick and tired of people coming in to their public parks, occupying them without paying and leave them a mess with the taxpayer footing the bill. Race is not the issue here. It’s completely irrelevant. Whether the people parked up in trailers are white, black, pink, purple or blue is not the issue. The issue is they are making a right mess of our lovely green spaces and they need to pack it in immediately.

    • A completely spurious comment.

      We don’t live in Nazi Germany, we are a democracy and the laws about where one can park their caravans are nothing to do with Nazism, Racism or any other similarly obsurd analogy.

    • The moral equivalence you’re drawing here is sickening. I would suggest that, if such a thing existed, your comment could be refered to the “BPB standards committee”. Maybe the rehabilitation element of your sentence could involve education about what actually happened in the Holocaust. Your comment makes light of such an unparalleled event by making such spurious comparisions, and I for one find it deeply offensive.

      Just to be clear, the objections most people have to travellers have absolutely nothing to do with their ethnic origin. It is all about actions: what gives somebody the right to park a caravan wherever they please without permission and then claim they have some sort of “right” to be there? I would certainly not expect to be conferred such a right.

      What Dawn did was admirable and her innovative and hands-on approach is part of what makes her such an exceptional councillor.

  12. ‘Disgruntledgreen’ is probably best to stay anonymous with silly comments like that. You should be safe with that name at least – it probably applies to every Green member at present.

  13. Given the dire performance of the Greens running B&H City Council perhaps ‘disgruntledgreen’ is actually the lovely Ms Lucas!

    • Thouight Luca’s was attending the North Korean state funeral whilst the Green Machine fights/wins Westbourne?..The Duchess has a fine ship, but she has barnacles on her bottom.

      • Dawn was inciting travellers to trespass in specific places elsewhere -this was rich coming from the standard bearer of the law and order party.

        Rachael, Linda, Robert and all the other Tory fans of DB would be the first to scream at Green/Lab supporters inciting others to break the law. It is beyond belief they do not think it was right to have censured her.

        And it is easy to scapegoat the powerless ‘other’ in our midst and that is the analogy to the holocaust- not a matter of intent but degree.

  14. If the Greens continue to irritate basically everybody that doesn’t live on a diet of tofu and wheatgerm oil then the planned voyage of green enlightenment will be limited to a small astro-turfed imagination residing in Brussells!

  15. isn’t it wonderful that educated Tories such as Robert regard serious racially motivated attacks, and the subsequent outrage at them as being silly. Perhaps he would like to enlighten us on conservative policy on the issue… Councillor Barnett was not representing her constituents, she was merely pandering to reactionary Daily Mailite beliefs which have obsolutely no foundation! I wonder what kind of community integration and cohesion involves stupidity along the lines she has expounded. I also note people think there is neither anything wrong about her comments nor my comparison with the nazis. Lets put it this way, they started off like this small and stigmatising minority communities for wider political failures. I am proud Councillor Maccafferty has stood up in defence of them. And no I shall not be withdrawing my earlier remarks, they are fair and balanced.

    • The best possible opinion poll on this episode will be the Westbourne ward by-election in Hove on 22 December 2011. The result is awaited with interest.

      • You’re on. Although hate to break it to you, “Tory councillor gets slap on the wrists for being mildly obnoxious” is not a burning issue on Westbourne doorsteps.

    • You ‘dextrously’ (actually rather clumsily) avoid addressing the point at issue. These were not Romany travellers – they declared themselves to residents as being “on holiday”, and no one at any stage challenged or refuted that.

      You say, “I wonder what kind of community integration and cohesion involves stupidity along the lines she has expounded.”. You seem to blissfully unaware that it’s idiots like you that create the problems between groups in society.

      Let me explain.

      In your mind, anyone who is in a caravan, parked up on a bit of public land is a traveller, and an ethnicity law-protected one at that. Even though they are breaking the law, their race “trump” card gets them out of every bit of bother. They should be allowed to do things that other people can’t, because to deny them this right, seemingly in your view, would be *racist*.

      So in rabid adherence to this kind of dogma those people end up getting extra-special privileges that not only others cannot get, but which come at the detriment of others (loss of use of areas of public land, taxpayers’ money used to clean up after them etc.).

      So when you and Green councillors (maybe you are one, hmm?) start treating non-council tax paying people better than residents, it is only natural for resentment between the communities to occur. I am all for equality and fairness for everyone, but the answer is education, not litigation.

      As for Dawn Barnett moving them on to other wards where there are Green councillors, it makes perfect sense to me. The Greens have welcomed travellers, as have, one assumes, their supporters, so when caravans show up en masse, the Greens should play host to them.

  16. you can argue logic all day where Dawn is concerned but she did what she thought was right too highlight the situation in her ward and it did that! but it’s all a bit like saying “Mother said we shouldn’t throw stones at the windows, but It’s all right for us to use lumps of metal”.
    And if we get caught mother, resolved “nobody could ever lay a hand on us”, so they might as well respond with a kick.

  17. There is nothing political about calling a councillor to account to encouraging travellers – IN WRITING IF YOU PLEASE- to illegally take their caravans onto public spaces. Her behaviour was blatantly political because she specified public spaces in Green-held wards.

    Her behaviour DID bring the office of councillor into disrepute.

  18. Will you please all stop apologising for the low-level but very-real racism that Tories, and it would seem, mainstream blogging society purvey against Travellers and Gypsy’s ?
    Please take a long hard look at yourselves and ask whether given our learnings from history, one way of life for types of people is good and another is to be condemned?

    • Haven’t we already covered the silly Nazi analogies? Perhaps a “long hard look” at this thread is in order! “Very real racism”? Can you elaborate or is this just some whimsical belief with no fact behind it at all? One might also ask why, when our council leader Jason prevented a traveller from breaking onto council land, the Green Party didn’t leap to accuse him of racism like they did with Dawn Barnett.

      The party of equality and fairness? Ha.

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