SS Clones Arrest Council
- – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on the art of silently and satirically expressing an opinion in a public forum in such a way as to occasion no disruption (but a high degree of mirth).
Readers will perhaps be familiar with the following addage:
“The only man to enter parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes.”
On Monday 7th November 2022, two men entered the Scarborough Borough Council Chamber with honest intentions – to express, silently and peacefully the opinion that the Leader of the Council, Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.] is and has been two-faced.
The inspiration for this harmless gesture derived from Mr Roger PICKSTOCK’s Letter to the Editor of 30th October, entitled “The Elusive Bidders”, the introduction to which provided readers with a video ‘reminder’ of the intentions professed by Councillor SIDDONS when he assumed the Leadership of the Council on 7th May 2019.
In my article “More Splashback from the Pool” (dated 28th October 2022), I revealed the clash of opinions expressed, respectively, by Councillor SIDDONS and a highly critical Councillor Bill CHATT [C.I.M.]. In brief, Councillor SIDDONS directs us to NYCC Councillor Derek BASTIMAN to explain HQ Hotels withdrawal from the Indoor Swimming Pool deal.
It has been a frequent tactic of Councillor SIDDONS to blame his own failures – e.g. bringing the North Bay development to a standstill, frightening off Futurist-site ‘preferred bidder’ Mr Gordon GIBB of Flamingo Land (and failing to find a viable replacement), failing to secure a deal with HQ Hotels, failing to grasp the ARGOS-building demolition as an opportunity to create a Town Square, and on, and on – on Councillor BASTIMAN’s administration (2015/19).
Councillor SIDDONS has presided over a diametric departure from his assurances of openness and transparency, direct communications, member involvement in all decision-making, and on, and on . . .
So my friend and colleague ANDY STRANGEWAY (himself a former County Councillor at ERYC) and I decided to attend Full Council and project a silent visual opinion that Councillor SIDDONS has been, and continues to be, two-faced.
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) entitles us to express an opinion, but we were keen to do so without standing accused of ‘disrupting’ the meeting.
We wore COVID masks/screens, decorated in the likeness of Councillor SIDDONS’ face. Twice. Geddit? Two-faced.
Unfortunately, the Mayor – Councillor Eric BROADBENT [Lab.], abandoning the Chair’s duty to impartiality, intervened to defend his Group Leader (SIDDONS) by telling us to “stop it”.
Well, we do not work for the Mayor. He works for us. Supposedly.
We waited for a few moments. But then the Mayor, keen to enforce his will, announced that if we did not “stop it” he would adjourn the Meeting for ten minutes. Councillor Joanne MAW [Lab.] called out “How pathetic” – surely a breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, though it may have been directed to the empty chair normally occupied by Councillor Theresa NORTON [Lab.], who has been arrested yet again for obstructing the public highway, as reported in the York Press on 31st October 2022. The Council, it may be remembered, publicly supports jailed serial offender NORTON, but seemingly cannot tolerate a silent sardonic pop at Leader SIDDONS. How pathetic indeed. And Councillor SIDDONS publicly supports a member with assault convictions who has routinely threatened worse, but seemingly cannot tolerate a factual appraisal of his failures.
Clearly, our silent visual expression of opinion harmed no-one and presented no obstacle to the Council going about its minimal business (in fact, generally rather trivial – on no occasion were members called upon to vote and one suspects that many of them them may have attended only to keep warm, for free).
Our silent visual expression of opinion did not prevent Councillor SIDDONS presenting his excuses, nor did it prevent members from hearing them and forming their own opinions.
The smart move would have been to ignore us – just as our public interest correspondence is ignored.
However, the Mayor – in his bizarre belief that wearing a scarlet pirate outfit confers powers sufficient to countermand Article 10 of the HRA – adjourned the Meeting for ten minutes and stalked from the Chamber, taking his f-f-f-flummoxed Officers with him.
Returning to the Chamber, the Mayor invited the Leader to continue his response to Councillor CHATT, which he proceeded to do in his customary arrogant and self-righteous manner.
This brought a contemptuous 1.6 seconds snort of laughter from my colleague and (whaddya know?), following a whining whinge from SIDDONS, the Mayor announced a second adjournment (this one for five minutes) and swept pompobulously from the Chamber, followed by his supporting cast of Officers. Pure pantomime.
A fly on the wall of the mayoral ante-room must have found events as amusing as did members (barring the sycophants) who remained in the Chamber and chuckled amongst themselves.
Clearly, it was absurd to adjourn the first time. To do so for a second time, on the back of a 1.6 second chuckle from a member of the public when half the Chamber was still rocking gently in suppressed mirth was – well, pathetic. There are times when the power of delusion creates a delusion of power. Ask, Eric.
There remain four scheduled meetings of Full Council:
- 16th January 2023
- 24th February 2023
- 20th March 2023
- 31st March 2023
What ever next?