Vexation

Duncan Crow, Tory councillor at both West Sussex and Crawley has got himself a blog, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago.

He recently put this little missive up: Our last honest Prime Minister, about John Major. Of course, Major was fairly well respected for his honesty and integrity (if not his competence or personality) until it came out afterwards that he’d had an affair with Edwina Currie.

However, the bit of his post that I was most struck by was where he was trying to wriggle out of flat out calling Blair and Brown liars with this little disclaimer:

I am not sure I can say lying as it may tempt a certain Labour Councillor who seems to habitually make vexatious complaints to the Standards Board about Conservatives Councillors to complain about me.

So who is this ‘certain’ councillor, and what ‘vexatious complaints’ have they been making? I’ve heard of the use of complaints for political purposes in other areas, but not around here very much. Is Duncan actually going to be able to tell us who it is that he is talking about, because it ought to be a matter of public record if vexatious complaints are being made.

Skuds (see comments from number 21 onwards) had a look at the Standards Board for England’s website and found nothing that looked like a vexatious complaint from a Labour Councillor. I know, however, that often complaints are referred back to the local authority for their Standards Committee to investigate, so I have looked back at the last few years’ worth of meetings in Crawley (I have a day off, waiting for Jas’ car to be fixed, and can’t be bothered to do the washing up yet). Since April 2004 the committee has met eight times, and all except for the last have published minutes. I see no reference to a single complaint investigation in all of that time, and the last meeting has no explicit reference to one in it’s Agenda papers.

I have found a reference to the case of a Crawley councillor from before 2004 – he was a Labour councillor, the complaint was upheld (and he resigned as a result) and it originated from an officer over non-declaration of his financial interests and his response to it being discovered.

But nothing at Crawley stands out as being in any way as Cllr Crow describes.

What about West Sussex? Well I looked at the WSCC site and found their Standards Committee papers. It seems that it met more often – on average about three time a year – and I have found the following complaints:

  • In March 2004 a complaint was raised about Cllr Jake Clausen (Lib Dem) by the leader of the his own group, following a conviction for harassment. Cllr Clausen resigned shortly after the complaint was raised, and he was banned from standing as a councillor for two years by the Standards Board. His ban expired last year.

  • In December 2004 a representative of a Travellers group raised a complaint about Cllr Alan Phillips regarding remarks made at a public meeting (among other remarks he had suggested the slogan “if you want a traveller for a neighbour, vote Labour”, a crass reminder of the racist leaflet that Tories in Smethwick put out in 1964 which used the word ‘nigger’). He was no longer on the council by the time that it saw a report on the matter, and although he was found to have breached the Code of Conduct in respect of bringing the council into disrepute, no further action was taken. I don’t know which party Phillips represented, and it’s actually very hard to find the election results from 2001.

Neither complaint was ‘vexatious’, as both resulting in a finding of a breach, and neither of them had been raised by a Labour councillor.

So, I find absolutely no evidence for Cllr Crow’s allegation that there is some Labour councillor out there in the habit of making ‘vexatious complaints’. Indeed, if that were the case, it would only be known about if the cases were completed, and that sort of behaviour ought to have garnered a complaint to the Standards Board if it were going on.

Of course, Cllr Crow could be referring to cases that have yet to be determined – complaints that are still going around the system. In which case, it would appear to be prejudicial to say that they are ‘vexatious’ before it is actually known that the complaints have been rejected or not.

So, I’m wondering to myself about this one. In a post about honesty, is Duncan himself playing a little fast and loose with the truth, in order to play up the victim card?

3 Responses to “Vexation”

  1. Ian Irvine Says:

    If I remember correctly, Alan Phillips was a Conservative Councillor for one of the Chichester Wards, who made his comments in public question time and was chucked out of the Tory Group. So far, so good, the Tory Party rejecting its questionable past. Unfortunately for their attempts to not be the nasty party anymore, sometimes the mask slips and the race/traveller card is played again, as it was in Broadfield South this year. A Conservative election leaflet was circulated claiming that Labour wanted to provide a traveller’s site in Broadfield. Completely untrue, and I have to say from the response I got on the doorsteps, not a claim that many voters believed.
    As to the Standards Board, I wonder on what basis it is decided which cases should go on the website. As you say Owen, there are no Crawley Borough Council cases on there, but a few years ago a complaint was made against a Labour councillor, by a Conservative Councillor. I can’t remember exactly what the complaint was, but the word ‘Comrades’ and its alleged usage in said Labour councillor addressing a Council meeting was somehow involved.
    The Standards Board didn’t investigate the complaint.

  2. Richard W. Symonds Says:

    I know a little about that ‘Alan Phillips’ case – having been one of the complainants about him to the Standards Board.

    At the time, his views were pretty representative of the majority Tory cabal at County Hall.

    He simply made the mistake of ‘letting his guard’ down in public.

    His punishment from the Tory Group was not about what he said, but that he said it in public – in the West Sussex Gazette, I believe.

  3. Danivon Says:

    Ian – you have shown us that it is actually quite hard to find out about complaints that have been decided.

    The one you highlight, of course, is perhaps a vexatious claim from a Tory, but that’s the opposite of what Duncan was telling is is going on.

    Perhaps a FOI request from CBC’s monitoring officer is in order…


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