Cllr Phil Rackley, a Labour councillor in Basildon, has apologised to Cllr Mo Larkin, a Conservative councillor currently serving as the Mayor. Cllr Rackley had posted comments under a picture of Cllr Larkin which said she looked like “lamb dressed as mutton” on the site.
After an official complaint to the Joint Standards Committee board, whose chairman is a Conservative councillor Cllr Tony Archer, the committee debated the matter for two and a half hours. It concluded that found that Cllr Rackley had acted in his official capacity as a councillor and that he was in breach of code of conduct and as the comments were disrespectful. His representative claimed they were complimentary. (Had he intended to write "mutton dressed as lamb"?)
Cllr Rackley now says:
“I would like to apologise to the mayor for the comments that I made on the save the Gloucester Park Facebook page.
"It was certainly not my intention to cause any offence or distress to the mayor and I very much regret that the mayor felt the need to take the action she has, but understand that this reflects the feeling the mayor had when made aware of my comments.
“I very much regret any distress and upset my taking part in the Facebook caption competition caused and hope that the mayor accepts it was not done to cause her any personal offence or harm the relationship that exists between elected members and the office of mayor of the council.”
Cllr Larkin, who shook Mr Rackley’s hand after the hearing, said:
“I am glad this is all over and that we can finally move on, this should act as a deterrent for people who are using social networking websites to be careful with what they post on them in future.”
I think Cllr Rackley's comments were disrespectful. His claim that he was seeking to flatter Cllr Larkin was thoroughly disingenuous. Opponents should be attacked for their policies not subjected to personal abuse. in any event Cllr Larkin as the Mayor should not have been regarded as a opponent during her time in office. Then there is the matter of whether Cllr Rackley was being sexist – although this may just reflect the reality of life. Are men subjected to the same level of attack for their appearance?
On the other hand wouldn't have been more dignified for Cllr Larkin to have ignored it rather than push for this worthless apology? Rather than the Code of Conduct and the Joint Standards Committee the matter should be for Labour Party and the voters of St Martins Ward to consider if Cllr Rackley is a worthy representative.
Cllr Archer and his colleagues have better ways to spend two and half hours. The Council's highly paid lawyers should be given different priorities.