British Legion veteran Bob, 73, tells deputy mayor of Wisbech ‘You must treat others with respect – you don’t. You must not bully any persons – deputy mayor you do’.
PUBLISHED: 10:33 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:33 03 March 2017
The deputy mayor of Wisbech, who faced calls earlier this week for his resignation, accused critics of orchestrating a “sustained character assassination” and hinted he was unsure if he wanted to remain a councillor.
Steve Tierney is expected to become the town mayor in May but during a public question time session before Monday night’s town council meeting he sat and listened to two members of the public who called for him to stand down.
Bob Doughty, 73, his voice croaking with emotion, questioned whether the town was following custom and practice and giving the mayoralty to long serving and senior council members.
“In your handbook it states general obligations,” he told Cllr Tierney. “You must treat others with respect – you don’t. You must not bully any persons – deputy mayor you do.
“You must not conduct yourself in a manner that others might reasonably think brings your office or authority into disrepute. You do Mr deputy mayor on social media – especially Facebook- which the whole world can see.
“I ask you deputy mayor to do the honourable thing and resign from the council.”
A second speaker, Sharon Horne, sat with a group of protestors calling themselves “Wisbech Voices”, an all party political group set up recently during a conduct committee hearing which saw Fenland Council dismiss allegations made against UKIP town councillor Alan Lay by Cllr Tierney.
Mrs Horne said: “We are a cross section of people with different views and outlooks but what we all agree on is that we expect our representatives to act appropriately.
“In our opinion, the deputy mayor has offended and insulted people over a considerable period clearly going against the council’s code of conduct and certainly unbecoming of a councillor.”
Mrs Horne told the town council: “We expect our councillors not to bully others and conduct themselves appropriately yet you have elected a deputy mayor who has consistently behaved in a totally unacceptable manner. If people say nothing you will presumably elect him as our mayor and the chief representative of Wisbech.
“You are our representatives. How can this mayor-elect honourably represent us whilst continuing to behave in this appalling manner.”
Independent councillor Virginia Bucknor felt the mayor’s role “should be non political. In our handbook it states quite clearly that the person should be elected on length of service and in recognition of how they have served the community”.
She said: “It shouldn’t be handed on simply because they’re political mates. It’s blatant cronyism.”
Cllr Tierney later on his political blog, accused his detractors of being unrepresentative and comprising “some UKIP supporters”.
He wrote: “They had prepared banners saying unpleasant things about me. They used the public speaking section of the meeting to personally attack me, and they did so with prepared statements. Although they were members of a political activist group, they posed as members of the public.”
He added: “Bob Doughty – who I was surprised about given that I have put myself out to help him in the past – called on me to consider my position and resign as a councillor and as deputy mayor.
“I know that all of this was politically motivated. I know it was organised and deliberate. I know the aim is to make me feel so bad that I give up, so that their favourite candidate gets an easy win in May and so that a well-known local Conservative gets knocked down.
“I know all this. But sitting through a sustained character assassination in a public meeting, where politically-motivated individuals are allowed to say horrible stuff about you in front of your friends, colleagues and family, is very difficult even if you are as thick skinned as me.
“There is no way for me to win this.”
Cllr Tierney also blamed the press for an “endless array of tweeted and newspaper articles. I don’t like to let them win. But just now I really don’t know if I want to continue putting up with these lies, this spin and this media campaign.
“I have given thousands of hours to the town and I have worked relentlessly for Wisbech because I love the town. But I have not felt ‘bullied’ since I was a child and what happened tonight was something I would not wish on anybody.”
He added: “Their aim was to isolate, focus on and attack me.; to upset me, to upset my family and to trash my reputation. They have managed to do so. I am sure they are very pleased about it.”
David Prestidge, a retired teacher and spokesman for the Wisbech Voices campaign group, said it was too early to say if they could or would be in a position to build support for an electoral campaign.
He said the support shown for Cllr Lay and the conduct committee’s decision to exonerate him had been significant.
He said; “It may be too much to hope that Wisbech politics will be a less poisonous place from now on, but at least it shows that there are some people who refuse to be browbeaten, and that manipulating opinion on a Facebook forum is no substitute for common sense and proper dialogue.”