From Oct 12th-19th is Hate Crime Awareness Week. A timely occasion given the escalation of division in this country, particularly over Brexit. Abuse of politicians, to the point of being intimidating, has now become common place, bringing into question the opportunity for free speech and democracy.
At the Council Meeting on 24th July 2019, after Cllr Graves Snr (Leader of Brexit Party in Derby) had spoken on a Brexit motion, in the Chamber, Cllr Anderson made this impassioned speech:
“I didn’t really want to speak on this motion…and I’m on the record as someone who supported Remain, and still does…but, that’s not the thing that I want to mention.
So when Cllr Graves said that himself, and Cllr Evans, had received hate mail – there was a mocking noise in this chamber!
I’ve had my fill of arguments and disagreements with Cllr Graves, for many years….but politics in this country is in a position where we are happy and ok with politicians being abused in the street, being sent hate mail, simply because we don’t agree with them. I’m not happy with any abuse of any politician …and if you’re saying that you’re ok with Cllr Evans and Cllr Graves receiving hate mail you’re also saying that you’re ok with MPs in Westminster having things thrown at them and being called ‘traitors’ and being sworn at, and this is from both sides of the camp
…and God forbid – we’ve seen MPs in this country murdered because of this very debate and I just hope that we can just be adult and disagree with each other without finding it funny that 2 people, that we may not like personally, are receiving hate mail – because that’s something that’s serious , and I hope that they’ve gone to the Police with and I hope that anyone in here, whether you find it funny, or not….and if it happens to you, you will also go to the relevant authorities
Because nothing in this role is worth people being afraid to do it …and we need to put a stop to that in Derby and send a message nationally that that is not acceptable”
What Cllr Anderson had witnessed ( as indeed, did I, as an observer from the gallery) when Cllr Graves said that he, and Cllr Evans (Brexit Party), had received hate mail, were mocking sounds from Cllr Eldret ( Leader of the Labour Group) and others.
Cllr Graves Snr wrote to Cllr Eldret on the 6th August, suggesting that she had broken the Code of Conduct when
“…you started to make patronising and callous sounds of ‘Ahhh’ regarding our situation. This was made worse by encouraging your group of councillors to join in. It was indeed a very low point for you as their leader”.
An apology was sought.
Cllr Eldret referred this to the group’s Chief Whip Cllr Stanton to provide a response.
Following a reminder, a response was given on 23rd September. Cllr Stanton said that he did not recollect the incident (it was captured on video) but did state
“.. I think we can all agree that threats and/or hate mail to Councillors is never acceptable and we as a group condemn any such action against any councillor”
No apology was forthcoming from Cllr Eldret.
There is always cross party banter in the Council Chamber on the subject matter in discussion at the time. Being frivolous over a matter of personal safety is a different matter.
Had Cllr Graves been a woman, from an ethnic minority, or one of the other protected characteristics – there would have been no mocking. Had there been, then there would have been an immediate backlash….most likely from Cllr Eldret.
But because it was Cllr Graves, it was fair game?
Hate Crime Awareness Week should not just be a politician’s photo opportunity to reinforce their apparent personal credentials and integrity for public consumption. If people believe in Equality, then a hate incident is a hate incident, regardless of the viewer’s personal perspective or the colour of the victim’s party rosette.
Categories: Derby City Council