Colleague urges Brighton’s ‘independent’ councillors to resign and fight a by-election

An independent councillor has urged two colleagues who quit their party last month to stand down from the council and fight a by-election.

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh

Bridget Fishleigh, who was elected as Independent, said that fellow councillors Nikkie Brennan and Kate Knight won their seats because they stood for Labour.

She said that neither should be called an independent.

The pair resigned from the party last month after they were told that they would be investigated over claims of anti-semitism – charges both deny.

As a result of their resignations, Labour went from being the largest party on Brighton and Hove City Council to the second largest, allowing the Greens to take over.

Like former Conservative leader Tony Janio, who resigned from his party’s group on the council, they all now sit as independents, making four in total.

Councillor Fishleigh said: “In normal life outside politics, people who bring shame upon an organisation, damage its reputation and whose actions result in their boss – in this case Nancy Platts – being demoted are fired or resign before they are fired.”

The Rottingdean Coastal representative said that Councillor Brennan and Councillor Knight were elected under the Labour banner and had help with their campaigns from across the Labour Party.

Councillor Fishleigh said: “They are clearly not independent councillors and I do not think they should receive any more council tax payers’ money.”

She that the she understood that the two former Labour councillors did not even live in the wards that they represented.

“So what is the role of these so-called independent councillors then?” Councillor Fishleigh said, adding: “They’re not representing their political parties any more. Nor do they represent residents effectively as they are not on the ground.

“I live in Saltdean. This means that I know when the bins aren’t emptied because mine aren’t either.

“I know when there’s trouble on the A259 because I’m stuck on it too.

Councillor Nikkie Brennan

“So I say to these councillors who have brought so much chaos to our city, please respect democracy and resign your seats so that by-elections can be held.

“Of course, you can run as an actual independent candidate just as I did.”

Councillor Fishleigh said that she was the only councillor in recent memory to have stood and been elected as an independent. The last was Jayne Bennett in 2007.

During her campaign she told people that they could of course vote for candidates from the main political parties but she urged people to spare one of their three votes for her.

She also said that former Conservative group leader Tony Janio was a slightly different case to the two former Labour councillors.

He resigned from the Conservative group on the council rather than from the party, she said, but felt that he should also respect democracy.

Councillor Kate Knight

Councillor Fishleigh added: “I understand that he is still a member of the Conservative Party and certainly seems to be very proud of being a Conservative.

“So his situation is a bit different from the councillors who have resigned from the Labour Party but are staying on as ‘independent’ councillors.”

Councillor Janio said that he was happy to refer to the former Labour councillors as independents.

He said: “We all have varying views and, being an independent, it doesn’t mean we give them up – just that we aren’t subject to party discipline.

“We all bring what we can to the council, whatever label we have.”

Councillor Janio, who holds a seat in Hangleton and Knoll ward, added that Councillor Fishleigh missed out on the benefits of the party system which offered mentoring and training.

Councillor Tony Janio

Councillor Brennan, who represents East Brighton ward, said that she had not decided whether to give herself a different label other than independent but said that she was committed to working for her ward.

She said: “This has been forced on me. My only concern is that I can carry on speaking out for my residents of Whitehawk and East Brighton without a political platform.

“Without just scoring political points, there’s so much to focus on given the present climate.

“I fear my residents will be hit the hardest. That is my priority.”

Councillor Knight said that she had received a lot of emails asking her to continue representing Moulsecoomb and Bevendean as an independent.

She said: “These have been a very difficult and upsetting couple of weeks and a great deal has changed.

“What hasn’t changed, though, is my absolute determination to carry on working hard for the people of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

“These are really difficult times – possibly with worse to come – and many people in the ward are already struggling.”

  1. Ian Chisnall Reply

    Having stood as an Independent PCC candidate I totally agree with Bridget Fishleigh. I had never been a member of a political party and I believe that genuine Independent Councillors, PCCs and MPs (such as as Martin Bell) offer a great deal of value that Party Political MPs, Councillors and PCCs cannot provide. Councillor Janio is correct but he is also missing the point that an Independent representative is not biased or controlled by a political party.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Hmm.– not ever the impression I got from reading your boring and frankly, well to the Left of the Labour Party, regular dirges in the ‘independent’ Argus!
      After a while, I really couldn’t stomach any more of them.
      What beats me is WHY that rag gave you so much space and, more to the point, for so long!
      I mean, who are you Ian–and from whence did you spring?

  2. Becks_in_Saltdean Reply

    Totally agree with Councillor Fishleigh. You can’t just say you are independent if 5 minutes before you clearly were part of a large political party. In corporate world they would just lose their job yet they can just carry on. Really, what a joke?

    I think it’s interesting that they don’t even live in the ward they represent which I suspect is why they’d never get elected if they actually took the plunge to stand as an independent councillor because they certainly are not independent councillors right now.

    BHCC really needs a shake up. We need more true unbiased and non political people to represent local residents.

    Living in Saltdean, voting for Bridget Fishleigh was the best thing we did. She is highly visible, gets involved in projects, makes things happen and in tune with the challenges local people have.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      I totally agree with, Becks.
      I have not, at present, had the pleasure of meeting Briget, but I have been keeping a close eye on her progress from a distance and, I have to say, I like what I see!
      Keep it up, Briget.

  3. Browne Michael Reply

    In Brighton we like to do things differently: and now we have redefined Independant. It’s a party apparatchik, who the party selected, who was chosen by their party , to represent their party, not their voters. The voters are merely meek meaningless people, to be taken for granted and ignored. But when that individual becomes an embarrassment to the party…no matter ! Sit as an Independant and do what you are told. The idea that political parties in Brighton mentor and train their councillors has been disproved time and time again over the last decade of mistakes, misrule and abuse, deliberately ignoring their own voters. It is time to reclaim the word Independant and to reclaim Brighton from the clutches of the corrupt party cabals that have done so much to ruin it.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Couldn’t have put it better, Micheal.
      Independents are the future!

  4. David Trangmar Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree with Councillor Fishleigh. This city deserves better than being represented by discredited ex Labour party councillors who belong to Momentum. Now is the time for the residents of these wards to have thier voice heard once again through an all postal ballot. The democratic process which Labour itself has ‘championed’ (sic) demands it. Furthermore, Labour has let the whole city down by not rooting this out at the candidate selection hustings; they should hold thier heads in shame.

    l stood as an independent in East Brighton ward last May arguing for local representation free from intolerance and political dogma, I will do so again.

    • BrightonReader Reply

      Well I commend you for standing. I wish more independents did.

      Three are many people who criticise the councillors on articles like this or just generally yet won’t stand for election even though they say they can do a better job.

      I had relatives who were councillors in the north east so I know how hard work it is. It’s not turning up to a couple or committee meetings a month and a full council every couple of months and locket ring 13k. It’s the casework as well. And the vast majority of a councillors work is constituent care work and complaints.

      But Independents Candidates can’t win elections they don’t even stand in.

      There was an independent standing in the ward where I live but they put out no literature and had no website or Facebook page and didn’t answer the questionnaire the local news papers circulated

      I wasn’t going to vote for someone whom I had no idea what’ their views were or if they understood the role of a councillor.

    • nigel Furness Reply

      Excellent, David.
      Thank you!

  5. Leo Littman Reply

    Regardless of pros and cons of any of the arguments outlined above, the Coronavirus Act has postponed elections, including by-elections, until May 2021, at the earliest.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Oh! Have I been misinformed then, Leo?
      My sources (asyou must know are invariably accurate), have been telling me that FIVE—stop press—possibly SIX now, By-elections are pending !
      WHO is telling the truth?

  6. Gary F Reply

    Local council must be under independent administration free of the childish party lines and tribal voting which puts party before the people and the city. The city is in a mess, go to a council meeting and see how they behave, it is astonishing. Career politicians who sign up to a national agenda which comes before the city’s needs. #independentsforbrighton

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Good on you, Gary F.
      You may be surprised to find that I’m delighted the ‘Greens’ are back in town–I’ve been burning the midnight oils for some little while, now, helping toengineer the downfall of Momentum locally (happily now, yesterday’s fish & chip papers), and hoping against hope that those silly ‘Greens’ would spring the trap which we obligingly set for them; BINGO– they did– and very soon now they will find themselves merging into int the mists of history, for such is the lot of all those so involved in their sordid pursuit of power that they fail to heed history’s warning, or even realise that: “SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMETH!”
      They REALLY should have been more careful what they wished for, poor dears.

  7. Deryck Reply

    If the councillors deny the charges of anti-semitism, they should have stood and faced the charges. Brighton is an open, tolerant and progressive city. It concerns me that disgraced councillors with questionable views of this nature automatically have the right to become independent councillors.

  8. Mister T Reply

    If these councillors campaigned and were elected based on their policy platform, rather than on which party they claimed allegiance to, then I don’t see the problem. In fact, it’s probably better that they do renounce their party membership if the party has strayed from their values. As to the charges of anti-Semitism, let’s not have a witch burning until the facts are in eh? Without providing evidence, it’s just an ugly smear tactic.

  9. John Brewer Reply

    I’m sorry, but how can you have any respect for political parties, local politics, or the councillors involved if, when faced with accusations as serious as these, they cynically resign to spare themselves the embarrassment of due public process. What sort of world are we living in where this sort of behaviour is thought to be OK, and is expected to be tolerated by voters – yes, those voters who urgently need effective leadership from their local representatives to deal with an economic and healthcare crisis unprecedented in our lifetimes. I despair of the Labour Party. I despair of the Council and it’s leaders. And I hope that this kind of underhand, disingenuous behaviour will encourage more practically minded, experienced and straightforward local men and women to stand as independents in future elections and send a message to the national parties that we are no longer interested in having our local priorities sidelined for the benefit of self-interested, pretender candidates, or faraway, irrelevant party-political dogma.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Bar for one point, John, you’ve absolutely nailed it.That point is that the unfortunate former Labour (still Momentum) Councillor Nicole Brennan, found herself faced with the ‘Rommel scenario’ ie, the pistol was made available to her and she had abrief period in which to put it to use or else…..
      The real truth is that a Public Question which I lodged with the Council for the last Meeting was, after 30 plus years of having my Questions accepted, DEBARRED on the grounds that it was: “DEFAMATORY.”
      Now while it would appear that I’m unable to repeat the simple Question here, (because of legal implications), suffice to say that Momentum realised that if I were allowed to pose it, (let alone my ‘killer’ Supplementary, of which they had no prior warning), would have ensured the termination of their miserable Administration as it was aimed at the aforementioned Cllr. Brennan.
      Finding themseles on DESPERATION STREET, Nancy Platts then offered a ‘Coalition’ with the ‘Greens,’ whom I knew only too well would reject it because they couldn’t resist the lure of POWER–and all that lovely lolly that accompnies it.

  10. Adrian Hart Reply

    A lot of sensible comments here. I suspect that for the people of this city its a simple equation – if you are elected as a party candidate but later resign you should put yourself up for by-election. You should allow your electors to back you or reject you. To remain in your seat is both anti-democratic and ill befits the description ‘independent'(of which, I’d say, the city has just one, Bridget Fishleigh).

  11. nigel Furness Reply

    My sentiments entirely, John.
    Have you thought about putting yourself forward, I think you should.
    Why not contact Briget?

  12. Attlee turning in his grave Reply

    If they are SO concerned about the people of Moulescoomb and Whitehawk why were they banging on about Israel in an antisemitic way? Because they aren’t councillors, they are merely activists…

  13. Nicole Reply

    Saltdean now has a bigger voice thanks to Bridget. Previously we have been treated as the far flung eastern suburb that was overlooked. It is refreshing that if there is a genuine concern, we have a councillor who will fight for us.
    As far as the councillors are concerned, if you’re innocent of charges, then stand up, be investigated and free yourself of any gossip and whispers. One of the previous comments mentioned fish and chip paper – not in this age of t’internet. As for not living in the area you represent – how in the name of all that’s holy can you understand the problems the local people are facing?
    Stand down – allow ALL the people to decide if they want you to continue to represent them.

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