I’d like to start this week by congratulating and welcoming Councillor Robert Mcintosh, who after his historic victory in the Rottingdean Coastal by-election last week, has become the first Labour councillor for the ward.
On other matters, I wanted to address the unseemly rumours and innuendos that have been swirling around the mayoralty of Brighton and Hove, and frankly set the record straight.
While the Labour group were happy to support Councillor Mears as mayor, are saddened by her illness and wish her a speedy recovery, we had concerns about Councillor Barnett taking on the role.
As a City of Sanctuary and a council working towards becoming an anti-racist city, we were unsure of the appropriateness of someone with a track record of inflammatory public statements about ethnic minorities, the homeless and LGBTQ+ people becoming the First Citizen of Brighton and Hove.
That said, we hoped to resolve the issue privately, without any embarrassment, so it’s a shame this was leaked to the press.
The Conservatives chose to announce Councillor Barnett publicly to the media before speaking with other groups on the council – a highly unusual move, likely taken to force us into supporting their controversial candidate.
Despite raising concerns with them early on, reports claimed Councillor Barnett had already been getting her robes sized up and was talking with charities.
If true, the question of why remains, since she had yet to be elected and the Conservatives were aware of deep unease about her nomination from across the aisle.
We approached them privately and asked if they’d be willing to nominate an alternative mayoral candidate better suited to serving our tolerant and diverse city.
They eventually decided they would prefer to step aside and offer the mayoralty to the Greens in 2022 and Labour in 2023.
This is a constructive solution – and we wish the best of luck to all our future mayors.
Less agreeable is the accusation that we had any intention of embarrassing Councillor Barnett at Annual Council.
We raised our concerns privately hoping the issue could be resolved swiftly away from the public eye. The Conservatives chose a different path.
Also unacceptable is the narrative being spun to make this a “class” issue. I am from a working-class background, as are many colleagues, and I resent assertions that being working class means you think it’s ok to defend “golliwogs” or agree homeless people should have “jet washers” turned on them.
We also do disadvantaged communities a great disservice if we don’t acknowledge the working-class backgrounds of ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people and rough sleepers.
We asked for another candidate because we thought it important the “first citizen” of a city with the welcoming values of Brighton and Hove should not have a record of outrageous and offensive remarks in their recent past.
The Tories chose instead to step aside and offer the mayoralty to the Greens. There’s no conspiracy here, it’s just as simple as that.
Councillor John Allcock is the joint Labour opposition leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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