Green Cllr Ben Duncan’s tweet that Armed Forces Day had brought “hired killers” on to the streets of Brighton has caused a political furore. It has been condemned by Caroline Lucas and Duncan has been forced to issue an apology.
It’s not enough.
This is just the latest in a long line of incidents in which Cllr Duncan has taken to Twitter to make idiotic comments, and has been forced to make an apology. There was the comment about pasties, a crass joke about rape, the ludicrous accusation that Tory Councillor Mary Mears was wearing swastika earrings. In each case the crass, juvenile comment followed by the apology. And in each case the Green Party in Brighton and Hove – and apparently nationally – has accepted that it is enough. And each succeeding Tweet gets more and more outrageous. Those of us who have raised toddlers will recognise the pattern; it’s pure exhibitionism and grandstanding.
The Green Party in Brighton and Hove has to understand that just accepting yet another apology doesn’t cut it any more. It’s just giving Duncan licence; and indeed the tweet Duncan published this afternoon thanking people for their support does not exactly suggest contrition. The point has surely been reached where, without decisive and serious sanction, the Green Party, locally and nationally, is becoming complicit in Duncan’s behaviour. In this case, it means effectively condoning Duncan’s smear; because it’s become obvious that the repeated apologies mean nothing. It’s one thing to talk about doing politics differently, without a whip, but quite another to abandon their responsibilities in this way.
Labour Group Leader Warren Morgan has stated that a Labour Councillor who behaved in this way would be out by the end of the day. The Green Party claims to do politics differently and wants to operate without a whip. That’s fine, but it needs to understand that in doing so it’s giving licence to exhibitionists and grandstanders to treat the office of Councillor as their personal soapbox without thought to the consequences.
People in Brighton and Hove are entitled to expect much, much better than this from their political administration. What will it take for the Green Party in Brighton and Hove to develop a sense of responsibility? Many people in the city appear to believe that Duncan degrades the office of Councillor by remaining in it; it is now for the Green party to explain why they think an apology is enough.