A PUBLIC ROW broke out yesterday at the full meeting of East Riding of Yorkshire Council when comments by the Liberal Democrats leader, Councillor David Nolan, were deemed ‘out of order’ because it dealt with issues of devolution and joint mayoral authorities which had been discussed by the authority in the previous six months and so shouldn’t be discussed again according to the council’s constitution. The councillor had to limit his comments to the wording of the motion which were about ‘rumours of a proposed local government reorganisation’.
Within 90 seconds of starting to move his motion, another councillor objected to the word ‘devolution’ being used by Councillor Nolan and raised points of order. The meeting and the ensuing debate then quickly descended into scenes of disorder. Councillor Nolan claimed he was being barracked and constantly interrupted and couldn’t progress. Another Lib Dem councillor had his microphone muted for a few seconds after complaining and then had it muted again after complaining about the use of the mute button. This led to cheers from another councillor who used uncomplimentary language! After only a few minutes, the meeting had to be adjourned for 5 minutes possibly to facilitate a ‘cooling down’ period.
Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Mike Stathers spoke to the motion and also had to be warned about the use of the term ‘joint Mayoral authority’. A councillor made a joke about ‘Hanford Parish Council’ and the council meeting ‘appearing on the 10’Oclock news’. Councillors accused each other of being undemocratic. One councillor was told to ‘get back in her box’ and another in an unguarded moment described the meeting as a ‘bloody shambles’; another, how ‘ashamed’ she was of everyone.
The meeting is available to view on YouTube. It perhaps represents one of the worst examples of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council in a debate. Undoubtedly it was made worse because of the nature of the Zoom video technology which slows the discourse down, highlights particular speakers, and of course is recorded. Perhaps in normal circumstances in the council chamber, a lot of the banter and off-the-cuff remarks happen and are lost in the heat of the moment – but video technology allows for a record of the events as they happen and provide a more verbatim account of what happens than any official minutes ever will.
There will be those who enjoy this kind of spectacle and the sport of the political pantomime; the YouTube recording will no doubt be widely viewed. But with these kinds of scenes, the important political points are lost and important issues are relegated to a sideshow. This article is precisely an example of that – we’ve not talked about the issues at all!
In my personal opinion, our political representatives need to recognise the openness and democratic accountability that new technology can bring and the benefits of this for engaging the public – and behave themselves accordingly!Ray Duffill, Editor HU12 Online