“Tory councillor expelled after rape remarks” – but why involve the standards committee?

The Press Association reports:

A city councillor has been expelled from the Conservative Party after making offensive remarks about rape at a meeting.

Eddie Wake, 56, a Tory councillor at Sunderland City Council, is alleged to have made the remarks at a meeting of the authority and left one woman in tears.

Conservative party chiefs said comments by Washington South member Mr Wake, at the end of a meeting with police about a rape prevention campaign, were “totally unacceptable”…

Group leader Lee Martin told the BBC: “When I ask anyone to go out and vote for a Conservative candidate, I’ve got a minimum expectation, should that person be elected, of how they conduct themselves.

“Eddie Wake has come in well below that standard and as a result is no longer a Conservative councillor.”

The council’s standards committee is investigating Cllr Wake’s remark.

The Conservative Party looks to have responded sensibly and promptly. Whilst there’s no suggestion that the remarks should be illegal, it’s right for parties to hold their candidates to a higher standard than simply “it’s legal”.

But when you’ve got the party’s with their own standards, the public’s ability to judge those standards and their enforcement through the ballot box and the law to deal with extreme cases, does it really need a standards committee looking at the matter too?

A body to look at and enforce breaches of rules such as the declaration of donations and the claiming of expenses is certainly required. A body judging personal behaviour beyond what the law, the parties and the electorate can do anyway? I’m not so sure.

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  • We need some sort of system that allows voters to judge the performance of parties in recent years, and punish or reward those with unwise or wise councillors. Perhaps we could call it “an election”.

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Jan '10 - 8:42am

    It would be nice if elections had a long enough memory to judge performance in recent years, but we know they really don’t. A few months is about all you can hope for.

  • Are you suggesting that Councils should not have Standards Committees? Are you saying that councillors should be untouchable whatever they do or say, as long as they don’t actually break the law, or belong to a political party that happens to decide to take action against them?

    Elections may provide an element of sanction – Eventually! But when a councillor’s remarks can bring a Council into disrepute, the Council surely needs a Standards Committee which has the opportunity to provide timely redress.

  • tonygreaves 14th Jan '10 - 1:41pm

    I am suggesting that Standards Committees and the Standards Board for England should all be abolished. The system is ridiculous and pays very little attention to principles of natural justice and due process.

    They are not needed, do far more harm than good, and ought to go.

    Tony Greaves

  • tonygreaves 14th Jan '10 - 1:51pm
  • I actually agreed with Tony Greaves about abolishing the Standards Board until I read the article he linked to. While the Standards Board is increasingly being used by councillors to nobble their political opponents, and by council officers as a defence against their incompetence (or for political reasons), nonetheless situations can arise where an individual can cause havoc on the best run council by making unsubstantiated claims, bullying officers and fellow councillors, and generally wasting so much time that the council’s administrative apparatus becomes inoperable. To suggest that the electorate should have the last say on individuals like this is not necessarily realistic because they may be able to present themselves as being champions of the public good, fighters against corruption, and so on (we all know that the electorate is predisposed to believe that all councils are corrupt). This is, of course, more likely to happen on small councils such as town or parish councils, where it is often difficult to find enough candidates to fill vacancies at the best of times. I’m not sure what the answer is – but there is a dilemma.

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