The Miserable Matter Of The Mayor Of Bridport. Prejudice, Lies And Cover Up.
I resigned from the Liberal Democrats just before the EU referendum because I believed the position the party adopted was a betrayal of fundamental values of liberalism and democracy. I think it was a perfectly respectable position to take to vote remain and there were questionable tactics on both sides during the campaign. However, the bitter, abusive response to the result by many people, particularly Liberal Democrats, has been quite terrible.
Ros Kayes’ behaviour has been shocking. Even worse, she has been dishonest and has tried to cover up her foolish remarks.
She published this comment on Facebook during 23rd June 2016, the day of the referendum:
I responded that this was an act of prejudice, discrimination and bigotry, totally against all Liberal Democrat values and was exactly the reason I had resigned. In return I received these responses:
I have written to Ros, politely asking her to clarify what “unsavoury posts in the last few weeks” and what “unpleasant email to a party member”? I have no idea what she is talking about and I fear she has invented these angry ripostes.
Anyway, I would have let it lie there until I received a phone call from Rachel Stretton a reporter from the Dorset Echo.
Rachel said she was calling me about a lot of complaints the newspaper had received about Ros Kayes’ Facebook posts concerning the referendum. I told her how shocked I was at what I’d seen and she told me about a post containing bad language which, at the time. I had not seen. We ended the conversation with me confirming that Ros Kayes’ behaviour had been the final straw in my resigning membership of the party.
I then discovered the very foolish, childish use of foul language that Roz Kayes had published.
I posted on Facebook about what had happened and there was quite a response. However, I thought it was probably time to let it go. A lot of people were very upset by the result of the referendum. I would have been if it had gone the other way. I think in such circumstances you do have to allow people some leeway. Many people had been up all night, most had probably been drinking as well. A few injudicious remarks are inevitable from tired, emotional and upset human beings!
But next thing I received a message from Rachel Stretton backpedalling as fast as she could about what she had asked when she called me. I was astonished at this! What had spooked the Dorset Echo? Rachel now said “We have not received any complaints about the behaviour of anyone in the run-up to the referendum. Apologies for any confusion.”
Well hang on a minute, why did she call me in the first place then? I didn’t even know about use of the ‘F’ word until she told me and she quite definitely approached me about comments related to the referendum.
Rachel then messaged me to say: “I do of course understand if you wish to change any comment you made in light of this. Again for clarification, Ros has made a statement saying her account was hacked and this, private post, was made public inadvertently.”
What?!! There’s no other way to put this, the Dorset Echo seemed to be involved in helping Ros Kayes to cover up her behaviour. And then I saw the ridiculous article published in the newspaper “Bridport mayor Ros Kayes responds to Facebook post criticism”.
This article is nothing less than insult to the readers of the Dorset Echo and it is a shameful attempt to deceive the electorate. Not only is Ros Kayes telling lies but the Dorset Echo is assisting her! This is a stitch up between a local politician and a local newspaper. There is only one word for it – corruption. In fact I think the greatest shame is on the newspaper. So much for a free, independent press. There are very grave questions to be answered by the editor and I cannot imagine that local businesses will want to be advertising in a paper that is involved in a shabby, corrupt cover-up of a politician’s misdeeds. he story about privacy settings is a story of Ros Kayes own incompetence but the story about her account being hacked is a brazen, bare-faced lie.
Nevertheless, my interest waned again. I was now beginning to learn that Ros Kayes does have an excellent reputation for good work in the community. I have myself been subject to online attack and trolling which caused me great distress and had a real effect on my mental health. There are some very cruel, very spiteful people who use social media to abuse and harass for no reason other than their own perverted self-gratification. The one comfort I had is that when I was under attack I knew it was all based on lies. In this instance, Ros Kayes was the one telling porkies, she was responsible for causing the furore and she is tee occupier of a significant public office, one that even comes with official regalia and privileges. There does have to be some accountability.
However, I really didn’t want to take it any further. This woman obviously does good work and if she’s made one bad mistake, I didn’t want to be vengeful or unkind about it.
Then Ros Kayes responded to my email about her claims of me making “unsavoury posts” and sending an “unpleasant email“. (She had by now already blocked me on Facebook and Twitter). Oh dear!
My “unsavoury post” (there was only one now apparently) was this one “Why I Am Resigning From the Liberal Democrats“. Judge for yourself whether there is anything unsavoury about it. My “unpleasant email” was an email about my change of address which I had already notified the party of, which I explained and wrote “So I don’t really know what else I could be expected to do!”. Not very unpleasant in my book.
Ros also wrote: “I certainly don’t think all Brexit voters are racist – many had perfectly sensible reasons for making the decision they did. And my post did not say that all Brexit voters were racist, simply raised fears about the ones that were.”.
So, once again I was ready to let it go. Perhaps it was one error and it could be overlooked. I was now firmly of the opinion that the more serious matter was the Dorset Echo’s corrupt involvement in a cover up.
And then today, I was provided with a copy of a letter Ros Kayes had published in the Bridport News.
“I fear this election [sic] will be won by those who revel in bigotry. I despair at the number of voters saying ‘I’m not racist but…’ then utter words from the lexicon of Adolf Hitler”
“Please don’t let our country’s future be decided by racist, liars and bigots.”
This is truly terrible. Absolutely unforgivable words from any public figure or politician, particularly one who has the audacity to call herself a ‘Liberal Democrat’.
Such ignorant generalisations from Ms Kayes are every bit as prejudiced and discriminatory as racism. She is a terrible, terrible hypocrite.
So, despite really trying very hard to pull back from this, in the end I decided that I had to publish this story in full.
I expect Ros Kayes to resign. There seems to be a valid case that perhaps she could stay on as a councillor but her position as Mayor is untenable.
As for the Dorset Echo, this is still the far more serious issue of a corrupt, underhand cover up of a politician’s dishonesty. It will almost certainly try to bury this story entirely now. Diarmuid Macdonagh, the editor, should do the honourable thing and explain himself. If he doesn’t, I shall be making a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.