Saturday 24 May 2014

UKIP Chair of Adults Committee claims people with mental illness should not be Councillors

A few days ago Wisbech Town Councillor Steve Tierney, whilst participating in a Council meeting, tried to film UKIP Councillor Alan Lay who had turned up in his capacity as a County Councillor to address the meeting. The mayor of Wisbech (wrongly in my view) asked Steve to stop filming, Steve, of course, complied with the request and stopped.

As Steve has reported on his blog, that incident has resulted in three complaints to Fenland District Council's Monitoring Officer. That in itself is astonishing. But even more so is the wording of the complaint from UKIP County Councillor Paul Clapp, which includes the following line:

"if this is how Cllr Tierney gets his kicks then in my oppinion he is mentally ill and should not be a part of Wisbech Town Council."

Councillor Clapp has recently been appointed as Chairman of the County Council's Adults Committee, which will have responsibility for dealing the Council's services to vulnerable adults, many of whom will have mental health issues. I do not consider his comments to be appropriate in any sense (even if they are expressed as an opinion). It demeans mental health as an issue and also bizzarely includes a suggestion that someone with mental illness is not fit to be a Town Councillor - should someone with such a view be chairing the Adults committee?

Let me be plain here. If, when I was leader of the County Council, my Cabinet Member for Adults had used this quote, I would have sacked him. Unfortunately, the new system at Cambridgeshire does not allow the leader to do this.

I accept that Cambridgeshire is under a new system of governance now. But everyone involved in that system has to also accept that the move to committees is controversial and therefore, in the early stages, everything possible should be done to ensure public confidence in it; I cannot see how the public can have confidence in an Adults committee with Councillor Clapp as Chairman, he should resign. If he doesn't he should be told to resign by his group leader.

I have submitted a complaint about Councillor Clapp's comments to the County Council's monitoring officer. Inevitably submitting that complaint leaves me open to "tit for tat" accusations. But this is not about that, I have complained because I have serious concerns about a misunderstanding of the seriousness of mental health in our country. Left unchallenged, this sort of inappropriate language from people who should know better heightens that misunderstanding.



  1. Well said Martin. Cllr Clapp has acted disgracefully and as a minimum should publicly apologise. I won't hold my breath as these UKIP councillors have a track record of such comments. Indeed, I am still waiting to hear an expression of remorse from the now independent councillor Lagoda for his benefit fraud conviction. Then there are the comments made to young people by councillor Gillick. If the cambs leader of UKIP was going to take action you would have thought he would have by now.

  2. Very crass comments from Cllr Clapp, but then Cllr Tierney doesn't do much better when he says that being called mentally ill is "certainly libellous".

    1. Don't know about that. Some people have argued that it's not against the law to say someone is gay, for example, because being gay is not an offence, but then neither is adultery, and most people still don't want to be falsely accused of it. Ditto mental illness, if only because there's the implication that the person being described was in a state of diminished responsibility when carrying out the actions accompanying that description, while they would probably argue quite the contrary.

  3. Actually, their is clear precedent about accusing someone of being gay when they aren't - both Jason Donovan and Robbie Williams have won court cases about it. You can't do it. The argument is about the motive for taking someone to court over the accusation.

    is that a precedent that would apply to accusing someone of mental illness? I don't know about that. I do suspect it is libellous to accuse someone of mental illness without clear evidence. More importantly, making the accusation without thought about what that really means does the cause of generating understanding of mental illness harm.

    1. It was implied that the accusation would have to be unfounded, and I had the Donovan case in mind. People just can't say whatever they like about people, that's definitely *not* covered by 'free speech'!

      Making a complaint about someone for recording people without consent, while simultaneously accusing that person of being mentally ill, would seem self-defeating as well as crass. The complaint would carry more weight if the assumption was that the 'offender' had full possession of their faculties.

      In fact, I still think that everything else being equal, the failure to get consent will stil count against cllr Tierney, even though he claims there was no time to ask. If I really felt it needed recording, I would've asked, even if that meant interrupting. Of course, as I hate speaking in public, I really *would* have needed to believe recording was necessary, but that being the case, yes, I'd have asked.