'You silly girl': Labour demands apology after veteran Conservative councillor's 'patronising and misogynistic' jibe at political opponent during East Herts Council meeting
Complaints have been made to East Herts Council after a Labour member was the target of a “patronising and misogynistic" comment” by a Conservative councillor.
The remark came during an online meeting of the full council on Tuesday March 2 when councillors were being asked to vote on the Tory administration's council tax rise from April.
In a formal recorded vote, the 46 members present were asked one by one to articulate their vote for or against the increase. While 37 Conservative and Green Party councillors voted "for", nine members of the Liberal Democrat and Labour groups abstained.
To see the item agenda, click on the YouTube link above and go to 1:46:30
When it came to Cllr Mary Brady, a Labour member for Hertford Sele, she paused before registering her abstention, at which point a man immediately remarked: "You silly girl."
The offending councillor was not identified during the meeting, but the video software reveals that it was Cllr Michael McMullen, the long-serving Conservative member for Hertford Rural North ward, which covers the parishes of Bengeo Rural, Bramfield, Sacombe, Stapleford and Tewin North.
As soon as he uttered the comment, his party colleague Cllr Geoff Williamson, the council's deputy leader and executive member for financial sustainability, can be seen covering his own mouth in surprise.
Cllr McMullen was unaware he had not muted himself on his computer and can be seen in the webcast on the council's website and in the video on its YouTube channel muting himself after the comment.
The veteran Tory is a member of the council's human resources committee, whose terms of reference include "overseeing the implementation and co-ordination of the member training programme".
When the vote had finished, Cllr Joseph Dumont (Lib Dem, Stanstead Abbotts) raised a point of order and said that he hoped the "very inappropriate" comment had not been directed at the meeting but that whoever made it should withdraw it and apologise.
Cllr Brady herself brushed it off, saying: "Thank you, Cllr Dumont, I'm sure it wasn't directed at me. It would be lovely to be called a girl."
However, her party has demanded an apology and said: “We were shocked to see Mary Brady apparently referred to as a ‘silly girl’ after abstaining on East Herts Council’s budget, reportedly by a Conservative councillor.
"If this is the case, it is wholly unacceptable behaviour from one elected representative to another. We have raised this with democratic services and hope East Herts will investigate this patronising and misogynistic comment, and that Cllr Brady will receive a full apology."
Labour's stance was echoed by the council's Liberal Democrat group.
Their leader, Cllr Mione Goldspink, who represents Bishop's Stortford Meads ward, said in an email to James Ellis, the council's head of democratic services: "We were shocked and disappointed by a derogatory remark which seemed to have been made by one of the male councillors about one of the female councillors during the voting at the end of the meeting.
"One of our Lib Dem councillors raised an objection and asked for an apology, but none was forthcoming.
"We feel that to make such a derogatory remark showed lack of respect, and was not the sort of behaviour which is expected of councillors.
"Would it be possible for you to send a message to all councillors, reminding them of the code of conduct and proper standard of behaviour which is expected at East Herts Council?"
A spokesperson for the council said: "Our monitoring officer is considering this matter in line with our member complaints procedure.
"We take the requirement for all members to treat each other with respect very seriously and will be reminding them all of the members’ code of conduct."
The Indie has invited Cllr McMullen and the Conserative leader of the council, Cllr Linda Haysey, to comment.