THE current and former leaders of Portsmouth City Council have been urged to drop ‘Punch and Judy’ politics and get on with their jobs.
Since succeeding Liberal Democrat Gerald Vernon-Jackson as council leader in June, Tory Donna Jones has been involved in a series of public fall-outs.
In the latest attack Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who is also the prospective MP for Portsmouth South, accuses Cllr Jones on his website of saying during a debate on the future of Portsmouth pubs that wine drinking is ‘more cultured’ than beer drinking.
Cllr Jones was furious with the slur and said she was simply reading from a piece of research and not giving an opinion.
But just weeks ago she had to defend herself against claims of nastiness when she tweeted her sparring partner’s name as Gerald VerminJackson. She said this was a typing error.
Now calls have been made for the pair to grow up and get on with helping Portsmouth.
John O’Connell, director of The TaxPayers Alliance, said: ‘Enjoyable as Punch and Judy politics is, residents are entitled to ask whether all sides are a little too interested in scoring political points. It’s important that this spat doesn’t distract from the crucial work of running, and challenging, the council at such an important time.’
Yesterday, Cllr Vernon-Jackson put a story on his website, (pictured) , featuring a photo of Cllr Jones headlined ‘OUT OF TOUCH!’
It went on to say: ‘The Conservative leader of Portsmouth City Council has proven herself to be out of touch with the people of Portsmouth.
‘In a recent council meeting, Cllr Donna Jones commented that drinking wine is “more cultured” than drinking beer.
‘This just shows how out of touch and arrogant the Conservatives are here in Portsmouth. It is not for councillors to pass judgement on what is and is not cultured.’
But Cllr Jones said she was directly quoting from research made by the Institute of Public Policy Research which outlined reasons for the drop in use of pubs. In response, Cllr Jones said that when she was in opposition she made a conscious decision not to ‘distract the leader of the council by picking petty fights’.
She added: ‘I have certainly not attacked Gerald Vernon-Jackson on any issue since I became leader of the council.
‘He is attacking me on a weekly basis, at any opportunity. But that’s his prerogative.
‘My personal feeling is that the public don’t like that kind of politics. I’m just getting my head down and getting on with my job as leader of the council.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the web story had been taken the wrong way. ‘It was not an attack on Donna,’ he said. ‘It was just an interesting comment’.
He added: ‘I’m always prepared to stand up and agree with Donna if she’s right. We were in an eight-and-a-half hour council meeting the other day and there were no cross words between us.’
Former Portsmouth North MP Syd Rapson has urged the pair to ‘get on with the job’.
The Labour stalwart said: ‘I find it all rather silly. There are far more serious things going on that need attention than name-calling. The sniping should stop and we should all just get on with the job. We are facing a serious financial situation and all of us need to be working together.’
Six weeks of public slanging matches between leaders
THE gloves came off early last month when Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson tore into the Conservative administration, claiming officers had told him they felt like they were working in a ‘Soviet state’.
He accused the Tories of creating a ‘climate of fear’ where officers could not talk to him publicly because they feared losing their jobs for being associated with him.
Council leader Donna Jones rubbished his claims as ‘pure electioneering’ and hit back saying 40 people had told her their work was much more enjoyable under the Conservative administration.
Two weeks ago, Cllr Vernon-Jackson criticised the council leader for spending almost £6,000 on refurbishing her old office to make it a communal office. He called the refurbishment a ‘waste of money’.
In it she said: ‘Previous council leader Gerald VerminJackson had an office just for his PA support! #waste of public money. This won’t happen on my watch!’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the tweet was offensive and childish.
Cllr Jones then said she had made a typo in the tweet and had not meant to sling mud at Cllr Vernon-Jackson.
But he quickly referred the matter to Richard Lingard, the solicitor appointed by the council to look into claims of bullying.