Councillors are elected to represent the will of the people and fight on our behalf. So, it is disappointing to see that Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson seems more interested in playing Solitaire on his mobile rather than listening to a crucial debate on the council’s future budget.
Cllr Jackson assured The News that he would never play games while deputations and speeches were going, arguing he already knew what the outcome of the vote would be in the meeting and that there was little that could be done to change this.
What a petulant retort. As the opposition party, surely you should be taking every chance to fight and have your say – this freedom of speech is, after all, a key principle of democracy – and not playing games.
Sadly this incident is only the latest in a string of gaffes caused by councillors paying more interest to their phones than what is happening in front of them.
In 2014 Tory boss Cllr Donna Jones found herself in hot water for a tweet which branded Cllr Vernon-Jackson ‘vermin’ – something she has always claimed was a ‘typo’.
Likewise, the city council has recently tightened its code of conduct – which itself came in the wake of a number of bullying tweets by councillors from all parties. The whole situation is embarrassing, not just for the individual councillors involved or the overall authority but for democracy as a whole.
The electorate of this city deserves better. There is too much cynicism among the public about politicians, and indeed ‘experts’ of all stripes; it’s an unhealthy situation and one that has led to too much disdain for structures that, whatever one’s political affiliation, should at least be accorded respect. But we have to see behaviour that deserves that respect.
Councillors are elected by the people, for the people; our taxes pay to keep them in office – and surely the very least they can do is to pay attention during meetings and do their job. At the end of the day, a tweet or game of Solitaire won’t change anything – a well-worded, reasoned argument might.