Council meeting interrupted by shouts of ‘shame’ at Tory councillor’s bungled smear email

Cllr Scott Harris  Picture: Sarah Standing
Cllr Scott Harris Picture: Sarah Standing
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A COUNCIL meeting was interrupted as campaigners shouted ‘shame’ at a councillor who suggested smearing a constituent.

Today’s Portsmouth City Council full council was halted early on as domestic violence campaigners chanted ‘shame on you’ at Cllr Scott Harris from the public gallery.

Following a petition that has been created calling for me to resign, I have decided to refer myself to the standard board for further investigation

Cllr Scott Harris

It came after Jon Woods, of Portsmouth Against Cuts Together, criticised the under-fire Tory councillor’s ‘despicable’ actions - and urged him to publicly apologise to the victims in his ‘smear’ email.

Addressing the chamber, Mr Woods said: ‘Instead of listening to and considering representation on DV (domestic violence), Cllr Harris thought he should attempt to smear some of the people making those representations.

‘It is particularly despicable to target Shonagh Dillon and the charity Aurora New Dawn. Instead of being smeared, Shonagh deserves to be congratulated for tirelessly campaigning to save DV in Portsmouth.

‘I ask that Cllr Harris takes the opportunity today here in the council chamber, to publicly apologise to Shonagh and the other people he has targeted.’

Tory Cllr Harris had emailed fellow group members at Portsmouth City Council saying that smearing Sameen Farouk could be a ‘viable option’ and saying that he had ‘compiled stuff’ on domestic abuse charity Aurora New Dawn.

He has since apologised to Mr Farouk, an Old Portsmouth resident, who asked questions about the America’s Cup World Series event.

And now he has said ‘no action’ was taken and he was ‘simply thinking out loud’.

As of today, 838 people have signed a petition calling for Cllr Harris to step down.

In a statement issued by cabinet member Cllr Rob New, Cllr Harris said: ‘Following a petition that has been created calling for me to resign, I have decided to refer myself to the standard board for further investigation.

‘I have apologised unreservedly for the private email I sent, but want to reassure people that absolutely no action was taken and I was simply thinking out loud.’

Cllr Harris’ email was leaked when another councillor accidentally sent it to Mr Farouk last week.

It said: ‘I do not want to go down the road of finding ways to smear Sameen Farouk, but maybe we should look at this as a viable option.’

In the email he said: ‘The elections are coming and the politics are dirty. The tricks by the Lib Dems, the lies and the smear are disgusting.

‘Quite frankly it might be a good idea to play dirty this time. I know we shouldn’t go down to their gutter politics but should we continue to stand by and allow this to go on?’

Cllr Harris – who was elected to Hilsea ward in May last year – also refers to domestic violence charity Aurora New Dawn and its chief executive Shonagh Dillon and trade unionist Jon Woods.

In the email he adds: ‘I’m also compiling some stuff on Shonagh Dillion, Aurora New Dawn and Sisters Uncut.’

Cllr Harris refers to Mr Farouk as a Liberal Democrat. But Mr Farouk has said he is not.

Portsmouth’s two MPs have warned against a crucial debate at the city council today being taken over by the scandal.