A TOE-CURLING email in which the Green candidate for Jesse Norman's Hereford and South Herefordshire Parliamentary seat at the next election lays into her political opponents has come to light.
Coun Diana Toynbee, a Herefordshire county and Hereford city councillor - and the former county council cabinet member for children’s services – sent the email to colleagues in May following local elections which saw several city councillors, mostly Liberal Democrats, winning county council seats.
But it was inadvertently copied in to one of those it disparaged.
“I get on OK with them – none the sharpest, weak political insight, just courted and groomed by the party,” Coun Toynbee said of her Lib Dem colleagues. “An unimpressive bunch. Very tribal.”
And now, city councillors have voted to report her to Herefordshire Council’s monitoring officer, in charge of upholding councillors’ codes of conduct .
On the councillors individually, the current Green general election candidate for the seat that includes Ross-on-Wye, said:
- Current Hereford mayor Coun Jacqui Carwardine, who took Newton Farm county ward in May, is “fairly popular, I used to be friendly with her, bit lazy”.
- Coun Mark Dykes, the previous city mayor who took the Belmont Rural ward, is “not up to being a city councillor, let alone mayor or being on HC [Herefordshire Council]. Nice enough bloke but wouldn’t trust him to wash my car.”
- Coun Aubrey Oliver, who took Saxon Gate ward, is “sweet and green, pedantic, old and deaf and past it”, though “has the basics of finance”.
- Coun Rob Owens, newly elected to Bobblestock ward, is a “shifty and cynical party person”.
- Coun Dan Powell, who took Red Hill ward, is “very young, a party person, ambitious”.
- Coun Toynbee added she knew “nothing” about Coun Ben Proctor, newly elected to both city and county councils.
She also described Conservative councillor Rob Williams, who was elected to the Kings Acre county ward but who lost his city seat, as “very weak”.
The email was sent while negotiations were ongoing following May’s inconclusive county election result which left no party with a majority.
Green party leader Ellie Chowns replied to it: “Liz [assumed to be Independents for Herefordshire leader Coun Liz Harvey] and I are trying to write to them all to make v clear that the door is open for getting around a table to discuss.”
In the event no deal could be agreed between the three parties, leaving the Conservatives as largest party to form the current minority administration.
But at last Tuesday's (November 14) full meeting of Hereford city council, Coun Rob Owen –called “shifty and cynical” in the email – said: “She did send a follow-up message, but I don’t consider it an apology – it just gave excuses and said, ‘you shouldn’t have read it’.”
Previous city mayor Coun Mark Dykes said Coun Toynbee, absent from Tuesday's meeting, “hasn’t the courage to come to full council, or the integrity to apologise”.
Backing a motion to escalate the matter, he said: “I want to see her squirm.”
Deputy city mayor Coun Kevin Tillett said the Greens’ leader in the county, Ellie Chowns, had by contrast “apologised immediately” for the email, whereas Coun Toynbee “has simply carried on being collegiate with colleagues she has grossly insulted”.
He added that current city mayor Jacqui Cowardine, also mentioned in the email, “has the right to expect complete support of the council”.
But Jeremy Milln, the lone Green councillor in Coun Toynbee’s absence, said: “This is regrettable. But six months have elapsed and it should have been addressed at the time. She says she has apologised, so we should move on.”
He and two other non-Lib Dem councillors abstained from the vote on the motion, which was otherwise supported.
Coun Toynbee had earlier told the town clerk Steve Kerry: “Comments made in private don’t bring the council into disrepute,” and said she had offered to meet anyone concerned about the email.