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"Speak English" - what a Tory said to Labour rival with speech problem
6:10am Thursday 3rd October 2013 in News
A TORY Basildon councillor has been reported for mocking the speech problems of a Labour rival who has a facial nerve condition.
John Dornan, councillor for Laindon Park, twice goaded Labour councillor Keith Bobbin , telling him to “speak English” during a debate in the council chamber.
When challenged, Mr Dornan told the Echo he had no idea Mr Bobbin, who has a strong North Eastern accent, had Bell’s palsy, which can cause facial paralysis and slurred speech.
The Essex-born Tory insisted the “speak English” jibe was a running joke he had with Mr Bobbin and others with Northern accents.
However, Mr Bobbin clearly didn’t see the joke. He has since reported Mr Dornan’s words to the official council watchdog, responsible for monitoring councillors’ behaviour.
The row broke out as Mr Bobbin was telling councillors about an earlier meeting he had chaired at County Hall which was attended by Mr Dornan.
Mr Dornan joked no one had understood what Mr Bobbin was talking about, adding caustically: “In English, please!”
When Mr Bobbin replied, he repeated the comment – to the shock of Labour councillor Adel Brown.
She said: “That is outrageous. That is totally unacceptable.”
After the meeting Mr Bobbin said: “I can speak English as well as any person. I got Bell’s palsy 15 years ago and it comes and goes.
“I took this as an insult to me personally and think it is a poor excuse to say it was my accent.
“We can have banter across the council chamber without having to start insulting people. It was below the belt.”
Mr Dornan said: “I had no idea he suffered with this.
“I would never have said it if I had, but I have been saying it to him for years and he has never complained. I even said it at the meeting at the county council he chaired last Tuesday.”
Mr Dornan, who grew up in south Essex, added: “My dad was Scottish and with his accent, me and my brothers were always joking and telling him to speak English.
“Anyone from north of Watford was a foreigner and we would say it to them, too.”
He said banter had always been a part of council life and was necessary to lighten otherwise heavy political debates.
Mr Dornan also found himself in hot water earlier this year when Labour councillor Gavin Callaghan complained about a remark the Tory made “in jest”
about veteran councillor Bill Archibald being too old to go out canvassing.
Mr Dornan was forced to make a public statement about the joke.
He said since several new Labour councillors, including Mr Callaghan, were elected in May 2012 the mood in the council chamber had changed.
He said: “Forgetbanter. It’s as if the thought police are watching your every move at every meeting.
“With this lot around, soon we will have to startaregister of ailments, so everyone knows what everyone suffers from, so we know not to offend them.”
A council spokesman said: “A complaint has been received. This has been passed to the council’s monitoring officer for consideration under the relevant policy.”
There's little love lost...
* Labour man Phil Rackley referred to Basildon Mayor Mo Larkin, below, as “Lamb dressed as mutton” on the Facebook website in 2012.
*Tory councillor John Dornan told Labour’s Phil Rackley to “Stand up” while he was making a speech in 2010 – when he was standing up. Mr Dornan then referred to him as “the vertically-challenged member for St Martin’s.”
*Mr Rackley has been known to give as good as he gets, referring to Mr Dornan as: “The skinhead from Crays Hill.”
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