A COUNCILLOR chose the most formal occasion in the civic year to promote her campaign for women’s rights - wearing a top with the slogan “Don’t rape people”.

Kathy Murphy, Labour councillor for St. Luke’s Ward, attended the mayor making ceremony at Southend Civic Centre boldly wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan.

As leading dignitaries gathered, including the Deputy Lieutenant of Essex and MPs, Ms Murphy was clearly visible on the council’s webcast of the proceedings, seated behind Kursaal Ward Labour councillor Matt Dent as he stood to pay tribute to new mayor, Stephen Habermel.

Speaking about why she chose such a high-profile occasion to convey her message, Ms Murphy said: “I want to use my privileged platform of a councillor to raise awareness of the plight of women and how misogyny is rife within some organisations and institutions.”

The Labour Group and the council as a whole has become embroiled in accusations of a toxic atmosphere among councillors.

It led to the departure of Tricia Cowdrey from the Labour benches last year. Ms Cowdrey now represents Kursaal constituents as a member of the Residents First Party.

Ms Murphy, who also frequently posts on social media about antibullying in the workplace, added: “My experience over the last year, my first as a councillor, is that negative behaviours are often ignored which is tantamount to collusion.

The fact my wardrobe choices promote these conversations is one small step to hopefully go a long way in ensuring women in politics feel safe and heard.

“Women should support women and I want to say thank you to the women who have supported me over the past year, a special thank you to Cllr Tricia Cowdrey who has seen and heard me this past year.”

Mr Dent confirmed Ms Murphy’s quest to help prevent sexual violence towards women. He said: “I know online Kathy shares a lot of stuff about violence against women and girls and I know that’s a real issue for her. I believe it’s in relation to that cause.

“It’s not a secret that things have been difficult. I’ve struggled myself with some of the atmosphere and some of problems within the group and the broader council. In terms of whether it changes now, I certainly hope so but I suppose we’ll have to see how things go. We’ve got new leadership and we’ll have to see how that tackles the problem.”