Birmingham’s Conservative leaders have condemned personal comments by one of their group during a council meeting.
The use of the word “bigot” by Tory Cllr Simon Morrall against Labour’s Nicky Brennan was “entirely unacceptable”, said Conservatives group leader Robert Alden (Cons, Erdington) and deputy leader Ewan Mackey (Cons, Sutton Roughley).
Cllr Morrall, who represents Frankley Great Park, hit out at Cllr Brennan (Lab, Sparkhill ) during a full council meeting last Tuesday.
During the council’s Question Time, he listed a series of comments made by the councillor on social media that he described as ‘sexist’ before asking: “So my question is simple – do you really believe in gender equality, or are you just a misandrist, man-hating bigot?”
The incident provoked a backlash as supporters condemned him and defended Cllr Brennan, who is a women’s rights campaigner and cabinet adviser on domestic violence.
The city’s Labour group, including leader Ian Ward and his 10-strong cabinet, wrote to the Conservative leadership demanding an apology.
In their letter they expressed their “serious concern” about the comments and a subsequent press release issued by Cllr Morrall.
“Whatever our political differences, debate across the council should be free from personal abuse,” they wrote.
They asked for a fulsome apology and for the leadership to consider if Cllr Morrall should continue to serve on two city council committees alongside Cllr Brennan.
In their response, the Conservatives leaders said: “We wish to make absolutely clear that the Birmingham Conservative Group has an absolute commitment to the values of equality and respect towards everyone in the city we all represent.
“That is a matter upon which we all, I trust, agree.
“It is clearly entirely unacceptable for councillors to call other councillors names such as ‘bigot’.
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“Regardless of whether you agree with the political views of that councillor, all councillors are elected by the residents of their ward and therefore deserve, and should receive, the respect that comes with the position.
“Moreover, such words would be unacceptable in any other work place and so there is no reason for them to be acceptable in this chamber either.
“You can be assured we will be discussing this matter promptly with the councillor and treating the matter seriously and appropriately.”
They also called on all councillors to use formal processes to raise complaints and expressed concern about the impact of social media attacks on individuals, saying they are “bad for members’ mental health and wellbeing…and portrays this city in a very poor light.”
Dialogue is on-going with the councillor about his actions, added Cllr Mackey.