A completely unwarranted attack on a local journalist during the Sefton Cabinet meeting last week left many of us stunned. My colleague Tony Robertson who was chairing the meeting has already written about the incident. I hope that Cllr Dowd the Labour leader will, on reflection, see fit to apologise to the young lady involved.
The incident occurred late on in the meeting. Cllr Dowd had not been getting his way, this causes him to become very annoyed and his judgement slips. The journalist, who I must admit I had not seen before, was sat in the public gallery-that is the chairs arranged in an outer circle around the cabinet table. She was sat next to Cllr Sue Maquire (Lib Dem, Cambridge Ward) and as is the way on this occasions they had struck up a conversation. I later learned that Sue was identifying members of the cabinet to the journalist.
The Labour Leader, Cllr Dowd, suddenly took exception to this solte voce conversation. He started complaining loudly that journalist shouldn't be talking to people in the public gallery. He was talking and he clearly expected everyone else to listen. I was smiling to myself. Peter Dowd, who despite his best attempts to hide it sometimes, is a thoughtful and decent person, but he does suffer 'judgement by-passes' sometimes when things aren't going his way. I thought the episode would soon peter-out so I thought it would be a good time to nip out for a comfort break. Imagine my surprise when I returned to hear Peter was still in full cry against the journalist demanding that we pass a motion that the Editor of the newspaper should be written to upbraiding the journalist! I resumed my seat. The Tory Leader Mrs Parry joined in and supported Dowd. I was open mouthed with astonishment at this point. He pushed it to a vote and Labour and Tories voted together to send the letter.
This was too much for my colleague David Tattersall (Meols Ward Lib Dem, extremely sensible). David has spent a lifetime in the media including a spell as a local journalist. He was appalled. Like me he couldn't see that the young women had done anything wrong. (I can't say Sue was too pleased with the onslaught, but politicians have to put up with such things and Sue with admirable composure was doing just that.)
I don't think that there is any doubt that Cllr Dowd overstepped the line of what was appropriate. His hectoring of the journalist displayed very poor judgement. I guess some would call his tone bullying. I hope on reflection he apologises. As for Mrs Parry who frequently 'goes off on one' when she thinks people are behaving badly, it would be a pleasant surprise if she too,on reflection, concluded that her behaviour fell short of the standard she expects of others.