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Councillor makes outburst at journalist for questioning ‘everyday sexism’

Richard PriceJournalists and politicians have rallied behind a local democracy reporter whose professional integrity was questioned in an outburst by a councillor he approached for comment.

Richard Price, left, who works for Stoke-on-Trent daily The Sentinel under the BBC-funded scheme, was told his “sort of journalism does no credit to the profession” by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council member Mike Worthington.

Councillor Worthington made the remark after Richard asked him whether a comment he had made during a meeting about a colleague “liking blondes” had been appropriate.

The Tory councillor then instructed the LDR to never contact him again.

Cllr Worthington had told fellow Conservative Cllr Ben Emmery and Independent Cllr Linday Maylon, the female councillor elected as his deputy on the Moorlands Partnership Board: “No kissing and cuddling, I know you like blondes.”

The Sentinel reported that the comment prompted politicians from across the political spectrum to speak up about the remarks.

When approached by Richard, Cllr Worthington said: “If you can’t have a bit of banter with friends, I’m afraid it’s a sad day in politics.

“So I think you need to get a life of your own and clear off, thank you very much.”

He followed his remark up with a text message, adding: “Your sort of journalism does no credit to the profession.

“If you can’t have a bit of banter with colleagues it’s a sad day. Don’t ever contact me again.”

Speaking to HTFP, Richard insisted he had asked a legitimate question about something that had been said openly in a public meeting.

He added: “My aim was to give him the opportunity to put his view forward, which he did, but I think his colleagues realised it wasn’t an appropriate thing to say and that was hopefully made clear to him.

“Political parties need to be doing whatever they can to ensure everyone is represented – and that means making sure people feel comfortable that they can take on committee roles without an off-beat remark being made about them, no matter what their background or sexual orientation or gender identity might be.

“It’s a shame Cllr Worthington chose not to engage more fully with my questions – telling me to never contact him again – but that’s his choice I suppose.”

Fellow journalists, as well as politicians, have since sent Richard numerous messages of support on Twitter.

Richard added: “I’ve received a fair bit of praise from other councillors across his party and others, and from other journalists too for covering the story.

“I do think it’s important that we call-out poor conduct where we see it, and some might argue this is minor but it feeds into everyday sexism which has to be talked about.

“I think being able to write stories like this really does prove the value of the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service. As LDRs we happily sit through hours and hours of council meetings so others don’t have to – and every now and then we uncover something worth talking about.”