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Councillors boycott meeting over editor’s ‘utter b*stards’ social media post

Derek DavisCouncillors have refused to attend meetings after the editor of a local news title shared a social media post describing them as “utter b*stards”.

Conservative members were absent from a full meeting of Babergh District Council in protest against Derek Davis, editor of the Shotley, Hadleigh and Felixstowe Nub News websites.

Derek, pictured, also serves as an Independent member of the council but was sacked earlier this year from the authority’s Tory-led coalition cabinet after refusing to reveal his journalistic sources to colleagues.

The boycott of Tuesday evening’s meeting came after an attempt by the Conservative group to remove him from his new post as vice-chairman earlier this month was lost by 16 votes to seven.

The offending post, which was shared by Derek on social media, read: “If you start with the basic and fundamental premise that all Tories are utter b*stards, no one will ever prove you wrong.”

Derek has admitted he made an “error of judgement” in sharing the post, but claimed the boycott is “purely political”.

Derek’s sacking in April prompted three other Independents and one Liberal Democrat to resign from the cabinet in protest, while four Tories later left the administration to become Independent Conservatives.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday meeting, Conservative group leader Councillor Simon Barrett said: “We are probably not going to turn up to a meeting until Derek Davis resigns.

“He called us ‘Tory b*stards’ so we’re going to be looking for our fathers.

“In the meantime, we’re doing all our ward work and looking after our electorate.”

Cllr John Ward, leader of the council and a member of the Independent Conservatives, told the meeting: “It is incredibly disappointing that the group has decided to boycott the meeting.

“It is not good for democracy and does their residents a disservice.

“To use a phrase that Simon Barrett uses very often, it is not a good look.”

Speaking to HTFP about the councillors’ boycott, Derek said: “It’s sad that they’re acting in this way. As others have said, it’s sad for democracy and the residents not being represented at full council by the people they elected.

“Personally, I’m a bit bemused by it all. Yes, I made an error of judgement by sharing the post but it was a really minor transgression.

“This is purely political because they don’t like the fact I’m a journalist.

“I believe anybody should be able to become a councillor whatever their occupation.”

Derek noted Cllr Ward had “always maintained that he fully supports a free press”.

Asked whether he felt there was ever a conflict of interests between his council role and his job, he added: “I do appreciate sometimes the lines are blurred so I’m very careful.

“I’ve worked very closely with the council’s monitoring officer. I have two phones, two laptops and keep anything as separate as I can.

“Quite often the articles [the Conservatives] get upset about are not written by me. They’re upset with columnists or the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“This is purely political and they’re trying to manoeuvre.”