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Ferryhill Town Council's 'special' meeting: An observer's report

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On Wednesday 11th July, Ferryhill Town Council held a special meeting about Richard Smith, the ex-mayor who was hounded out of office for posting Christian views of sexuality and Islam on Facebook. An observer at the event reports on what happened:

Wednesday night’s meeting of Ferryhill Town Council was meant to be a triumphant lynching of the town’s Christian ex-Mayor, Cllr Richard Smith, by the mob of adherents to modern tolerant British values - led by the local drag queen known under the elegant pseudonym Tess Tickle. However, it took an unexpected turn when the LGBT activists’ demo outside the town hall met the Christian counter-demo in defence of free speech. Meanwhile inside the town hall, political manoeuvring by a group of brave independent Councillors reduced the meeting to a unanimous but meaningless vote of no confidence in an empty chair.

As soon as Cllr Smith, an ex-serviceman and a Christian pastor, was elected Mayor a few weeks ago, Mr Tickle took the lead in vigorous public scrutiny of his views. Mr Tickle’s investigation exposed an outrageous Facebook post where Cllr Smith re-posted a video by a well-known US video-blogger, The Activist Mommy, who quoted the Bible while commenting on an LGBT Pride event. Not only was Cllr Smith as homophobic as this; he was also Islamophobic. He re-posted a video where a group of Muslims attack a Jewish family and their little children, and commented:

"This is supposed to be a religion of peace. I think not."

Mr Tickle’s campaign got fair wind from the Pink News, the BBC, and a number of Facebook commentators. One of them eloquently summed up the case against Cllr Smith in these terms:

“This day in age. F***s sake! Tie the twat up in a rainbow flag, strip the nob head naked and leave him there to be laughed at. This s***s getting boring! His breed are getting fewer though, you just do have the odd few still breathing. X”

In the face of such powerful criticisms by members of the public - not just against himself, but also against members of his family – Cllr Smith resigned as Mayor. Yet, the mob was not satisfied. Despite the resignation, Labour Councillors pressed ahead with their motion of no confidence. Yesterday’s meeting had to be convened to debate and vote on it.

The meeting coincided in time with England playing in the World Cup semi-final, but even that did not deter the Councillors, the LGBT activists with rainbow flags or the Christian protestors with their free speech placards from turning up at the Town Hall. The only people who apparently made a decisive choice in favour of staying at home to watch TV were the police – not a single one of them was in sight.

Some of the LGBT demonstrators began lively debates against the Christian demonstrators. One lady criticised the slogan ‘Free speech for Christians’ on the grounds that she believed in free speech for everyone. She illustrated her point by suddenly grabbing the offensive placard, tearing it from the hands of a Christian protestor and folding it to hide reference to Christians; censored in this way, the placard properly reflected the modern concept of free speech. Apart from that episode, the stand off between the two rallies was delightfully peaceful.

At the peak of that engaging debate, Mr Tickle arrived at the scene in full drag queen outfit with a group of fans, including one other drag queen; and marched straight into the Town Hall. When some of the free speech demonstrators tried to follow them, however, the acting Mayor asked us to leave, stating that there were only seven seats for members of the public and Mr Tickle’s group had taken all the remaining ones. For “health and safety reasons”, it was not possible to let anybody else in.

Ferryhill’s local politics is peculiar in that independent Councillors form a majority on the Council, Labour is the official opposition, and no other party is represented. Labour, of course, sided with Mr Tickle; most independents supported the ex-Mayor. The crucial battle was over the Labour amendment to the motion to make it one for a removal of Cllr Smith from the Council altogether – instead of what by now became a meaningless motion of no confidence in the empty Mayoral chair.

Members of the public were permitted to speak. Andrea Williams made the case for Cllr Smith’s freedom of speech; his son spoke of his great and kind character; the head of a homeless charity spoke of his tireless work. Mr Tickle stood up and with tears in his eyes and spoke of the story of love, the love of his village, his love for another man and that Cllr Smith was not fit to hold office for his views.

When the request to make the amendment failed, one angry Labour Councillor stormed out of the hall; then changed his mind and came back in. The meaningless motion was then carried unanimously. Cllr Smith also voted for it, and emerged out of the building to address his cheering supporters.

Wednesday was a refreshing change from the chilling routine of anti-Christian censorship in modern Britain. When faced with some opposition, the dreaded so-called ‘Gaystapo’ turned out to be no more than a couple of ridiculously painted men and a handful of their sycophants. It took only a handful of courageous people (and the admittedly major sacrifice of missing the football) to stop the lynching party and instead enforce a genuine democratic event, with a fair game between opposing views. We did not offer them an open goal, and they failed to score. Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from that.