Mixed Reaction To New Leader's Quips at Cabinet Meeting

Peter Mason criticised for claiming opposition leader was sulking

Cllr Peter Mason - the leader of Ealing Council

June 23, 2021

Del Boy catchphrases, gymnastics quips and Katie Melua lyrics have shown the more humorous side of Ealing Council’s recently appointed leader.

Labour group leader and Only Fools and Horses fan Peter Mason dealt with the opening formalities of last Wednesday’s (16 June) cabinet meeting with two upbeat “lovely jubblies”.

He had already referenced the sporting use of the meeting venue Victoria Hall by joking, “We’re going to amend councillor Mahfouz’s portfolio to include ‘cabinet member for backflips and gymnastics’ as well, I think.”

Despite his upbeat use of the famous catchphrase, the council leader also managed to slot in a jibe at leader of the opposition, Cllr Gregory Stafford.

Cllr Mason twice suggested Conservative Cllr Stafford was “sulking” because he had not attended the in-person executive body meeting held at Ealing’s Victoria Hall on 16 June.

“I see that Cllr Stafford is not present, perhaps he’s having his sulk, because we’ve yet to meet with him on a topical issue that we are spending an awful lot of time meeting with community organisations, campaigns and representative groups,” Cllr Stafford noted at the outset of the meeting.

“But of course he’s very welcome to perform his function and his job whenever he would like to, which clearly is not today.”

When Twitter users yesterday questioned whether accusations of “sulking” showed local politics in its best light, Cllr Stafford revealed that he had been celebrating his mother’s 70th birthday.

Grassroots political group Ealing Independents commented: “Seeing how @_petermason likes to use Only Fools phrases “lovely jubbly” during council meetings shows “what a plonker” he is as Del Boy says.”

“Is this type of personal comment really appropriate and necessary?” questioned @david_LondonW5.

“Not very becoming. Reflects badly on the Ealing Labour leader. This is a good example of why politicians ‘turn off’ the public!”

Cllr Stafford then waded in with an explanation, tweeting, “Water off a duck’s back. I was actually with my mother for her 70th birthday which I’d moved to the Wednesday as cabinet was scheduled for Tuesday.

“They then moved cabinet to Wednesday!”

In another flash of humour later in the meeting, Cllr Mason praised Let’s Go Southall a new scheme offering hundreds of free bicycles to residents in Southall

He said, “Katie Melua famously sang that there were nine million bicycles in Beijing, there will be many more bicycles, but maybe not that many in Southall, but certainly it’s a great project.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, opposition leader Cllr Stafford said: “I’m not a member of the cabinet and have no official remit there, but as leader of the opposition I am able to attend and ask a small number of questions on items if I want to, generally if I do attend, but if it’s so light and uncontroversial, I don’t.

“Cabinet meetings have forever always been on Tuesdays, it was my mother’s birthday on the 15th, I made sure I moved it to Wednesday to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

“Then two weeks ago they had moved all the meetings. I do try to attend and raise questions but this meeting was relatively uncontroversial.”

Explaining the “topical issues” Cllr Mason suggested he was having a “sulk” about, Cllr Stafford said he had written to the new leader to ask where he stood on a number of issues.

“I wrote to him, asking for a meeting about things like LTNs, the future of Gurnell Swimming Pool, a couple of high rises, an appeal about to be heard about a tower block.

“Whatever was said about the previous leader, Cllr Bell, within the boundaries of running the council he was always polite.

“This is quite a departure, I think it shows his insecurity that he doesn’t feel able to meet people.

“I am leader of the opposition and it’s usual and normal that the leader of the council does meet and have a conversation if it’s requested, that’s normal.

“For the greater good of the residents. There’s quite a hostility from the leadership of the Labour group which I have to say I have not seen in all my time as councillor.

“I think it’s because of the precarious position he finds himself in, he attempted last year to oust previous Leader Julian Bell and successfully attempted again this year.

“A lot of people really held their nose to vote for him this time to get him out, he was just seen as an alternative.

“I think he has found himself in a position to defend policies he now claims he doesn’t agree with but there’s still a significant proportion of people that do.

“He’s uncomfortable that we’re on the side of residents on a number of issues, LTNs, towers, pollution, Gurnell Swimming Pool.”

Peter Mason said, “Councillor Stafford did not attend cabinet last week and also failed to send any of the seven other Conservative councillors in his place, which he had a right to do.

“Unfortunately the Ealing Conservatives have been obstructive to our attempts to set up hybrid meetings that would allow some councillors to take part in meetings from home.

“We would have happily facilitated this to allow him to do his job and not miss his mother’s 70th celebrations. I’d like to wish a belated Happy Birthday to Mrs Stafford.

“Ealing Council is committed to making meetings more accessible for members of the public and for councillors, many of whom have caring responsibilities.

“No one should be barred from becoming a councillor because councillor Stafford insists on unnecessary in-person meetings.

“The issue in question was Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Ealing cabinet members have been prioritising meeting local residents, because we believe that they should be in control of changes in their areas, not councillor Stafford.

“I am a fan of Only Fools and Horses, and very proud that it was one of many TV shows filmed in Ealing.”

Ealing Independents founder Leslie Bunder said, “There was no need to have that comment raised at another councillor, who had arranged it to see his mother.

“The fact is, whether Cllr Stafford was there or not doesn’t matter, you had his deputies there as well.

“I’m sure Peter Mason physically can’t be at all the meetings himself, if he does he’s not human.

“It proves that there’s point scoring. The objective is to help people and businesses in the area, not hinder them.

“Council meetings have limited time, by doing point scoring, they are wasting time that should be spent on making lives better for people and businesses in Ealing.”

Josh Mellor - Local Democracy Reporter

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