LETTER: Distorted view of ‘free speech’

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Cllr Kate Rowbottom (Billingshurst and Shipley) talks a lot of nonsense in her letter when she publicly declares her utter refusal to sign the Free Speech Charter (12.3.15, p36) and gives a ludicrous reason for not signing.

Cllr Rowbottom ignores the fact that the most senior councillor in West Sussex has signed the Free Speech Charter - the leader of the county council Louise Goldsmith.

In addition the former leader of Horsham District Council Liz Kitchen has signed. So too has the chairman of the Horsham Conservatives, county councillor Brad Watson OBE and also Mrs Toni Bradnum, the political agent of the Horsham Association, and the candidate for Nuthurst and Mannings Heath. So Cllr Rowbottom’s letter tells us much about her own individual and distorted view of what she considers to be ‘free speech’.

In her letter Cllr Rowbottom goes on to deny that there was a secret show trial to gag Cllr Christian Mitchell from speaking out over North Horsham.

Cllr Rowbottom forgets that there was extensive first hand coverage of this and of the ‘shenanigans’ (source: Cllr Liz Kitchen) that have gone on at Horsham District Council under Cllr Ray Dawe reported in the WSCT in March 2014.

The articles last year said the secret trial took place in October 2013 which is nearly 18 months ago. If a secret trial didn’t take place then why has she and her leader Cllr Ray Dawe not issued a writ for slander against this newspaper?

Why has her leader not released minutes and agendas of their group meetings for the past 18 months to show that such a meeting never took place?

Then we turn to the election of the chairman of the council who is the most senior civic person in the Horsham District, a role which is politically neutral. He is like the Speaker of the House of Commons and like him he should be voted for freely by all councillors. But that is not what happened.

On 26 February 2014 according to Cllr Peter Burgess, a three-line whip was imposed on the election of the chairman for the Civic Year 2014/15. Instead of confirming that Cllr Christian Mitchell (who was elected as vice-chairman by the full Council in May 2013) as if by magic, two councillors from the southern wards, Kate Rowbottom (Billingshurst and Shipley) and John Chidlow (Southwater) stepped forward and nominated Cllr Brian O’Connell.

At the council meeting Cllr Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said: ‘I would like to speak on this but I can’t because I have been told quite categorically by the [Conservative] Group secretary this is subject to a three-line whip and I would be drummed out of the Brownies.’

Who applied the three-line Whip? Well that surely can only come from the leadership – Cllr Ray Dawe and Cllr Helena Croft. We know at that time who the Group secretary was – Cllr Jim Rae and look what happened to him and Cllr Helena Croft – they were dumped by their own Conservative Association last month possibly ending their political careers in the Conservative Party unless another local association adopts them.

It’s about time Horsham Conservative Association now did the same to Kate Rowbottom and John Chidlow. If they don’t then the public will hopefully do it for them on 7 May.


Parry Close, Horsham