The row over a town mayor’s controversial Boris Johnson tweet erupted again – as councillors chose her successor amid calls for the role to be abolished.
Former Kidsgrove mayor Amanda Cartwright faced calls to resign after sharing a meme comparing the Prime Minister to Harold Shipman and John Worboys last month.
The Labour councillor, whose 2019/20 term as first citizen was extended due to the Covid-19 crisis, apologised for the tweet and claimed posting it had been a ‘genuine mistake’.
After the criticism continued, Ms Cartwright called for the council’s postponed annual meeting to be brought forward three weeks from its provisional date of June 22, to allow her to stand down and the new mayor to be elected.
But Conservative councillors, who abstained on the vote for the new mayor, said the role had now become ‘so damaged’ it should be abolished.
At the start of the virtual meeting, held on Zoom, Ms Cartwright repeated her apology for posting the ‘distasteful meme’, which listed various things she would trust more than Mr Johnson, including serial killers and rapists.
But she also condemned the ‘vile’ online abuse which had been aimed at her and her family as a result of the row.
Ms Cartwright said: “I have apologised unreservedly for what I did. I do not condone or support the content of the tweet I shared.
“I am aware this mistake may have caused upset to members of Kidsgrove Town Council and to the residents we serve. Therefore I want to formally apologise to all Kidsgrove town councillors and repeat my apology to residents. What I did could unduly affect the reputation of all town councillors.
“My mistake has led to a torrent of vile and targeted online abuse aimed towards me, my family and my friends. Much of it has gone beyond reasonable scrutiny and accountability. My family, some of whom are poorly, have been targeted by a small minority in the community. I can accept a difference of opinion, but one questions the motivation that lies behind such vitriolic attacks on my family.”
Labour councillor Angela Cooper was elected as Kidsgrove mayor for 2020/21, with party colleague Cressida Dickens being elected as deputy mayor. Conservative and independent councillors abstained from both votes.
It is understood that the annual meeting was brought forward after opposition councillors had called for an extraordinary meeting to be held to debate a motion of no confidence in the mayor.
Conservative group leader Paul Waring, who lost the deputy mayor vote last year, said his group would now seek to abolish the role of mayor altogether.
He also suggested that Ms Cartwright’s tweet would have been considered a ‘hate crime’ if the Prime Minister had been a member of a minority.
Mr Waring said: “For some time it’s been obvious that the mayoral appointments in Kidsgrove are not based on achievement, long service or merit, but solely on membership of the Labour Party. So from our group’s point of view, any nomination would be pointless.
“I think the folly of this approach has been shown by the actions of the most recent mayor. I think if Boris Johnson had been black, Jewish or gay then it would have been classed as a hate crime.
“The problem we’ve got in today’s society is that so often people commit the foulest acts or say the most hurtful things and offer a simply apology as if that’s okay. The root of the problem is a complete lack of respect for their fellow man. Unfortunately social media allows people to commit such acts without giving a second thought to the damage that may cause to the victims.
“So I’ve come to the conclusion that the office of mayor of Kidsgrove has become so damaged that the greatest service we could give to the people of Kidsgrove would be to abolish the role of mayor and all the delusions of grandeur that go with it. My pledge to the people of Kidsgrove is that if we get a majority in the next elections we will get rid of the mayoralty and save everyone some money.
“I do think the former mayor should have resigned for what has gone on. I don’t mean from the mayoralty, but resign from the council.”
Mr Waring’s wife and fellow Conservative councillor Jill Waring supported his call for abolition.
She said: “I think the mayoralty should be abolished in Kidsgrove, particularly the mayor-making celebrations. There used to be a time when mayor-making in Kidsgrove was not that the expense of the public purse.
“It should be a position of honour, but people have got no respect for it any more. Last year Paul Waring was nominated for deputy mayor after 15 years’ service on the town council. He’s worked hard but didn’t get a look in. Instead we had a brand new councillor, 12 months in the role, who got to be deputy mayor.”
Councillors voted to defer the rest of the business of the annual meeting to a later date.