‘It’s all kicking off in Kimberley’ sounds like a mildly amusing piss-take about the sleepiness of our Northern neighbours. Surely, compared to the bustle of Beeston, the other end of Broxtowe snoozes in pastoral peace?
Well, no. Right now it’s a hotbed of political fighting, with some very odd stuff cracking off. Soubz has alluded to a few things happening up there, namely the way Kimberley Town Council ( KTC) acts. The council recently had members leave in anger at the way it was ran, and issues over transparency. Chief amongst the council’s critics is Kimberley Resident’s Association (KRA).
Yesterday, the Nottingham Post lead story focussed on a bit of dirt that had seeped out. Cllr Andy Cooper, Labour, who also represents at the Borough level, was accused of racism by Soubry after referring to ex KTC member and present KRA member, Green Party member Kat Boettge as ‘Eva Braun’. The email was leaked, Soubry instantly demanded his head for being a ‘racist’ and hell broke loose.
The Nottingham Post editorial that accompanied the article ditched sensationalism for a sober, considered take on the subject, pointing out Soubry’s choice of words ‘racist’ was semantically incorrect, ‘xenophobic’ was more appropriate. Racist is much more loaded. Racist is where one holds a sign up at a meeting demanding ‘BRING BACK SLAVERY’. When former Cllr Craig Cox did this, Soubry punished him by, errr, employing him in her constituency office, until the press got wind.
I don’t think Soubry is a racist, of course, despite this error of judgement. I also don’t think she’s homophobic for her remarks about inserting fingers in arses. . I also don’t think Andy Cooper is a racist, and don’t believe he should resign: apologise, by all means (as he has done), but as with Soubry and her errors of judgement, resigning isn’t appropriate.
I have met Andy on occasion, I freely admit, and I have always found him a very nice man: a bluff South Yorkshireman, a fan of ale and football, as far from the polished slickness of modern politicians as you could possibly get. Definitely not a racist, or a xenophobe (he’s a staunch fan of the EU). He is a politician of conscience, voting against the Labour whip at times. I do however think he did something idiotic and it was right for an apology to be demanded, and right for Cooper to issue one.
But what actually led to this bitterness over at Kimberley? Soubz has been keen to suggest a wide-reaching Labour-led scandal several times recently, and a little bit of poking around has led to curious reading. Battles are been fought on many fronts: the former brewery site; plans for housing; the prospect of getting the tram. At a recent meeting, police had to be called after KRA refused to leave at a point of commercial sensitivity (this is not unknown in councils, I attended a meeting on Tuesday at Beeston Town Hall where we had to leave the chamber when a similar issue arose).
Before the controlling Labour group took control in 2011, KTC was, according to sources at the time ‘a dysfunctional mess…a council ran for around 20 years with little governance, no relationships with key-stakeholders, projects shelved and ignored.’
There have also been accusations of ‘corruption’ on the council, notably in Boettger’s resignation letter. While these have been withdrawn, Boettger has explained she was referring to a ‘corrupt system’, rather than individual acts of corruption. Various figures on the amount of money KTC holds have been thrown about, with the council pointing out they hold a rather large surplus while being attacked for ‘draining the coffers’. Bizarre accusations.
The reasons Soubry is attacking Kimberley with such vigour? Votes. The recent Ashcroft polling shows she is 9 points adrift of Nick Palmer in Broxtowe, a seemingly impossible figure to claw back. Beeston has very little love for her, so she has turned her back on the area and focussed on the North, in an attempt to claw back swathes of swing voters in marginal areas. It’s a desperate strategy, and one that feels able to sling all sorts of half-truths about.
An interesting figure emerges through the whole story, a guy called Darren Warner. Until recently he was head of KRA, and an active campaigner. He became someone Soubry could do business with, and there are mentions of him in Soubry’s newsletters. She even took him to a meeting with Housing Minister Nick Boles, where they discussed development in Kimberley. An upstanding member of the community, running a grassroots community group, yes?
Or a man with some notable dodgy right-wing views and possible fascist sympathies?
Warner was revealed to be a member of the BNP in one of the recent membership leakings, and appears to be good friends with rabid right wingers ‘Nottingham Patriots’. I’m not linking to their site for your own safety, but feel free to check themselves out yourself. It’s the usual swivel-eyed hate site, paranoid and delusional at a supposed cabal of socialists and Islamists running the country. Sources who know Warner have told me that his connection with these groups is more than just on polite nodding terms.
Concerns about Warner’s past, including convictions for violent crimes, were put to Soubry by members of KTC. Her response was ‘I’ll see who I want’. Politics makes strange bedfellows, for sure, but it seems Soubry was perfectly happy to do business with a fellow who see knew had not just awful history, but an awful present.
Here is what looks like a full blown racist, working directly with Tories and being invited to meetings with Government ministers. Perhaps Soubry and members of KRA should be careful with who they work with in future. Green David Kirwan has told me he has made it clear he will not work with Warner, will Soubry also make this clear?
Interestingly, has there been some back pedalling going on here? If you use google to search for ‘Darren Warner + Anna Soubry you’ll find this:
Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more..
Has someone swiftly invoked the recent ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation? EDIT: Apparently it pops up whenever you search for a name. My techphobic error
Apologies for covering an area outside my usual patch, back to Beeston in future. Kimberley types, please feel free to debate in the comments. This is a desperately complex tale, so if you spot any errors / wish to offer up any salient points, please do so.