Former council leader apologises for controversial comments

Wirral Council’s former leader has apologised for saying that if the Conservative Party was a dog, it would be put down.

Labour councillor Janette Williamson, who was the leader of the council until May this year, made the comments during a meeting of all councillors at Birkenhead Town Hall on 10 July during a debate over whether the council was advertising cost of living support enough.

During the debate, Cllr Williamson criticised the Conservatives. She said, “I’d be keeping my head down and be praying for a humane and quick end to this eternally shameful incompetent psychodrama of a government. We spoke about Paul O’Grady earlier and his love of dogs. If the Tory Party was a dog, it would be euthanized by now.”

This final comment caused anger among Conservative councillors who called it “vile,” “nasty and shameful,” and one has publicly called for a suspension. Labour council leader Paul Stuart also said the comments were “in poor taste, crass, insensitive and inappropriate.”

Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Jeff Green said, “Myself, and my group, were shocked and disgusted by the comments” believing it to be about Conservative Party members. Cllr Williamson categorically denies this.

Cllr Green said that given the council’s current financial troubles as well as the need to focus on the issues people are facing with rising costs, he said he believed “the Labour Party would end its historic tribalism and join with us in focusing on these serious issues collectively.”

He added, “Unfortunately, the Labour Party’s behaviour last night clearly demonstrated they are incapable of acting in a non-tribal way. I am particularly disappointed that nobody in the leadership of the Labour Group saw fit to rebuke Cllr. Williamson for her comments regarding euthanising people with different political views than her own.

“While I am considering making a complaint, I do hope the Labour Party will take the necessary action.”

Cllr Williamson in response said, “Whilst I categorically deny Cllr Green’s claim that I wish to kill political opponents, I recognise that my use of words were considered clumsy and have clearly caused some offence with the Wirral Conservative Group.  On that basis, I will be writing out to all councillors to apologise and withdraw my statement.”

In a statement sent to the council’s legal department withdrawing her statement, Cllr Williamson said, “I said that the Conservative Party as an institution was in a slow decline and that it was in everyone’s interest to give them a quick and painless way out (General Election).

“I likened the situation to a dog in pain which would be euthanised.  In no way did I imply or intend to imply that individuals should be harmed, and I believe anybody who knows me would agree that I would never advocate hurting another human being.“

She added, “Whilst I think that most members understood the analogy, I recognise and regret that some may have taken offence by my choice of language, I accept that my words were clumsy and for that reason I am happy to withdraw my statement I made and apologise for any unintended offence.”

Council leader Paul Stuart had asked her to apologise and withdraw the comments, adding, “We need a new style of politics. One that can be forceful but needs to stay respectful, even to our political opponents.”

Images: GOOGLE

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