In a bid to disassociate himself from fellow Herne Hill councillor Jim Dickson’s comments about Field Day objectors, barrister and councillor Jack Holborn has threatened to take a Brockwell Tranquillity member to court ...
... and told her that he knows where she lives and has seen who she has met with on her doorstep.
Cllr Jim Dickson has finally confirmed that he is in favour of Global Entertainment plc's Field Day festival going ahead in Brockwell Park. His reasoning can be roughly summed up as: let’s just think of the money and see how it goes. Whilst he was reluctant to be forthcoming about his views until the decision process was over this is perhaps not a huge surprise. Promises to ensure all residents would be kept well informed never came through. Unlike other wards, meetings were not held to gather views from constituents, leaving them to wait in corridors hoping for an available seat in neighbouring Thurlow Park Ward’s interactive sessions. He did not submit any licensing representations on behalf of his ward.
Having secured a decision in favour of hosting Field Day in Brockwell Park, Cllr Dickson – who is director of an international public relations agency, specialising in public affairs - took to his Labour Party blog and condensed the wide range of carefully considered and researched, often technical, objections to events on the scale of Field Day, referring to them simply as the “ideologically freighted accusations” of a minority who are set against privatisation of public space.
Questioned on Twitter about his dismissive view of the thousands of constituents who engaged in the objection process - and invited to meet with them to assess for himself what was driving their concerns - councillor Dickson responded by appearing to imply that whether or not his constituents agree with hosting the event is a reflection of maturity.
For many, festivals in the park will be a deciding issue in the upcoming elections. Local group Brockwell Tranquillity issued a pamphlet entitled VOTE BROCKWELL, the purpose of which is not to support any individual or party but to highlight the public positions of the various candidates. All candidates have been approached and asked for their views. The pamphlet refers to this “maturity” statement. And this is where Jack Holborn comes in.
Cllr Holborn – who is a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers in his parallel life – fired off an email from his work chambers addressed to a moderator of the Brockwell Tranquillity Facebook page. In it he complained that any suggestion that his running mate Dickson’s comments about objectors were the position of Herne Hill Labour is defamatory to him.
So concerned was Cllr Holborn about any association with the “maturity” slur that he insisted circulation of the publication be halted immediately and threatened to bring an action for libel if his demands were not met. Further, he accused Brockwell Tranquillity of illegal collaboration with the Green Party (who have clearly stated their opposition to Field Day and the controversial Events Strategy) and threatened to challenge the validity of the election should any Green party members be elected.
Brockwell Tranquillity responded making clear they are not affiliated with any party, pointing out that the leaflet highlights Labour candidates who have been supportive in other wards and offering Cllr Holborn the opportunity to make a statement clarifying his opposition to the events, if that is his position. At the time of writing he has not offered any further statement of his views.
In a most unusual step Cllr Jack Holborn’s next email referred to knowing where the - female - moderator lives and having observed who she has spoken with on her doorstep.
Understandably intimidated and unable to get legal advice over the weekend, Brockwell Tranquillity took down the Vote Brockwell leaflet from the Facebook page and made a call out to volunteers to stop distributing it door to door. It has been stressed this is not because they believe there to be merit in what Jack Holborn has said, but because they do not have access to funds to pay for legal protection.
Since the document was taken down from the Brockwell Tranquillity site speculation has turned to Jack Holborn’s behaviour. Regardless of whether Cllr Holborn believes he has a legitimate legal challenge, his way of making that challenge raises multiple questions. It has been suggested that he may have breached the Bar Standards Board code of practice, which states that it is a breach of conduct for a barrister to refer to being a barrister, or to communicate under the name of their chambers, in a personal dispute. Presumably because this could be seen bullying. And of course, a barrister could perhaps be expected to predict that referring to watching a woman’s doorstep might, at the very least, make her feel uncomfortable.
Not to mention whether his behaviour is something that Lambeth Labour might like to consider.
Perhaps there is a lesson in this for all councillors. Had Cllr Holborn had the courage to call out Cllr Dickson’s carefully considered assault on his own constituents who have thoughtfully objected to festivals of the scale of Field Day in Brockwell Park, the whole sorry situation might have been avoided.
The elections are on Thursday. Vote Brockwell.