Councillor apologises to Queen’s man in Cambs

A HUNTINGDON councillor has been forced into an apology after implying in election literature that The Queen’s personal representative in Cambridgeshire was backing his re-election campaign. Councillor Jeff Dutton, who is standing

A HUNTINGDON councillor has been forced into an apology after implying in election literature that The Queen’s personal representative in Cambridgeshire was backing his re-election campaign.

Councillor Jeff Dutton, who is standing for the district council as a Conservative on May 1, implied that the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Hugh Duberly – and by extension the Sovereign – was supporting his re-election in Huntingdon North Ward.

He quoted Mr Duberly, who resigned as an Independent member of the district council when he became Lord Lieutenant in 2003, as saying to him: “May I complement you on the leadership that you have brought to the town.”

The quotation was probably abstracted from a letter when Cllr Dutton was Mayor of Huntingdon. During his mayoral year his fellow Tories removed the party whip from him in protest at the way he treated the then town clerk, Mike Kennedy, who has since left.

Cllr Dutton did not seek re-election to the town council last May, but he is also a member of Cambridgeshire County Council.

The Lord Lieutenant was believed to be furious and demanded an apology.

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Mr Duberly’s spokesman told The Hunts Post: “It is not appropriate for the Lord Lieutenant to be involved. His permission was not sought or given for inclusion of this quotation, which related to Mr Dutton’s time as Mayor of Huntingdon.

“The Lord Lieutenant would have preferred the leaflet to be withdrawn but, as it has been distributed, that cannot happen. So he has asked for a public apology from Jeff Dutton.”

Cllr Dutton obliged on Monday, saying: “I have issued a leaflet in the Huntingdon North Ward in respect of my candidature for the Huntingdonshire District Council.

“In the leaflet I refer to a number of people including Hugh Duberly CBE, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire, who in the past has expressed kind words about my work as a councillor.

“I apologise unreservedly for attributing comments to Mr Duberly, for whom I have the greatest respect. I had no permission to do this and deeply regret any embarrassment caused to him by my taking an extract from a personal letter he sent to me during my term of office as town mayor.”

Liberal Democrat agent Martin Land said: “It’s dishonest at least. Hugh Duberly has always been scrupulously neutral.

“People in Huntingdon North are going to think The Queen supports Jeff Dutton. The key thing is that someone may have gained an electoral advantage that he should not have had. Jeff Dutton has proved his lack of fitness for office.

“If, by any chance, he is elected on May 1, he should do the decent thing and resign immediately.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “If it’s not true, it’s a misleading statement.”

If a complaint is made alleging a breach of electoral law, the police must decide whether to launch an investigation, though the Electoral Commission said there did not appear to be a breach of electoral law.

The former mayor has also upset Huntingdon Town Council by implying the support of the current mayor, Councillor Jennifer Sarabia.

Town clerk Karen Cameron said: “The office of town mayor locally can be traced back to 1206 and is steeped in a depth of tradition, which Huntingdon Town Council values and continues to support today. The term “Corporation”, in use locally until 1974, symbolised the fact that the people of the town were considered part of the council and therefore, as first citizen, the mayor symbolised the voice of the whole town and gave it an identity.

“It follows that the mayor is non-political and seeks to be impartial in local controversy. As the council’s elected chairman, the successful mayor retains the respect of both members of the council and their electorate by being fair and objective at all times.

“Against this background, it should be clear that neither the Mayor of Huntingdon nor the council would knowingly give support to the political campaigns of any candidate standing for election.”

Cllr Sarabia was also upset by the inclusion of her picture in the leaflet. “Since I was elected mayor last May I have tried very hard to be non-political. Then, just as I’m coming towards the end of my term, this happens,” she said. “I tried to phone Jeff Dutton, but he never got back to me.”

INFORMATION: Candidates in Huntingdon North Ward are: Peter Ashcroft (UKIP), Jeff Dutton (Conservative), David King (Labour), John Morgan (Liberal Democrat).

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