Quite the day for local politics Twitter last night, as over the course of a few hours we saw a councillor sharing anti-trans content, activists sharing anti-semitic tropes, autism being weaponised, and a staggering amount of hypocrisy all round.
It’s hard to even know where to begin.
First of all, Cllr Joanne Howcroft-Scott, a Labour councillor for Luton and Wayfield, shared some anti-trans content amongst her prolific retweeting. While these things can be complicated, and mistakes can occasionally be made, this was the third such incident in the course of a week. A resident had previously flagged this with Cllr Howcroft-Scott, who apologised, but then proceeded to share more of the content again within days.
This led to some frankly baffling exchanges, where Cllr Howcroft-Scott claimed it only happened because she was impaired by medication, and was seemingly unaware of the three incidents despite all three being highlighted directly to her.
All of which led to an increasingly unreal exchange that seemed to move further and further from the original point.
While we welcome the apology from Cllr Howcroft-Scott, this issue raises serious concerns about her ability to perform her duties as a councillor. If indeed her medication results in judgement being so impaired, how was she able to participate in the recent full council meeting, or carry out case work for her residents? These questions have thus far gone unanswered from Cllr Howcroft-Scott and Medway Labour.
In the middle of this, one of the candidates Cllr Howcroft-Scott defeated to win her council seat, Conservative Robbie Lammas, jumped in to comment on Cllr Howcroft-Scott using autism as an excuse for sharing such content was not acceptable.
The only problem with that sentiment being that Cllr Howcroft-Scott had done no such thing in this exchange. Truly, nobody comes out of this debacle looking good.
Just as things seemed to be quietening down, some activists within Medway Young Labour starting liking and endorsing anti-Semitic tropes on Twitter. After Cllr Tristan Osborne rightly called this out, some activists stood their ground, arguing that an image of a blood soaked Israeli with the words ‘Moses would be proud of you’ was somehow not problematic.
Medway has largely remained free of the anti-Semitic tropes in our politics, so it’s disappointing to see local activists condoning such imagery and messaging. After defending the content for some time, something seemed to click, and some furious back peddling suddenly took place. Even if this was indeed ignorance rather than malice, it still suggests the Labour Party has some way to go on this front.
Edited to add: Cllr Howcroft-Scott has released the following statement:
Further to this, Cllr Maple, leader of Medway Labour, has released the following: