Sekhemka – Bullying, Cowardly and Dishonest?
In fear of being accused of turning into an investigative reporter I find I have to return to the issue of the sale of the Sekhemka Statue following an unexpected meeting with a number of Friends of the Northampton Museums.
On Tuesday on, what is, one of my increasingly rare visits to Northampton I happened to call into Leopold Cafe for coffee. I found myself sat on the table next to the ‘Friends’ and as you would expect the conversation got around to the Sekhemka Statue sale.
I have written about this on a number of occasions, pointing out the inconsistencies in the Northampton Conservatives statements and especially those of Cllr David Mackintosh and Cllr Brandon Eldred when challenged about their decision to sell.
To summarise, the Friends of the Northampton Museums, Arts Collective and Egyptian Society and other organisations with an interest in the Heritage, Art and Culture of Northampton claimed at the Cabinet meeting of 12 September 2012 that they had not been consulted on the sale.
Cllr Eldred and Cllr Mackintosh insisted during the meeting that a wide consultation had taken place which included the organisations who said they hadn’t been consulted.
I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine the dismay and anger of the organisations who were effectively being accused of having lied by clearly stating that they weren’t consulted.
Following the Cabinet decision Cllr Terry Wire, the Leader of the Labour Group, and I called in the decision for it to be examined by an all-party group of Councillors.
At the ‘all party group’ which, incidentally, had a majority of Conservative Councillors on it Cllr Eldred, accompanied by a senior member of NBC staff, was asked a number of questions about how the decision was arrived at.
Cllr Eldred and his advisor were categorical in their answers
1. A full review and consultation with interested groups and organisations on the NBC museums disposal policy had been carried out and an agreement reached that the Sekhemka Statue was not a part of the future policy.
2. That the organisations, who again at the meeting claimed they have not been consulted, had been.
3. That NBC had the legal ownership of Sekhemka Statue and therefore had the right to sell it.
The problem as I have pointed put earlier is that,
1. When the review and evidence of the consultation was asked to be made available Cllr Eldred and his advisor were forced to admit that they couldn’t provide it, all that had altered was the date of the policy and that Cllr Eldred couldn’t remember when he signed the policy off. Lie 1?
2. The evidence of the wide consultation with the Friends of the Northampton Museums and other organisations et al doesn’t exist which begs the question why haven’t they apologised for accusing the organisation of being untruthful. Lie 2?
3. It has been proven that the legal ownership of the Sekhemka Statue had not been established at the time of the meeting. Lie 3.
Which brings us neatly back to my conversation on Tuesday?
It seems that, following the ‘Call In’ (24 September 2012) and because the Secretary of the Friend of the Museums criticised Cllr Mackintosh and the Northampton Conservatives during an interview on BBC Northampton; Cllr Mackintosh subsequently wrote to the Chair of the Friends telling them that they would not be allowed to hold their meetings in the Museum or Council property while the Secretary remained in post.
The secretary, by the way, is a fantastic woman who is dedicated to the Museums and Heritage of the town called Ms Gunnilla Loe, whose heinous crime was to say that the Council had acted in “bad faith” and had not “acted in the interested of the people of Northampton”.
It is for these comments and these comments alone that the Leader of the Borough Council sought to influence the democratic election of an independent charitable body by threatening the withdrawal of use or access to public buildings. The only stipulation made was that Ms Gunnilla Loe stepped down as Secretary.
Resorting to these intimidating, bullying, blowhard tactics in the face of the feather breath of justifiable criticism indicates yet again that Cllr Mackintosh would rather victimize individuals using, and abusing, his position as Leader of the Council to do so.
In the face of such threats, the pressure was placed entirely on Ms Loe, rather than on the Leader. The impact was immediate and rather than cause facilities to be withdrawn from the blameless Friends of the Museums, the equally blameless Ms Loe stood down as the secretary.
However the incident has not passed without a great deal of anger and dismay from the membership of the organisation.
On Tuesday I commiserated with those present that the sale is going ahead now that the ownership had been cleared up.
Those present then asked on what I based the assumption, so I told them of the recent statement by Cllr Eldred at the Council meeting on the 20th January when the following question was asked by Cllr Glynane.
“Would the Cabinet Member please advise the Council on the current status of the Administration’s plans to sell off the Sekhemka statue?”
The answer from Cllr Eldred being,
“Plans to sell Sekhemka are progressing well. Due to commercial confidentialities with the sale, I am not currently in a position to go into greater detail, as to do so would be detrimental to the Council’s position in this matter. I will of course provide more information when I am able to do so.”
In other words the ownership has been sorted out and it is now only a case of sorting out the financial and commercial details.
It was then that they showed me an email (how good are iPads?) received that morning from one of the parties involved in negotiations saying that,
“Progress was slow while the legal teams of the two parties continued to discuss the ownership issue”
So it hasn’t been sorted out?
Which brings me back to two essential factors;
The first is what will Cllr Mackintosh do if the Friends of the Museums, who I understand number more than 150, re-elect Ms Gunnilla Loe as their Chair or Secretary?
Will he carry through his particularly vicious vendetta and ban them from using Council facilities?
If he does, then what happens next?
Well, I would be more than happy to hire a room in the Guildhall for them to have their meeting.
So I hope that the Friends of the Museums now go ahead and elect whoever they choose to their committee, as they are entitled to, and not succumb to the Leader of the Councils callous bullying threats.
The second essential factor is, why do the Northampton Conservatives continue to intentionally mislead everyone over the proposed sale and when will they apologise?
I’ll finish on this blog to which subject I’ll no doubt return in the future on this point which has become increasingly apparent in the past two years.
Paul Kaye once asked the actor Demi Moore,
“If it wasn’t gratuitous in any way and it was tastefully done, would you consider keeping your clothes on in a movie?”
Perhaps the question to Cllr Mackintosh would be
“Is there any circumstances outside of appearing in a court of law that you would consider telling the truth about the political decisions you are taking or what you are claiming credit for”
Or to put it in even simpler terms, as has been revealed again and again about the Northampton Conservatives, they truly consider their public statements, the presentation of evidence and the truth to be three mutually exclusive elements in communicating with the public about their decisions.
I expect the response from the Leader will be that for those who do not believe his public statements, he will present evidence. And when they can’t produce evidence, they will of course, reveal the truth.
Oh wait. No they won’t. They’ll walk out.
From Click….brrr to the recent stomp stomp.