Banbury councillor defends his ‘small man’ jibe at opponent but vows to reflect on his actions
Councillor Eddie Reeves (Con, Banbury Calthorpe), leader of the opposition at Oxfordshire County Council, was invited to take back a comment in which he referred to Councillor Tim Bearder (Lib Dem, Wheatley) as “an incredibly small man in more ways than one” during a meeting of full council on November 1.
The waters were muddied by separate comments in which Councillor Kieron Mallon (Con, Bloxham & Easington) revealed he had enjoyed a pub lunch with colleagues, declaring that post-lunch sections of council meetings were “far more entertaining and probably one of the reasons we turned up”.
He followed that with: “I and I am sure others have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has ever taken out of me.”
Councillor Duncan Enright (Lab, Witney North & East) later urged fellow councillors “to take lunch easy” citing “possible lunchtime ritual reasons” for a “nastier atmosphere” in the afternoon session.
Cllr Mallon categorically refuted suggestions that any Tories had overindulged prior to returning to County Hall, a stance backed by Cllr Reeves who said he had been among seven Tories at the pub.
He said “a minority” had consumed alcohol that day but he had not and that as far as he knew, no one had consumed more than the one standard measure of wine that was served with meals.
Cllr Reeves reflected that “it is not for me to tell others how to behave, what to eat and what to drink” but that the public rightly expects councillors to “behave in a business-like manner in the chamber”.
Put to him that his comments towards Cllr Bearder may not be seen as business-like, Cllr Reeves expressed no regret over what he had said.
“It was clearly a joke with a degree of sophistication behind it, it was a double entendre,” he explained.
“I was not saying he was short of stature, I used the word small deliberately and that was to get at the fact that he has been well known to be very ideological and pronounced in his views – he is not one for turning, I give him that much credit.
“It is a reasonable inference from my perspective that he is small-minded politically because he is not one to change his mind. That was what I was driving at, I was not trying to traduce him on a personal basis.”
Cllr Reeves argued that “most (people) would have accepted it as a well-intended attempt to introduce bonhomie and levity” and that such political jousting prevents debates from becoming “dull” and “sterile”.
However, he added: “In an effort to try to be a slightly better person today than I was yesterday, clearly I have some more thinking to do on this. I may well be wrong.
“It would be completely wrong of me to criticise Tim, as I did, for being inflexible in his views and then not reappraising my own.”