Sutton reporter BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK on how a Tory ex-councillor’s foul-mouthed tirades have come back to haunt him, just in time for a Halloween by-election
The people of Belmont, one of the quieter, more refined suburbs of quiet and refined south London, have discovered that they may soon have Sutton’s answer to Father Jack as one of their elected councillors.
The Conservative candidate in the Tory-held ward for the Belmont by-election being held in two weeks’ time is Neil Garratt, whose social media history has shown a propensity for intolerance and a facility for telling residents to “fuck off” when he disagrees with them.
“He’s put out a one-word tweet saying ‘arse’, and then he’s used the ‘F’ word when he’s disagreed with a resident,” a civic centre source told Inside Sutton.
“Now all we need is Garratt to tweet ‘Drink!’ and we’d the full Father Jack set.”
Father Jack (played by actor Jack Kelly) was the permanently pissed and potty-mouthed resident of Craggy Rock alongside Father Ted, in the eponymous series of the 1990s.
Until this May, Garratt was the deputy leader of the Conservative group on Sutton Council. But Garratt lost his Beddington South seat in the local elections.
Belmont is his first opportunity to get back on to the council, in a by-election called because one of his erstwhile Tory council colleagues, Patrick McManus, decided, somewhat conveniently for Garratt, that after just four months he could no longer fulfil his duties as an elected councillor.
The ward by-election caused by the whim of a Conservative councillor is estimated to be costing the people of Sutton about £20,000 to stage.
The Tories’ choice of candidate, a local politician without any obvious links to the ward in which a convenient vacancy has arisen, has been seized upon by rival LibDem and Labour candidates.
Sutton Tories have already been accused of breaking election rules by including official council email addresses on their election leaflets, at a period of “purdah” when publicly funded facilities are banned from party political material.
But Garratt’s apparent short fuse on social media could prove even more of a liability.
Garratt’s Twitter history shows him having had a sweary spat in 2016, when he was a senior Sutton councillor, over the use of the word “vermin” to describe Tories.
Nye Bevan, at a Labour Party rally in Manchester in 1948, famously referred to the Tory Party as “lower than vermin”.
When a Sutton voter referenced this in a tweet at Garratt, he got the response which included, “You’re still full of this shit. Now fuck off.”
When they discovered the Twitter spat, a Belmont resident told Inside Sutton: “Abusing the electorate certainly is a new by-election campaign strategy.
“But then he may feel that as the Tory heartland of Belmont votes blue then the way to go is blue language!
“Perhaps the voters of Beddington South know about this when they kicked him out in May?”
Garratt has also, somewhat bizarrely – and Father Jack-like – tweeted the single word “Arse.”
And last month, Garratt expressed his views about police liaison work with the LGBT community, labelling a Manchester constable “rainbow bollock”.
“Who is supposed to benefit from this caper?” Garratt ranted. “Did this officer lose a bet? Is it for not chipping in to the tea kitty?”
Paul Scully, the Tory MP for Sutton and Cheam, together with councillors Jane Pascoe and David Hicks, all feature on Garratt’s Belmont by-election leaflets.
Now they, and Tim Crowley, the leader of the Tories on Sutton Council, have been challenged to condemn the candidate for telling a local resident to “fuck off”.
“Is this level of aggression, abuse and language acceptable for Belmont by-election candidate Neil Garratt to use? Setting a really poor example,” one Sutton voter posted on social media.
“Perhaps voters to Sutton Council deserve better?”
Garratt is one of six candidates in the Belmont by-election on Thursday, October 25, the others being John Bannon (UKIP), Ashley Dickenson (CPA), Claire Jackson-Prior (Green), Jean Duster (LibDem) and Marian Wingrove (Labour).
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