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Plymouth councillor apologises after Twitter mishap

Tuesday, 29 March 2022 08:12

By Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Cllr Chaz Singh (Courtesy, Chaz Singh, Local Democracy Reporting Service)

Mr Singh quickly realised his mistake

A high profile Plymouth councillor, who heads the Equalities Working Group, has apologised for retweeting a joke about Holocaust victim Anne Frank. 

Independent councillor Chaz Singh (Drake) says he was unaware of the full content of the original tweet which he received in a Twitter exchange about the challenges facing a local bee-keeper.

The issue was raised in last week’s full council meeting when Labour councillor Jemima Laing (Stoke) asked officer to look into the contents of the tweet, originally posted on Friday 18 March, considering cllr Singh’s role as chair of the equalities working group. 

At the end of the full council meeting on Monday 21 March cllr Laing asked: “A few days ago on Twitter cllr Chaz Singh retweeted and liked a tweet containing a joke about Holocaust victim Anne Frank. 

“He didn’t call it out, or upbraid the original poster for making such an appalling comment. 

“He chose instead to amplify it and retweet it to his 16,000 plus followers.

“Can I ask you if, as the leader of Plymouth City Council, you are comfortable that, someone who retweets and likes Anne Frank jokes, continues in their role as chair of the council’s equalities working group?

“Can I ask that you give consideration to whatever mechanism might be available to question his suitability to continue in this post in light of this action which I consider a breach of the councillor code of conduct and which I have reported to the monitoring officer as such?”

The leader of the council, cllr Richard Bingley (Cons, Southway) who was elected at the same meeting after cllr Nick Kelly (Cons, Compton) was ousted from his role in a vote of no confidence, said he would look into the matter. 

On Sunday night, cllr Singh issued an unreserved apology for mistakingly reposting the Tweet and pointed to his record in promoting diversity and equality. 

“I have dedicated my life to promoting a better understanding of diversity and equality, and I shall continue to do so,” he said.

“In recent times I have highlighted the lack of diversity and representation within political parties in Plymouth, in particular a number of all-white Plymouth political canvasses.

“In May 2021 when the Conservatives took control of our council, I was given the role of chair of the equalities working group. 

“In this capacity I have had the honour of allowing diverse communities to showcase their commitment and contribution at a civic level in opportunities such as Grand Union Day for the Romanian Community, the Sri Lankan & Romanian Networking Business Lunches and the inaugural lighting of the Menorah for the Jewish Festival of Chanukah.

“These events would not have been made possible were it not for my commitment to diverse community groups and the interfaith connections I have built over my 20 years in Plymouth and across the south west.

“As many of you know I am very active on Twitter, with over 16,000 followers. 

“I have found this platform to be an effective way to communicate and learn about what’s happening locally, nationally and globally.

“I use Twitter in a personal capacity to raise awareness for causes close to my heart.

“Recently, I was tagged into a Tweet (with a number of other people), by a Plymouth bee-keeper raising awareness of live sewerage leaking onto the land where he keeps his bee hives. 

“Unfortunately, without fully reading the Tweet, I re-shared it (in a personal capacity, in my own time and on my own phone), this was a huge mistake on my part, as some content of the bee keeper’s Tweet could be considered offensive.

“I am so very sorry if my mistake has caused offence and I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been offended by my retweeting of the thread (which the bee keeper has now deleted).

“My only intention was to raise awareness about the deplorable situation where the Plymouth independent bee-keepers are being compromised by the raw human sewerage overflowing around their honey farm. 

“Bees are an integral and vital part of our eco-system and need to be both protected and encouraged in a wholesome and pure environment.”

Cllr Singh added that he removed the Tweet as soon as he had been made aware of its contents.

“The moment my re-tweet was raised by councillor Laing in the full council meeting, I immediately went to my time-line and unshared the Tweet, apologised by email to the leader of the council and the monitoring officers. 

“This was the first time I had fully read the Tweet and was deeply upset when I realised my mistake.

“I fully understand that in our roles as councillors we have a duty to our city and its residents and that our behaviour should set an example. 

“However, we all make honest mistakes and fall short from time to time.

“I shall continue to champion diversity and inclusion, with equality at the forefront of all that I do.”

Voters are due to go to the polls on Thursday 5 May to choose 19 councillors.

Cllr Singh and cllr Laing will not face re-election until next year.

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