Another female Tory councillor quits amid ‘bullying’ claims

Philip Churm www.plymouthherald.co.uk

Plymouth’s former deputy lord mayor, Cllr Maddi Bridgeman, has resigned from the Conservative Party following an ongoing row with council leader Richard Bingley in which she says she has been “harassed, bullied, and publicly humiliated.” Allegations the local Tory group have denied.

Cllr Bridgeman has served her Moor View constituency as an independent councillor since being suspended from the Tory group in November while an investigation was underway.

However, in a resignation email to the Conservative Party she asked to make a formal complaint against leading Tories adding: “My reasons for my resignation and the formal complaint are that I have been harassed, bullied, and publicly humiliated whilst holding a senior position in public office, all because of my sex, I am a woman.”

The row began last year after former Tory leader Cllr Nick Kelly (Compton) was ousted by Mr Bingley.

Cllr Bingley, who represents Southway, had been criticised for comparing Cllr Bridgeman to Saddam Hussein’s notorious right-hand man Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and referring to her as a “cheerleader.”

Cllr Bridgeman asked for a public apology but says she has never received one.

The comments emerged in a recording, released online, in which Cllr Bingley also makes angry and offensive comments about Tory colleagues, including calling former leader, Cllr Nick Kelly a “weak, two-faced git.”

Cllr Bridgeman said she is devastated by the vitriolic attacks on her, which she describes as sexist and insulting, especially when being compared to the Saddam Hussein’s genocidal right-hand man.

She was suspended from the Tory group just days after an independent inquiry upheld complaints made by her about Cllr Bingley.

The inquiry into Cllr Bingley began last April and concluded that he had breached the code of conduct relating to “courtesy and equality” and “disrepute.” It resulted in a formal letter of reprimand from the monitoring officer.

Cllr Bingley was not punished by the Conservative group he leeds.

Last month, a report by the Conservative association criticised Cllr Bridgeman’s social media activity in which she referred to one councillor as an “inexperienced student.”

The report also condemned her for shortening Cllr Bingley’s first name, “Richard,” to “Dick.”

The Tory councillor for St Budeaux, Pat Patel, said: “In the British modern vernacular, ‘Dick’ means ‘penis’ and Cllr Bridgeman uses this derogatory term on several occasions referencing Cllr Richard Bingley.”

Cllr Bridgeman rejected the claims and highlighted many well-known people with the shortened version of “Richard” including Dick Emery, a 1970s television comedian, Dick Cheney, who was US vice president at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and former Plymouth councillor Dick Mahony.

The Conserative association report says Cllr Bridgeman’s claims of “misogynist and sexist nature are totally inappropriate and amount to unbefitting conduct.”

The Conservative Party group was contacted for a response and a spokesperson said: “We have a policy of not discussing private disciplinary matters.”