Nelson Mandela was a controversial figure

Former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela.

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Coun. Yvonne Tennant and Mr David Foat wrote saying Nelson Town Council’s decision not to hold a minute’s silence to mark the death of Nelson Mandela arose from the actions of two “anonymous” councillors.

Yvonne Tennant wrote: “The chairman’s call for a minute’s silence was overturned, via a veto, from two councillors who chose to remain anonymous.”

David Foat wrote that two Nelson Town Councillors were “allowed to remove an item from the town council agenda in an anonymous way”.

They both wrote nonsense but, worse than that, they have contrived to create a dreadful impression of the way Nelson Town Council conducts its business.

Surely a local council where what happens is decided by two unidentifiable councillors against the will of the chairman or the majority of councillors, which is what they both said, is a local council conducting its affairs in a disreputable manner.

I detect these individuals, both local Labour Party officials, trying for their own advantage to invent an impression of scandal where none exists. So what really happened?

Whether or not to hold such a silence as a mark of our respect was a decision entirely for the chairman of the council.

I first learned of it two days before our meeting in a text message from our clerk. I responded by telephoning him saying I considered it inappropriate.

Our clerk’s advice was that I contact our chairman direct – which I did by email (sent under my name from my e-mail address) and which I copied to our clerk and my fellow ward councillors.

Whatever the qualities of the late President Mandela, the important thing is he wasn’t British. Except perhaps at the British embassy in South Africa, the lowering of flags to half mast and the opening of books of condolence other than in South Africa and at the South African embassy in Britain is entirely inappropriate. I contrasted the proposal the council held a minute’s silence with what the council had done after the death of Margaret Thatcher.

At that time, our then chairman, Coun. Eileen Ansar, declined to hold a minute’s silence - that was in her discretion. I make no criticism of her decision. To her credit, she did restrain some Labour Party councillors from making inappropriate comment, saying we ought not to speak ill of the dead.

In their lifetimes President Mandela and Prime Minister Thatcher were great figures who caused much controversy; in death neither deserves to be canonised or reviled.

Like most of us, who mostly act with the best of intentions, some of their actions were for the good while others did significant harm. I can only think on reflection Coun. Hunt decided the silence was not such a good idea.

John Rowe

Nelson Town Councillor, BNP