More than 3,000 people tuned in to the first Handforth Parish Council meeting since the local authority went viral – and viewers were gripped by more chaos.
A planning meeting held on Zoom on December 10 became an internet sensation after clerk Jackie Weaver booted out council members who had lost their cool off. It spawned phrases including “read the standing orders, read them and understand them” and “you have no authority here, Jackie Weaver”.
On Wednesday evening, the parish council met again – with many members of the public joining proceedings with laughter and heckling, and the fall-out from December 10 continuing.
Events got off to a slow-ish start, with parish council chairman Brian Tolver acknowledging the “recent viral events”, noting how a “brief Anglo-Saxon phrase” had been “immortalised in The Times”.
But the tone for the night was set when a bearded man “George”, a member of the public and not a councillor, made three interruptions.
“I was just helping you with respect to the standing orders,” he offered, which prompted a chorus of “shut up, George” and the first “no authority” reference.
Plenty of people were engaged
But it soon became clear little council business would get done
After the council’s rise to global fame, interest in the tiny Cheshire council sky-rocketed. At its peak on Wednesday, more than 3,000 people were watching on YouTube as a routine meeting turned to farce.
This time, though, there was no Jackie Weaver
Weaver had said she would not be attending as the council’s usual clerk had returned.
“I would have been perfectly happy to have been involved this evening but I don’t think it’s right for Handforth,” Weaver said before the meeting.
“Now the clerk is back it’s absolutely right and proper they’ve taken their proper place, which they’re perfectly competent to do.”
But there were new favourites
An emerging cast of characters included at least two members of the public drinking alcohol, some smoking and one shielding their face with a large safari hat.
But Weaver cast a large shadow over proceedings
Much of the meeting – and the subsequent full council meeting – was dominated by an argument about minutes from the last time they met, with Tolver trying to defer approving the record but other councillors telling him this needed to be decided with a vote.
One anonymous attendee, named “Ipad 3”, defended Weaver’s role in the previous meeting, adding: “No disrespect, councillor Tolver, but your actions were wholly unacceptable.”
The member of the public also condemned Tolver for his stubborn approach to deferring the minutes, saying he has not been “following standing orders”. Another called out: “Brian, Jackie Weaver would not tolerate this chaos.”
At one stage, Tolver went missing in action.
After achieving precisely nothing in the planning meeting (there was no decision on the two applications submitted), much of the full council meeting centred on the fall-out from the events of December 10.
Tolver, one of the pantomime villains from the last episode, was forced to defend himself against claims he was not up to the job.
Councillor John Smith offered a lengthy defence of Weaver, who was running the meeting “illegally” in December, according to Tolver. Smith described Tolver and others’ comments towards her as “abusive”.
In response, Tolver was defiant. He said: “I have much to dispute in what Councillor Smith just said… I don’t want to bore everybody but he was wrong on just about every point he raised.”
Shortly afterwards a member of the public asked Tolver if he would like to apologise for his actions in the previous call, and Tolver asked for the person to be muted.
Here was another exchange:
Unidentified participant: “Can we have a vote of no confidence in councillor Tolver?”
Tolver: “Well, you’d have to get someone to put that on the agenda.”
Unidentified participant: “Well, we know what’s going to be on the next agenda then!”
To be clear, the drama was set against the backdrop of random shouts of “Order!” in the style of former speaker John Bercow and the Benny Hill theme tune being piped in.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, something was achieved ...
Towards the end, the meeting resembled something more typical of grassroots politics: concerned local people giving up their time to debate issues that matter to the community. The fart noises diminished and funding was agreed for the 130 bus route.