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Outgoing Ashford mayor David Smith sees red after Labour councillor Brendan Chilton makes ‘comrade’ joke during farewell speech

By Tim Collins

A Labour politician has come under fire from the town’s retiring mayor for a “gross insult” in a speech he made.

Last week we reported on Cllr Brendan Chilton’s tongue in cheek vote of thanks, marking fellow councillor David Smith’s year in office as the town’s mayor.

In it, the independent councillor was jokingly branded the town’s ‘Red Mayor’ and was addressed as ‘comrade’ by Cllr Chilton, the Labour ward member for Stanhope in Ashford.

Not happy: former Ashford Mayor, Cllr David Smith

However, in a letter to the Kentish Express this week, Cllr Smith says he feels that the tone of the speech was inappropriate.

Speaking about the meeting, he said: “I’m very upset, and was from the moment he started speaking. It completely took the gloss of my year as mayor.

“For the first time in 40 years, this platform has been used to generate a politically charged speech when the role of Mayor is apolitical.

“I was an activist in my youth but people mellow with age, even me, and for two years I have striven to be neutral and not taken a side on any issue.

Labour councillor Brendan Chilton

“To be dubbed a left-winger and ‘red mayor’ was a gross insult, not only to me personally but to the chamber as well.

“The minutes of that meeting record what was said and that will now be my epitaph, to be remembered in that way, and that’s the last thing I wanted.

“If that had been me as mayor, I would have stood up and told Cllr Chilton to start again, using appropriate language.”

“To be dubbed a left-winger and ‘red mayor’ was a gross insult, not only to me personally but to the chamber as well" - Cllr David Smith

Throughout his speech, Cllr Chilton also praised the former mayor for his achievements in office, including his fundraising.

He also outlined other notable moments from those 12 months, both internationally and in the borough.

Asked about the reaction to his speech, Cllr Chilton said: “I’m astonished that Cllr Smith has decided to be offended by my motion of thanks.

“Cllr Smith thanked me at the meeting for my tribute and it was warmly received by all members of the council including Cllr Smith.

“I know this year is election year but to try and seek publicity over something like this is really absurd.”

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