South Thanet's Prospective Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate, Polly Billigton, is facing tough questions, and possibly even an official inquiry into what she, and other Hackney Labour councillors, knew about their former colleague councillor Tom Dewey.
At Uxbridge Magistrates Court on 18th July, Dewey admitted a charge of making five Category A indecent images of children on 29 April 2022 in Hackney, a further charge of making four Category B indecent images on the same date, as well as making 203 Category C indecent images of children on the same date. He also admitted a charge of possessing 78 extreme pornographic images of children on 29 April 2022 and having 1,523 prohibited images of children in his possession on or before 20 January 2022. Dewey was committed to Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing on 15 August 2023
Dewey and Billington were both elected to Hackney Borough Council on 5th May 2022 for the De Beauvoir ward which is a two councillor constituency.
On 29 April 2022, just a week before the election, it is reported that Dewey’s home was raided and he was arrested by officers of the National Crime Agency. It is asserted that computers and devices were taken away for examination. However, he did not pull out of the election and was elected with 1,102 votes as a Labour Party councillor on May 5th 2022
Hackney Council has stated that it was not made aware of Dewey’s arrest until it was notified on May 13 2022. It is said that Hackney Council’s Chief Executive informed officers of the councils Labour Group about Dewey’s arrest and presumably the reasons for it on 16th May. On that day Dewey resigned as a councillor for personal reasons.
It is reported that “A source close to the Labour Party claimed members are being told not discuss Mr Dewey’s case and that “members were told at the time the De Beauvoir ward councillor stood down for “personal reasons”.
On 7 July 2022 a by election was held in the De Beauvoir ward to fill the vacancy created by Dewey’s resignation. During the campaign leading up to the by election Hackney Labour politicians are said to have “told constituents that Mr Dewey had stood down “for personal reasons”.
A local resident told the media that Labour canvassers were “tight-lipped” about Mr Dewey’s decision to resign” and:-
“a member of a local residents’ association said: “During the by-election there was lots of speculation coming out that his home had been raided. When we ran that by [Hackney Labour] they gave some reason that it was for personal reasons. We asked them what that meant and the chair even asked Polly Billington directly and she wouldn’t step out of her responses.”
Questions are now being asked about who amongst Hackney’s Labour councillors knew what and when about the raid on Dewey’s home, and the reasons for his arrest.
Explanations are also being sought about Labour’s tight-lipness following Dewey’s resignation and during the ensuing De Beauvoir by election campaign.
When approached by a journalist for comments on these matters South Thanet’s prospective Labour Parliamentary candidate, Polly Billgton is said not to have responded.
It may soon be the case, however, that Polly Billington and her Labour councillor colleagues might be placed under even more pressure to say what they knew and when about the Dewey affair because:-
The Green Group on Hackney Council is calling for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Tom Dewey's resignation as Labour councillor for De Beauvoir in May 2022 and the subsequent by-election to fill the vacancy.
We recognise that the charges are subject to court proceedings and we make no comment on these. However, an independent inquiry is needed to establish what the Mayor, councillors and Hackney Labour knew about the circumstances surrounding Dewey's resignation and the fact of his arrest.
Hackney residents were kept in the dark while they were voting in the Council elections and the subsequent by-election in De Beauvoir. It is also concerning that he attended the vote count for the May election, alongside others from Hackney Labour, while under police investigation.
The Green Group will continue to press for full transparency from Hackney Labour and the Council administration.
Could it be the case that Hackney Labour councillors, including Polly Billington, were being “tight lipped” and less candid than they needed to be with the voters of De Beauvoir ward, for the purposes of gaining electoral advantage rather than simply following the legal constraints of a police investigation?
Possibly so. In fact the Green Party candidate in the July 7 by-election was defeated by the Labour candidate by just 27 votes with suggests to me that the Greens are a force to be reckoned with and are feared by Labour.
To be clear this is, however, just my own personal opinion. Only a proper independent inquiry, such as that proposed Hackney Green Party councillors, can establish the facts.
I hope very much that this inquiry takes place, as it will be able to throw light on some very serious matters and will serve to strengthen democratic accountability in Hackney.
Such an inquiry will also be extremely helpful to the voters of South Thanet as it may provide information which will assist them in deciding which candidate, one of whom is Polly Billington, they might vote for in the forthcoming General Election.
Finally, it’s always worth reminding politicians, whether councillors or MPs, that they are required in their capacity as public servants to follow at all times the seven principles of public life (the Nolan principles) which requires them, amongst other things, to act with integrity, honest and openness.
In Thanet some public servants who failed to meet these standards were recently removed from their posts. I am sure when electing a new MP in South Thanet voters will have a keen inerest in knowing whether all the candidates are ethically and morally impeccable, as I am sure they will be.
But just in case I will, as a citizen journalist of long standing, be keeping my eyes and ears open and reporting on such matters should there be a need.
reporting credit MyLondon