Thanet council leader responds to criticism over ‘senseless’ coronavirus remarks

Council leader Rick Everitt

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Thanet’s council leader has responded to criticism over “incredibly senseless” comments made about the coronavirus crisis in a football magazine.

Cllr Rick Everitt (Lab) has defended describing the virus as a “rare blessing” for  Charlton Athletic in his publication, Voice of the Valley, two weeks ago.

Mr Everitt, who has worked as a football reporter and sports editor since 1989, said the article he wrote was addressing a “vicious boardroom dispute” at the Championship club, who have been involved in a relegation scrap this year.

Several Thanet councillors have criticised the local authority leader for using “poorly chosen” and “shocking” words during a national health emergency.

Thanet Council’s main opposition leader, Lesley Game (Con), said: “Cllr Everitt is a very nice and fair person. It could well have been taken out of context, but if it wasn’t then that would be in ill taste.”

In a Voice of the Valley article dated March 19, Cllr Everitt said: “It has been a rare blessing of the coronavirus crisis that the decision to shut down all professional football has served to prevent the team having to continue its relegation battle.”

Former councillor, Ian Driver, said it was “beyond comprehension” for a councillor to joke about “one of the deadliest international health emergencies in over a century”.

In his online blog, Mr Driver said the words were “shocking” and claimed the Thanet council leader had brought the local authority into “disrepute”.

Cllr Everitt, who took over the position as leader last year following a vote of no-confidence in former leader, Cllr Bob Bayford (Con), said: “My article has nothing to do with Thanet or Thanet District Council.

“I am rightly accountable for my work as a councillor but I don’t write about football in that capacity. I do so as a fan and a journalist.

“Other than Charlton fans, I doubt Thanet residents are interested in what I think about the interruption in football matches, which is an obviously trivial feature of the health emergency, but it is a relevant one when I am writing about football for football supporters.”

Cllr Everitt told the Local Democracy Reporting service that his article had been downloaded 5,000 times by Charlton fans and not a single one has raised concerns about its meaning.

He added: “It’s very sad that Mr Driver sees this horrible situation, which is causing so much anxiety to people locally and nationally, as an opportunity to mislead”.

Thanet Independents leader Rev. Stuart Piper described the comments as “incredibly senseless” and “in very poor taste”.

He said: “Other Thanet councillors have asked him to take on the role as council leader and he represents the council in that capacity…an apology is required at the very least.”

Kent county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab), who represents Margate at county level, said: “As a Labour member, I disassociate myself from his comments.”

21 Comments

  1. Oh dear. I’m sorry Cllr Everitt but your conduct and behaviour outside of the TDC Chambers does still have a bearing on how suitable people think you are to be a Councillor. You can’t just say it had nothing to do with the Council. I believe all officers are also under a similar duty to conduct themselves in a professional way when away from their day jobs and that disciplinary action can be taken if they don’t so it isn’t any different for Councillors. Poor defence (bit like Charlton FC)

    • Lol at Charlton FC
      Seriously Labour are just sick to allow Rick to talk like a… Let you fill in the blanks
      You call yourself a leader bug spit on us. How can you lead this council when 50 more people are dead with this virus. Sack him

  2. Some people are scraping the barrel to find a reason to criticise the Labour leader of Thanet Council.
    When we are finding how underfunded our Health and Social Care systems have been, so we are so woefully under-prepared for a pandemic.
    Yet ,to take the heat off the Tory Party which is responsible for the running-down of our social infrastructure, they scrabble round until they find a throw-away remark about a not-quite-local football team and then point fingers at the author, hoping we will be distracted.

    • Scrapping what barrel
      No laughing barrel here
      He spat on us with that remark
      Tony Ovenden. Went to work after going to Egypt knowing he was sick and did not isolate
      Works at Ramsgate Station.
      Truth hurts
      He is in hospital with the virus and his leader spits on him with venomous words like glad the virus is here
      What barrel you on…

  3. Any fool can take half a dozen words out of a sentence of 31 words and totally misrepresent what is being said – and that is clearly what has happened here.

    The reference is clearly explained within the context of the sentence.

    Perhaps it is a shame that some people are clearly unable to read and comprehend.

    • Whilst a Co worker is in hospital with the virus are you too saying you glad the virus is here
      Another labourite I guess..
      No. As a leader you set examples of exemplary behaviour
      All I ever see is poor
      And your leader is supposed to be setting examples but with comments like he is glad the virus is here… Shame on Thanet labour right now

      • You are spouting nonsense as usual.

        I have no idea what it is you are trying to say.

        You now appear to be trying to turn the misquoted comment into a political point scoring exercise. Would it have been different if the football comment had been written by a member of a different party ?

      • Rick Everitt did not say that he was glad coronavirus is in Britain. Get your facts correct, please. Surely there is no need to exaggerate

  4. He is the leader of the council first and a football fan second. No excuse it’s not even funny. These are difficult times and we expect more of our representatives in positions of power

  5. Politician says something daft or inappropriate, well hold the front page!Really!
    Ian (call me Cllr) Driver has scoured the dustbins of the media to come up with this. He really is the Bengy Pell of Thanet. From what I know of Mr Driver, only he, thinks (and I use that term in its widest context)he is good enough to make ‘Thanet great again’.
    If we booted out every politician for making inappropriate,untrue or high tendentious comments or speeches, Central Govt ,parliament,county, and this District would be pretty thin on the ground.
    We are in a serious situation. Cllr Everitt, may well regret his words,but is replacing him really a bright idea at this time? Has Cllr Game got any special insight on how Thanet is going to cope if this virus gets a hold? No? I thought not.
    I don’t blame Kathy Bailes for posting this, but my advice to her is to use an awful long spoon, if you are going to sup with the likes of Driver.

    • He did not scour the dustbins
      Rubbish comment
      Your leader spurs the virus on oops he is Charlton ac…
      He spits on Tony saying that he is glad the virus is here.

      LABOUR PARTY NEED TO RESIGN

    • You sound bitter and have something against Kathy and Ian he just sits there laughing at your point scoring
      Its like you wish everyone but you gets the virus here… Tdc have a toxic virus according to you.
      I am laughing at your childish behaviour even a 5 year old acts better

      • Who is Bengy Pell? Thanks. It seems,from several of his earlier blogposts, as if Ian Driver is the one with a grudge-against the Labour Party members in Thanet.

    • Hi George, this comes from the Local Democracy Reporting scheme and as it is Rick speaking out I assume he wanted his say on the contents of the blog post by Ian that has circulated on social media

      • Not really.
        Haven’t we got more important things to talk about.The thing about freedom of opinion is that it gives everyone the right to comment, but that doesn’t mean that they should.
        Looking at some of these comments I think self isolation is getting to them.
        Perhaps we should consider how quickly we sign our rights away and how others (The Derbyshire Constabulary for example) take an overly authoritarian view of their duties.
        Why don’t we talk about things like that?

  6. Reading these comments makes me wonder about the efficacy of The Care in the Community system. Maybe it’s time for a rethink?

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