Former Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton has lifted the lid on his time in office, hitting out at ‘hateful’ political attacks he often endured, describing them as often ‘barbaric’ and ‘beyond pettiness’.
In an exclusive interview with Chad, the man who became the town’s first directly-elected mayor and served more than 12 years at the helm, warned that party politics still needs kicking out of the council to have any hope of moving forward.
Mr Egginton (64) served as an independent mayor during his time, but says he was subject to constant political gamesmanship by some councillors, which he claims grew steadily worse over the years.
He told Chad: “Mansfield has suffered in the last four because of the politics in the council chambers.
“It was barbaric at times, it was not about taking Mansfield forward, it was about knocking people down.
“It was beyond pettiness at times and sometimes just hateful.
I never thought that I didn’t want to carry on, it reinforced my desire. I just wasn’t going to let politics get in the way.
“Some wanted to play national politics rather than local politics. Democracy has often taken a back seat because of it.”
He highlighted keys issues in recent years, including when he was banned from wearing the mayoral chains by the council’s majority Labour group in 2013.
At the time he labelled the move as ‘disgusting’, but the Labour group told him he should be ‘concentrating on running Mansfield’ rather than ‘parading around in bling’.
Prior to that, there was a long-festering feud between Labour and independent councillors over a controversial poster that appeared on the wall of the Labour members’ room at the Civic Centre.
The poster displayed the infamous quote of 1950s’ Labour politician Nye Bevan, declaring his hatred for Tories.
However, the words were altered to read ‘independents’, rather than Tories.
Mr Egginton was publicly critical about the council’s handling of the situation, calling for an apology which never came.
In recent years, he says he was routinely and unfairly criticised and bated during full council meetings, but would choose not to rise to accusations.
Often, he would be derided for his cabinet consisting entirely of independent councillors, but insists he was always open to members from the Labour group joining.
“Every year I always offered it open,” he said.
“They never put anyone forward. A cross party cabinet is the right thing if you want to move forward.
“I have had some incredibly good Labour candidates, but in the last four years, I felt like I have not been able to work with them.
“The petty politics was just such a shame.”
But a pivotal moment in political relations within the council came after his win over Mansfield MP Alan Meale in the 2007 mayoral election, which secured his second term of office.
Pulling no punches, he says that the defeat put paid to any working relationship between the two, who rarely spoke after that.
“He (Alan Meale) took his bat and ball home after that. I think he was pretty disgraceful in defeat.
“He did not want to work with me, and created a hierarchy in the Labour group that would try to knock me down and kill me off. “Fortunately, it did not happen.
“I never thought that I didn’t want to carry on, it reinforced my desire. I just wasn’t going to let politics get in the way.”
But Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale dismissed Mr Egginton’s remarks. He said: “It’s absolute nonsense. I would meet with the devil himself if it was for Mansfield.
“I have repeated that many times over the years - I don’t think there’s been a month gone by when I have said I wanted to meet him, but he always made excuses.
“He kept saying he wouldn’t meet me until I apologised, but I never knew what I was supposed to be apologising for.”
Winning three successive elections as an independent, Mr Egginton admits he was ‘ecstatic’ that Kate Allsop - another independent - had won the recent race for the coveted position.
He hopes that she can continue to drive what he called ‘political agendas’ out of the council chambers and put Mansfield first.
And he says that the recent election results, in which an increased number of independent councillors won seats, shows that the electorate also want to take politics out of the equation.
He added: “It was a record turnout and to see the results, I have no doubt that I have made a difference to change people’s minds on politics.
“The people have seen through it.
“I’m ecstatic that Kate has got in, and a resurgence of independent councillors getting in.
“I’m a great believer in the mayoral system. It has worked here and hopefully we will see it working again.
“Kate was strongly political, but she has put that to one side and is following my independent thinking.
“I am Mansfield born and bred so it’s been an absolute privilege to have served the people of Mansfield.”