“My gut feeling is you should officially fall on your sword and resign” – Norfolk County Council chairman’s message to leader
10:05 21 January 2013
Submitted - Alan Howard Photography
The chairman of Norfolk County Council sent an email urging its former leader to “fall on his sword and resign” rather than return to the role if he wins a standards committee case against him.
Derrick Murphy stood down on January 9 to concentrate on his preparation for an inquiry into his role in the sending of an email which appeared to undermine a fellow Conservative council leader.
He retains his position as chairman of the Tory group, and in an email to colleagues on January 9 said he expected his resignation from the council leadership to be temporary if the investigation supported his conduct.
However, county council chairman Ian Monson, who represents the authority at civic events, said in an email to fellow Conservatives later that day that the controversy had “brought the public image of the council down to a very low level”.
In the message, marked “not for re-transmission” but seen by the EDP, the former Conservative cabinet member said Mr Murphy’s statement did not go far enough.
Mr Monson wrote: “My gut feeling is you should officially fall on your sword and resign, letting someone else take the helm.
“I feel this would be in the best interests of the county council as a whole and, indeed, the Conservative group, irrespective of whether or not you will eventually be able to prove your innocence and clear your name, which I sincerely hope you do.
“We are far too close to elections now to allow this issue to continue producing negative news over the next few weeks, or even months. It must be snuffed out instantly and not allowed to fester any further.”
Mr Murphy would need the support of the Conservative group, and then the full council, to regain his position as council leader, and Mr Monson is now the most senior Tory to oppose this.
When contacted by the EDP, Mr Monson said that, as chairman, he did not have a public opinion on Mr Murphy’s leadership, and declined to comment.
However, he denied Mr Murphy’s suggestion he later sent him a private message that was “completely different”, and said: “It was the same view. That’s absolutely wrong.”
Mr Murphy said the “vast majority” of the Conservative group was backing him, and only one councillor had “initially” expressed reservations about his intention to return to the council leadership.
He said he had received messages of support from about 35 of the 59 Conservative councillors since his January 9 email.
He said: “I have had overwhelming support from the group. It has been massive. [Mr Monson] sent me a subsequent email and said it was fine.
“The support for me is overwhelming. I have complete and utter backing.”