Jackie Weaver speaks out after brutal Handforth Parish Council committee meeting goes viral

Jackie Weaver speaks out after brutal Handforth Parish Council committee meeting goes viral

Jackie Weaver, the breakout star of Zoom's surprise hit, "Handforth Parish Council Planning and Environment Committee", has spoken out on her newfound fame.

Footage of the Cheshire committee's tempestuous virtual meeting went viral on Thursday, inspiring the kind of clamour usually reserved for high Westminster drama.

The savage bureaucratic dispute over control of the Handforth Parish Council committee looks set to be etched into our national memory of an era partly marked by a sudden transition to virtual communication – with such technology amplifying the committee's divisions to maximum dramatic effect.

One "best of" edit of the 10 December meeting – which exceeds 18 minutes in length and includes now-iconic quotes such as, "You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver" – has been viewed more than a million times on Youtube.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Ms Weaver – chief officer for Cheshire Association of Local Councils – said that she was understandably "surprised" by the attention the meeting had received, adding that she had had received "nothing but positive support" so far.

 "99.9 per cent of council meetings are just not like that, they are often less exciting than we might hope they are," Ms Weaver said.

"Although this has a positive spin for it – most of the time I’m trying to get people to get involved in parish councils. The plus side of this is it’s certainly done that."

What actually happened at the council meeting?

The dispute seemed to centre around two opposing camps – those in support of Ms Weaver, and those in support of the committee chair Brian Tolver, who refused to accept the legitimacy of the meeting.

Mr Tolver also refuted Ms Weaver's right to stand in as clerk.

However, Ms Weaver had a secret weapon – the "Remove from Meeting" button – which she used to devastating effect, kicking Mr Tolver and his allies, vice-chair Aled Brewerton and councillor Barry Burkhill, back into a virtual waiting room over comments she deemed to be rude.

Civility was indeed in short supply in the meeting, with one councillor heard to mutter a terse "f*** off" right at the outset of a meeting which descended into shouting, much of which was aimed at Ms Weaver.

'There is an element of bullying and bad behaviour in local councils'

Ms Weaver suggested there "is an element of bullying and bad behaviour" sometimes rife in local council proceedings, adding: "A lot of us are working very hard - and that includes central government - to try to do something about that."

But Ms Weaver – who said she wasn't "actually sure" who was supposed to have been running the meeting – said she saw the funny side too.

"I don't mean the principle of it was funny, but there is clearly amusement in the way someone has just lost it.

"It's a bit harsh to take some pleasure from that, but I'm afraid that when you are being bullied, if you can see the other person has lost it, there was a sense of 'I did okay there because I held it together'"..

Asked if she had advice for Zoom meetings, she said “don’t wear pyjamas” and stay “focused on what you’re trying to achieve”.

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