Watch This English Local Council Zoom Meeting Descend Into Absolute Chaos

This is democracy in its rawest and greatest form, and genuinely a must-watch.
February 5, 2021, 10:17am
Watch This English Local Council Zoom Meeting Descend Into Absolute Chaos
Photo: Handforth Parish Council/Zoom (composite image made by VICE World News)

A parish council in north-west England representing a town with about 6,000 residents has become one of the most talked about subjects in the country after a council meeting on Zoom descended into pure unadulterated chaos and went massively viral.

Handforth Parish Council – a parish council is the lowest tier of local government, think of a planning and zoning commission if you live outside the UK, but much smaller and much more eclectic – held a virtual meeting in December, but clips and highlights began to go viral this week when people realised just exactly what had unfolded.

What should have been a routine discussion about parking bays and bin collections descended into utter bedlam when the council chair Brian Tolver refused to recognise the legitimacy of the meeting as it had not been called by him, but by two other councillors. He also refused to recognise the authority of Jackie Weaver – much more on her later – who was acting as clerk of the meeting.

Official meeting minutes note that Tolver “proceeded to disrupt the proceedings,” but that is putting it extremely lightly.

“This meeting has not been called according to the law. It's only the chairman who can remove people from the meeting. You have no authority here Jackie Weaver, no authority at all,” Tolver says, before Weaver, from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, exercises her authority by removing him from the Zoom meeting and putting him in the waiting room.

“She’s just kicked him out!” councillor Aled Brewerton can be heard to say, in disbelief, before trying to claim that he is now the chair of the meeting.

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“I take charge,” he shouts, “read the standing orders, read them and understand them!” At which point Brewerton is also kicked out by Weaver.

The meeting never really recovers, with other highlights including laughter when a councillor asks for order, someone on the Zoom flushing a toilet, someone loudly taking a call explaining that they couldn’t talk right now because they’re in a council meeting, and someone exclaiming, “We’re trying to have a Teams meeting, you fool!”

At one point a councillor asks why Tolver’s Zoom name identified himself as “clerk” of the council, a role he was not appointed to.

“There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk,” Weaver notes, drolly. “Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on.”

If you were wondering what happened to the disruptive councillors ejected from the meeting, the minutes state: “In the waiting room they were advised that they would be welcome to re-join the meeting if they ceased their disruptive behaviour. There was no response.”

As Weaver says at one point in the call, “It's nothing if not lively in Handforth.”

VICE World News has reached out to Handforth Parish Council and Jackie Weaver for comment.