Christina Summers has lost her internal Green Party appeal against her exclusion from the Green Group of Councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council. She remains a member of the Green Party but she can no longer be party to the discussions between her erstwhile councillor colleagues sitting on the Council.
Christina Summers’ political misbehaviour
On 19th July 2012 she became the only councillor in the city to vote against a motion in favour of same gender marriage, despite the Greens being the first to become in favour of it. Here’s my detailed analysis of Ms Summers’ speech in the council chamber. Had that been her only breach of Green Party policy, she might have escaped formal consequences. Unfortunately, she had also previously participated in a picket line outside an abortion clinic and had lied to her political colleagues about it. Immediately after the council meeting on 19th September, she began (what turned out to be a persistent campaign of) media briefings against the Green Party.
Called To A Disciplinary Panel
Consequently, on 23rd July 2012, the Green Group of Councillors called Ms Summers to a disciplinary panel of inquiry. She was represented in that disciplinary process by an organisation called the Christian Legal Centre and its sister media crew Christian Concern. These two groups act in concert and might as well be treated as one organisation.
Lawyers And Spin Doctors
Christian Concern ignored the facts of her case. Instead, its media briefings appeared to argue that Ms Summers could disregard the specific pledges she had made to the Green Party, as if Christians had the right to escape contracts that they had entered into if they later decided they conflicted with their religious beliefs. This is, of course, bad law. There is no special category of Christian Contracts.
Disciplinary Panel Decision
On 10th September 2012, the Brighton & Hove Green Party’s disciplinary panel recommended Christina Summers be excluded from the Green Group of councillors. On 14th September 2012, I published the full reasons from the Brighton & Hove Green Party disciplinary Inquiry Panel’s decision re Christina Summers, after they were leaked to me.
Criminal Allegations But No Complaint To Police
Very soon afterwards, Ms Summers told the local rag that she had been sent intimidating emails by Green Party members but, despite that being clearly a criminal allegation, my Freedom of Information Act request to Sussex Police has revealed that no-one has made any official complaint about those allegations. Whether Ms Summers’ doesn’t believe that the police should be employed in respect of criminal allegations must remain a matter of speculation. Certainly, she is happy to use the press. Long before the disciplinary panel reached its conclusion, Ms Summers had engaged in a war of press briefings against the Green Party, all of which was by Christian Concern. Those misleading media briefings have continued up until the present day.
Exclusion From Green Group On Council Only
On 17th September 2012, the Green Group of councillors met to discuss the disciplinary panel’s recommendation that Ms Summers be excluded from their midst, which they followed, after a lengthy meeting. Immediately after their decision, Ms Summers announced that she would appeal. Despite having been advised by the CLC for some time, she dragged out the proceedings for as long as possible by submitting her appeal on the last day allowed by the Green Party’s constitution.
The Latest Development
I am informed that Ms Summers presented 12 grounds of appeal to the Green Party’s national appeal panel. It decided that three of these grounds were outside of its jurisdiction and dismissed all of the other 9 grounds. None of these grounds have been made public. Ms Summers sorry saga has now been reported across the web, courtesy of briefings from the CLC and its media crew. The line she takes is that she is “consulting with lawyers over this fundamental breach of a human right”. Here’s Christian Concern’s web page reporting the story:
This is absolute nonsense. Nowhere in this report is the particular human right said to be in issue actually cited. That’s because there isn’t one. The decision to exclude someone from a political party’s elected representatives is a political decision which all political parties take from time to time. In other parties, this is usually referred to as ‘losing the whip’. No-one ever claims that their human rights have been breached. A legal consultation over whether a complaint based on human rights can be made in this scenario would only take as long it takes to ask the question and received the answer, “no”.
Christian Legal Centre Fights Unwinnable Cases
The Christian Legal Centre has a poor track record of success. Previously, its media crew has reported that Ms Summers was considering judicial review of the Green’s decision to chuck her out of their councillors in Brighton & Hove. Again, that consideration should only have taken 5 seconds. Lawyers have a word for legal claims based on misunderstandings of law: woo. That’s putting it politely. The Christian Legal Centre uses false arguments and woo to generate media reports, safe in the knowledge that most journalists will publish reports based on its press briefings without troubling themselves with any legal analysis. Here’s my previous analysis of the false arguments and woo from the Christian Legal Centre.
Contradictions by Christian Summers
Christian Summers remains a member of the Green Party. Since her infamous vote on 19th July, she hasn’t attended a single party meeting or participated in any of the local party’s online discussions. Prominent party members, who genuinely befriended her before she went so badly off message, report privately that she has stopped contacting them. She has claimed that the local party has been overtaken by extremists. Presumably, she will now claim that the national party has been overtaken by extremists too.
Christina Summers’ political message is confusing. According to her, all the other Green councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council are out of step and only she is a true Green! She makes serious criminal allegations about Green Party members, which would apparently be easy to prove in court, but makes no complaint to the police. She insists to the press that she is desperate to remain in the Green Party but has stopped participating in any of the activities organised by the party. She employs a legal and media crew to represent her but she must take responsibility for the press releases it issues on her behalf.
Emergency of New Political Strategy By ‘Christian Right’
The question is whether the resulting confusion is deliberate? Although very few Green Party members are now left in any doubt as to the belligerent stance Ms Summers has adopted, the wider public have been repeatedly misinformed about her case by journalists who will just publish any old cods wallop, rather than check the facts or the law. The Christian Legal Centre, as explained at a link above, has plenty of form for legal woo and lost legal arguments. Why does it carry on? Why doesn’t it tighten up its act.
The reason may lie with the fact that the ‘Christian Right’ has lost its ability to influence politics in the UK. Over the last few decades, everything it has stood against has risen up and defeated it. We’ve seen the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality. Feminism has taken political life to places which would never have happened under the Bible bashers. We’ve even begun to question how the churches invest their vast wealth. We’ve seen other faiths accepted into the mainstream of our culture and atheists too. They’ve brought all manner of fresh thinking with them.
As a society, we’re much less ready to condemn than we were before. The Christian Right depended on that: condemnation was its bread and wine. It traded on fear and loathing. That’s why the Christian Legal Centre supported Olive Jones, the supply teacher whose local education authority stopped employing her because she repeatedly harassed a teenage girl suffering from leukaemia with the Word of God. That is but one example.
Having lost the political arguments and finding that the normal methods of campaigning no longer hold sway, the Christian Right have retreated into the world of militant action. Thus the picket lines outside abortion clinics, which are clear attempts at intimidation at the women seeking medical treatment inside the clinic. Knowing that two-thirds of Britons routinely support a woman’s right to choose an abortion, they pretend these are ‘prayer’ sessions. Since when did the power of prayer require nasty pictures of aborted foetuses and picket lines against vulnerable women?
The Christian Legal Centre is part of this movement into semi-direct action. Instead of dealing in facts, in discussion and in debate, it launches one spurious legal case after another, knowing that it will lose them but safe in the knowledge that the established media will publish unquestioning articles based on its misleading press briefings. They can be congratulated for realising that they are not the only ones to give up on the facts of a case. They do not seek to win the legal arguments. They seek to win the political arguments by creating a climate of confusion, in which ill-informed Christians are made to feel under constant attack. The strategy is predicated on the idea that a lot of people will not bother to make their own enquiries but instead will grow fearful of from the steady drip of misinformation about their beloved faith being under attack. Over time, these strategists expect to ensure that these fears become political issues.
Crucial to all of this is the fact of our demographics. Our population is aging. The majority of the population is over 55 years of age. The Christian Right reckons on a huge chunk of that age group identifying Christianity as part of their core beliefs. If they can be persuaded that they are under constant attack, they may also be persuaded to contact MPs about the cases promoted by groups like the Christian Legal Centre. Our politicians, who are generally fearful of the electorate, rather than passionate about their own political beliefs, can be expected to react favourably to such correspondence.
What next for Christina Summers?
It looks like Ms Summers will continue to draw her salary as a councillor in Brighton. For some time, she stopped attending council meetings and it looked as if she might resign her seat and cause a by-election. However, she would certainly lose that by-election because her ward contains Sussex University, which has exactly the wrong demographic compared to the one relied on by the strategy of the Christian Right. She will lose her seat in the next local elections because no party will select her and she stands no chance as an independent, with her track record, in that particular ward.
It also looks like Ms Summers will continue to make as much trouble for the Green Party as she possibly can. Her media and legal crew will continue to produce briefings to the press and try to keep the story alive. They may even launch futile legal proceedings to further that aim.
If she continues to make trouble for the Green Party by slagging it off in the media, it seems likely that she will forfeit her membership altogether at some point. The Greens hardly ever expel anyone though, so she’ll have to push quite hard to achieve this. However, she has ruined personal alliances she previously enjoyed and angered many party insiders greatly, so it seems likely that at some point she will be expelled.