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Havering Council leader apologises to Time 107.5 for lying during interview

The comments came following a public meeting at Havering Town Hall last Wednesday

The leader of Havering Council has apologised and admitted to saying a comment about ‘letting the cat out the bag’ during a heated interview on Time 107.5 this afternoon.

Damian White was on air today with Mark Dover for his monthly hour where he answers questions from listeners.

Questions today were dominated by a video which emerged at the weekend, showing comments the leader made during a council meeting last week.

Cllr White, who was the Conservative candidate for Dagenham and Rainham in the 2019 general election, was seen in discussion with deputy leader Cllr Robert Benham during voting on a motion by opposition councillors which asked for the council to consider bringing back 30-minutes free parking, which was scrapped in June 2019.

But one Conservative councillor, Deputy Mayor John Mylod, voted for the motion and against the Conservative party. While this was being rectified and his vote changed, the council chamber’s microphone system picked up the conversation between Councillors White and Benham

The video which has been shared on social media this week.

Cllr Benham appears to say “John Mylod has pressured the wrong one.”

Cllr White replies: “He has, hasn’t he.”

Much of what follows is inaudible as Cllr White turns his microphone on and off but White later turns round and is heard saying: “Nearly let the cat out the bag.”

On Time 107.5 today, a listener asked a question about the video and questioned whether there was any vote rigging going on and what Cllr White meant by ‘nearly let the cat out of the bag.’

Councillor White said on Time: “I’ve seen the video and I’m afraid you’re wrong. I did not say ‘you let the cat out the bag.’

“I don’t know whether that was Councillor Benham or it was someone else but that was not me who said that.”

During the interview, he changed his story and later appeared adamant that Cllr Benham did say the phrase in question.

When presenter Mark Dover and journalist Haydn Jeavons challenged Cllr White on this, he remained certain that he had not said those words. He said the accusation that he has said that was “a political attack” by “a residents’ association activist” who was trying “to make mischief.”

The following interaction then occurred between Cllr White and Mr Jeavons:

Damian White: “The video actually states, if you have watched it you will have seen that it says Cllr Benham’s voice that said this-“

Haydn Jeavons: “No, it says Cllr White. It says Cllr White and the thing is, you’re saying ‘why is this a big deal?’

“I don’t say it is a big deal to say the ‘cat is out of the bag’. But the big deal is that you are lying about it-“

DW: “No no, I’m sorry, sorry. I’m sorry. I am not lying about it. I am saying it’s not my voice. You are just accusing me of lying.” 

The Council leader went on to request an apology and appeared to threaten that he would not carry out interviews with Time 107.5 in the future if he did not receive an apology.

Havering Council Leader Damian White

The exchange continued as follows.

HJ: “We can share the video on our Facebook and let our listeners make their own decision.”

DW: “Well why don’t … Happy for … you don’t need to share the video, it’s all over social media. It’s quite clear-“

HJ: “Well we will share it because some people won’t know where to find it.”

DW: “It’s quite clear … Well they probably don’t know what my voice is like. It’s quite clear-“

HJ: “They can hear it now.”

DW: “It’s quite clear that it is not my voice. I am saying it’s Cllr Robert Benham. He has said, I believe, that it is his voice. If people listen to my voice and listen to Robert’s and then it’s accepted that it is not my voice, will I receive an official apology from Time FM?”

Hours after the interview ended, Havering Council sent the following statement to Time 107.5.

Robert Benham, Deputy Leader of Havering Council, said: “The accusation of vote rigging is quite inappropriate and completely untrue. Clearly there is a lack of understanding of the political process. It is normal for political parties to agree as a collective how they vote on particular matters before a committee meeting takes place, which is also known as voting the party line or whipping. In this case one of the councillors accidentally voted the wrong way. Therefore it is right and proper for the Leader to comment on this.

“The comment about ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ was in relation to something unrelated furthermore the vote had already been cast and results announced. The screen which displays the business in the Chamber had mistakenly listed the Leader as the Deputy Mayor, when he is clearly not. I jokingly commented on this which can clearly be heard while pointing at the screen, and he responded in the same way that we had ‘let the cat out of the bag’. So it is correct that he did say those words, which can be seen in the video. However, it was completely unrelated to the accusation of vote rigging to which the Leader was responding to.

“When the leader was responding to questions on Time FM he was answering to the accusation of vote rigging. In the interview, the Leader had not recalled the subsequent conversation about the screen showing him as Deputy Mayor and has now been reminded what took place and in the context it was said, after viewing the video. He apologises for not accepting this in the interview on Time FM, but it still stands no vote rigging took place and it was to this he was responding to.”

If you are interested in listening to the full interview, go to www.time1075.net/listen-again/ and select Mark Dover’s show on Wednesday, 29 January.

Councillor White is next due to appear on Time 107.5 in the middle of February. Anyone who would like to submit a question for him can do so by emailing news@time1075.net

Time 107.5 station manager Lorna Waters said: “We thank Cllr White for apologising and accepting his statement today was false. It is important that Cllr White allows himself to be held to account and we appreciate that he comes in every month for that to happen. We look forward to welcoming him back next month.”

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