Jackie Weaver: Handforth Parish Council host 'surprised' by reaction

media captionJackie Weaver tells Anita Rani what happened in 'that' viral parish council meeting

A woman at the centre of a social media storm after a virtual parish council meeting spiralled into chaos has been left surprised by her fame.

Jackie Weaver has had "nothing but positive support" after remaining calm on the Zoom call which had insults, laughter and members being kicked out.

She said she had only been called in to host and "support" councillors at Handforth Parish Council in Cheshire.

Ms Weaver told the BBC the meetings were "often less exciting".

A cut down version of the planning and environment meeting on 10 December emerged on Twitter on Thursday and soon became a "must see", piquing the interest of millions by Friday morning.

During the heated meeting, Ms Weaver kept her cool amid some members being abusive and muttering under their breath as others tried to speak, hysterical laughter and participants answering phone calls.

She has since been trending on Twitter along with the council itself, and fans of the video include Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy who asked: "Who needs Netflix?"

"Of that meeting, I'm not absolutely sure who was in charge," Ms Weaver told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

media captionA cut down version of the planning and environment meeting soon became a "must see"

During the meeting, when chairman Brian Tolver labelled himself as the "clerk", Ms Weaver said: "The chairman simply declared himself clerk and notified everybody of the case.

"There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk. Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on."

Then Mr Tolver, who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the meeting, was removed from the meeting and placed in a virtual waiting room after saying: "You have no authority here Jackie Weaver."

Councillor Aled Brewerton waded in as vice-chairman saying he should take charge of the meeting and shouted: "Read the standing orders - read them and understand them!"

He was also sent to the waiting room.

image source, Youtube
image captionAled Brewerton soon found himself the second most senior person to be kicked out of the meeting

All Ms Weaver, chief officer of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, was meant to be doing was giving "support" to parish councillors to hold meetings.

She said she had received "nothing but positive support" since the clip went viral and "99.9% of council meetings are just not like that, they are often less exciting than we might hope they are".

"I'm passionate about the fact that local government is the mechanism by which people can engage with their communities," she said.

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Ms Weaver said while parts of the meeting were funny in principle, it was a "bit harsh" to make fun of someone who had "lost it".

She said the meeting also showed an element of "bullying and bad behaviour" in local councils.

"A lot of us are working very hard - and that includes central government - to try to do something about that," she said.

'Never wear your pyjamas'

Mr Tolver said he did not regret how he had acted in the meeting.

He said Ms Weaver was just present as a member of the public and "had no status to speak other than when invited".

"If you look at the first meeting you will see I have reason to be angry," he said.

Former Chancellor George Osborne tweeted that Handforth Parish Council had not been "quite so lively" when he was a Tatton MP, which covered that area.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell tweeted Handforth's previous claim to fame was a big Marks and Spencer, now it is "people looking for Jackie Weaver".

She said the footage was "like 2020/2021 best bits made into a sitcom".

During the meeting, another councillor Susan Moore called for civility, but this led to semi-hysterical laughter and another participant being removed.

As Ms Weaver acknowledged on the video: "It is nothing if not lively in Handforth."

Asked how others can follow her example and stay calm and collected on heated Zoom meetings, she told the BBC: "Never wear your pyjamas."

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