Lib Dem apology to Churchill veteran over attendance row

Joe Key in his Royal Navy uniform in 1945
Joe Key in his Royal Navy uniform in 1945
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AFTER serving his country in the Second World War, meeting Winston Churchill and dedicating his latter day years to his local council, John Key would have thought his reputation would be above average for a man his age.

However, now political opponents have been forced to apologise to the 88-year-old veteran after falsely accusing him of a dereliction of his duties serving on the council.

It is just trying to score political points and is very disappointing

Joe Key, Navy veteran and former town councillor

Local politicians in Hessle, near Hull, wrongly suggested in leaflets that Joe Key was “thrown off” the town council because of a poor attendance record.

However, during two-and-a-half years on the council Mr Key never missed a single meeting, before reluctantly resigning his position in 2013 due to ill health.

Mr Key, who met some of the key political figures of his day –and was nicknamed “Sparky” by Churchill while working at the Admiralty in London – joined the town council in 2011.

In a letter following his resignation, Liberal Democrat councillor Phil Davison congratulated Mr Key on his “regular attendances at meetings and the way you have joined in discussion of the agenda items”.

It added: “I have particularly admired your War Service which, with me being only a youngster, I did not experience, but for which I and my generation will be eternally thankful.”

But since then the veteran has been referred to in two Liberal Democrat leaflets, the most recent of which is illustrated with a picture of a man in a suit leaving a desk behind him with a box of files.

The caption, which does not name Mr Key, states: “One Labour councillor thrown off! Because he didn’t turn up for six months!”

Mr Key, who joined the Royal Navy at the beginning of 1945 
and served aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean in the Mediterranean from 1947 to 1950, said: “I think they are absolutely ridiculous.

“I never missed anything while I was on. I just got to the point when I couldn’t do the job as I really should be doing and I got a very nice letter back.

“It is just trying to score political points and it’s very disappointing when they go to these lengths – what are people going to think when they see that?

“They need to apologise to the people of Hessle – they are the people who need to know.”

Labour councillor and friend Paul Hogan said the leaflet could only refer to Mr Key as the only other Labour councillors to have stepped down in the last four years were both female.

Coun Hogan added: “Joe is my friend, as is his wife Dorothy. I have known them both since I moves to Hessle in 1987 and I find it such a slur that twice now the Lib Dems have claimed in leaflets that Joe was ‘thrown off’ the council, which he wasn’t.

“Last time they did it we put out a leaflet saying it was wrong and then they go and do it again – that was the last straw.

“Joe is not getting any younger and I did not want it to be his legacy. I accept politics can sometimes be a rough business but Joe wasn’t in a position to defend himself.”

Coun Davison apologised yesterday for what he said was a mistake.

He said: “I believe it is a typographical error and should say ‘she’.

“It is true that Joe was assiduous about council meetings and wasn’t thrown off through lack of attendance and if that has been implied it certainly should not have been.

“If he is taking that as being a reference to him, all we can do is apologise.”

All 67 East Riding Council seats, including three in Hessle, are up for election on May 7, the day of the General Election.