Updated: Council leader apologises over ‘no clothes’ comment

Coun Linda Cowling
Coun Linda Cowling
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A COUNCIL leader has apologised for causing embarrassment after she was caught on microphones telling a colleague “Just imagine him with no clothes on”.

But Conservative Linda Cowling denied reports that she was talking about Councillor Eric Hope as votes were being cast at a planning meeting of Ryedale District Council in North Yorkshire earlier this month.

Her comments, which were picked up on microphones and available to hear on the council website until the audio was removed, were described as sexist in some quarters.

She could be heard whispering: “Just imagine him with no clothes on.”

A female voice replied quietly: “Oh God, I would rather not.”

But Coun Cowling said she had been quoted out of context, and was merely trying to relax her nervous colleague Coun Janet Frank. In a statement, she said: “I very much regret the incident and apologise for any embarrassment it has caused to Coun Hope and his family.

“Many years ago some of us underwent training on public speaking. We were told that if we were very nervous that a trick was to imagine your audience with no clothes on.

“A tip attributed to Winston Churchill. I used that advice to try to calm a colleague Cllr Janet Frank who was deputising for the chairman of planning committee who was very nervous about speaking that night.

“I was not referring to Coun Eric Hope.”

Coun Hope, 70, said he was happy with the statement from the council leader.

“I know she was not speaking about me,” he said.

“Somebody has got the wrong end of the stick and made six out of three.”

His wife said: “Those comments were originally made by Winston Churchill and if they are good enough for him, they are good enough for anyone.”