CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Conservative conference: ‘You’ve made me public enemy number one’, councillor tells fringe meeting

Jonny Bucknell says he had no choice but to plead guilty to 'rogue landlord' charges

05 October, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Jonny Bucknell arrives at the conference in Manchester

A DESELECTED Conservative councillor startled party members when he stood up in a conference fringe meeting on Tuesday morning and said: “I am a rogue landlord”.

Jonny Bucknell drew both gasps and laughter when he explained how he had been convicted of failing to keep a flat he had let out in Primrose Hill to decent standards.

He pleaded guilty in court two years ago after being prosecuted by Camden Council’s environmental health officers.

The case was a heavy factor in the party’s decision not to field him again in Belsize ward at next May’s Town Hall elections. Rather than let the case slip into the annals of history, however, Cllr Bucknell voluntarily raised it at a breakfast fringe meeting on housing, as he called on the government to slow down the number of landlords who find themselves in court.

“We were running late. Everything went wrong,” said Cllr Bucknell, about the need to bring the flat – where “squalor’ was the word used by some to describe conditions – up to scratch. “I made lots of cock-ups. I hold my hand up. It needed a strip-out. I’m not an angel but that was unfair.”

A room of around 40 members listened to his contribution, although none of the panel commented directly on his conviction.

Cllr Bucknell is a regular contributor at conference sessions and on Monday night buttonholed Jacob Rees-Mogg after a drinks reception speech on Europe demanding that he rule himself out of trying to oust Theresa May as Prime Minister. Mr Rees-Mogg assured him that he had no such plans.

On his housing case, Cllr Bucknell said that he was pressured into pleading guilty amid warnings that legal costs would grow and grow. “I told them you do get people who don’t care but you sweep up the haphazard with the really guilty,” he told Conservative members. “Camden should never ever prosecute unless all attempts at reconciliation have failed.”

He added: “The guy [from the council] walked in and said: ‘Not much work been done here.’ I said: ‘I’ve started stripping the flat out with my own hands.’ As long as a job is moving and there is goodwill, they should take a pragmatic view. My closing line is you’ve made landlords public enemies number one. It used to be solicitors and bankers, now we are at the top.”

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