Deputy lieutenant of Essex resigns after appearing in Tory campaign leaflet

Sue Jackson, a headteacher and now former deputy lieutenant of Essex
-Credit: (Image: Essex Lieutenancy)

A Crown-appointed dignitary who represented The King in Essex has resigned from her position after she appeared in Tory campaign material despite her role being non-political. Sue Jackson, who had been a deputy lieutenant of Essex, appeared in an election campaign leaflet for Stephen Metcalfe, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock.

As a representative of the King both Lord-Lieutenants and their deputies are publically apolitical. The leaflet did not identify Ms Jackson as deputy lieutenant of Essex, but instead in her other role as headteacher of Lee Chapel Primary School in Basildon.

HM Lord-Lieutenant of Essex, Jennifer Tolhurst, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the leaflet was made “without her consent” or "prior knowledge". Ms Tolhurst said: “Lord-Lieutenants are appointed in every county to represent His Majesty the King. The role is firmly apolitical. All representatives of the Essex Lieutenancy are governed by that principle.

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"Last week it was learned that a political party had published an image of Ms Sue Jackson – a headteacher – in a general election leaflet circulated to households in the South Basildon and East Thurrock constituency. The leaflet did not identify Sue Jackson as a deputy lieutenant of Essex and was made without her prior knowledge or permission.

Jennifer Tolhurst at an event, pictured with two Navy cadets
Jennifer Tolhurst (centre) is Lord Lieutenant of Essex -Credit:Reach PLC

“However, as soon as the perception of an inappropriate connection was drawn to her attention, she voluntarily offered to step back from her duties as a deputy lieutenant. Sue Jackson has been depicted without her consent, but her offer is honourable. Affirming the political neutrality of the Essex Lieutenancy, I have accepted it."

However, Mr Metcalfe said that Ms Jackson had agreed to be in the leaflet, but that she was "not supporting him". He said: “The comments were obviously made with Mrs Jackson's knowledge and in her role as a very senior and experienced head, whom I have worked with and supported over the years, not in her role as a deputy lieutenant.

"At no point does Sue endorse me or suggest people support me, she has only commented on the work we have done together! Whilst I fully accept that the role of deputy lieutenant should remain outside the political arena, I think it is disappointing that someone has complained about comments she has made in her role as a teacher.

"The complainants' attempt to damage me only harms someone who has dedicated their life to the support and education of children. I am sorry that Sue has been put in this position and hope to see her continuing her role in public service in due course."

Leader of Basildon Council and Basildon Labour Gavin Callaghan criticised the fact Ms Jackson appeared in the leaflet. Mr Callaghan said: “When we saw Mrs Jackson's endorsement in Stephen Metcalfe's leaflet we were all shocked.

"A number of people questioned us about whether it was appropriate for a deputy lieutenant to endorse a political candidate. The King should not be dragged into party politics and as a prominent representative of the King in Essex, her endorsement of Mr Metcalfe seriously damages the reputation of the monarchy.”

Other candidates, besides Mr Metcalfe standing in South Basildon and East Thurrock, are: Simon Breedon, Social Democratic Party; Steven Burnett, Independent; Jack Furguson, Labour Party; Elizabeth Grant, Green Party; James McMurdock, Reform UK; Neil Speight, Independent; and Dave Thomas, Liberal Democrats.

Ms Jackson has been contacted for comment.