Are virtual 'coup d'états' the new thing after Jackie Weaver takes over Zoom parish meeting?

Jackie Weaver

Jackie Weaver has become an internet sensation and it's all because of a Zoom meeting that's gone viral for all the wrong reasons.

Was it legal, was it not - that remains the million dollar question! Many of us are also wondering what the standing orders are and whether Jackie read them? More importantly, whether she had the authority to kick Handforth parish council's chairman out of the discussion, after all, he was being a nuisance?

The often chaotic, tense and technologically challenged meeting happened just before Christmas - talk about ending the year on a bad note.

The meeting, which lasted 80 minutes was packed with microphone failures, flushing toilets, insurrections (that Donald Trump didn't see coming), and outright shouting matches that perfectly highlighted the frustrations of lockdown.

Now, the questions many of us are also asking, as though watching an episode of Googlebox, what's the difference between a clerk and a proper officer? Why is the Andy Serkis character on Aled's iPad so angry? Did Brian Tolver really appoint himself clerk and did he have the authority to? Why Britney Spears, why not Madonna?"

"This meeting has not been called according to the law. The law has been broken," the council chairman sensationally claims just before the meeting started, and what followed was something no script writer could have perfected.

"Read the standing orders. Read them and understand them!" another member later screams, sparking a round of head-shaking and furious tuts.

Was the Handforth Zoom call typical of how we all feel in meetings lately?

The Handforth parish council sits at the lowest tier of England's local government and deals with matters such as the upkeep of community halls and war memorials.

Ms Weaver told the BBC that she had been brought in to support the Handforth councillors who, if Zoom calls are anything to go by, have been bickering for almost a year. With a chair and vice chair, as we witnessed throughout Friday, this isn't too surprising as well.

"When do we plan to start?" the council's chair, Brian Tolver, asks on the call.

"F**k off," comes a mumbled reply, perfectly setting the tone for the discussion. Now, what we want to know is, who said this and was it deliberately done or a case of a mute faux pas?

Moments later, Jackie Weaver is bombarded with allegations that she is attempting to overthrow the council's governance. Sounds like a scene the Myanmamans wish they had right about now.

The chairman angrily claimed the meeting was convened with disregard to the body's bylaws, although we wish he had pulled out the handbook for effect.

"You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver, no authority at all!" Tolver shouts. Within seconds, he disappears. If coup d'tats are anything to go by, this was the best and worst virtual one so far.

"She's just kicked him out. She's kicked him out!" announces one of two members calling in from councillor Aled Brewerton's iPad.

"The vice chair's here. I take charge!" he says, attempting to wrangle control of the meeting from Weaver. "Read the standing orders. Read them and understand them!" he screams.

"Dear me," David Pincombe responds, rather perplexed.

Jackie, unmoved by the vice chairs outburst continues, seeking to appoint a new chair for the meeting, with councillor Barry Burkhill telling Weaver: "You don't know what you're talking about."

"The chairman of the council is the chairman of the council," he adds.

After a few more tense back-and-forths, it comes to the attention of the group that the chairman labelled himself as "clerk" on his Zoom name before his dismissal.

Ian Ball has a photograph, he informs the group. "He is not the clerk of parish council, whether he declares himself to be or not," John Smith observes.

"Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on," Weaver sarcastically remarks.

The meeting went viral after comedian Steven Morgan discovered the video and put together a 20-minute highlight reel of the most jaw-dropping exchanges.

"I'm not surprised it's struck such a nerve with people, it's the relatable lockdown content we all need right now, Morgan said in an interview with CNN.

"I cannot think of any other council meeting anywhere, that was taken over by an unqualified member of the public like this," said Tolver in a separate interview with PA Media.

"It was an appalling attack on their democratic rights," he added.

The "pilot episode" even prompted a tweet from former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who was also MP for the region until 2017.

"Local democracy in action - don't remember Handforth parish being quite so lively when I was the MP there," he wrote.