A real-life Walter Mitty has caused a political storm after duping a town’s residents into believing he is their MAYOR after setting up a spoof Twitter account.
James Billington managed to fool locals, politicians and businesses into thinking he is the real Mayor of Stafford.
He has uploaded pictures to his Twitter account @mayorofstafford of himself wearing a mayoral chain and even cutting the ribbon at an “opening” at Alton Towers Theme Park.
The joker, believed to be in his 30s, has also been cheering on competitors in a half marathon and congratulating elderly residents on their birthday whilst wearing his livery collar.
On his bio he states: ‘I’m James Billington, the current Mayor of Stafford. Delighted to be representing the town of Stafford & surrounding areas. Views are my own.”
James – who has no affiliation with Stafford Borough Council whatsoever- has even made his own badges which proudly state: ‘I’m The Mayor Of Stafford’.
But since his fictional life came to light Stafford Borough Council have now asked Twitter to shut down the bogus account.
Their actions were prompted by a complaint from the Mayor of Shrewsbury Jon Tandy who was angry when he was compared to a “bad guy” from Superman 2.
On March 21 James tweeted: ““Sharing a meeting with the mayor of Shrewsbury today. Never liked him. Reminds me of one of the bad guys from Superman 2.”
To which Coun Tandy replied: “Never had the pleasure of meeting @mayorofstafford . Surprised by his tweet today. Maybe he was hacked or mistaken?”
After it was pointed out the real mayor of Stafford is Labour councillor Angela Loughran, who has held the ceremonial role for ten months, he then complained to the council.
Yesterday (Thurs) Coun Loughran said: “Nobody minds a bit of fun on social media.
“But it is unacceptable that this person is purporting to be the Mayor of Stafford and making disparaging remarks about another Mayor.
“This is bringing the mayoralty into disrepute.”
A spokesman from Stafford Borough Council confirmed: “We received an email from Shrewsbury Town Council who were unimpressed with comments made on twitter which had come from an account with the name James Billington purporting to be the ‘mayorofstafford’.”
Billington even managed to dupe theme park giants Alton Towers after tweeting them saying: “Looking forward to opening/attending @altontowers tomorrow! Britain’s best theme park in great #Staffordshire.”
They responded with: “@mayorofstafford We look forward to seeing you for our #OpeningWeekend! It’s going to be great! :-)”
To go alongside the image of him cutting a ribbon, he tweeted: “Honoured to open @altontowers for their 2014 season today! #OpeningWeekend #staffordshirehour #Staffordshire.”
Posting a picture of his home-made badges he added: “Looking forward to giving out these badges to the great people of #Stafford over the next few weeks!”
Another picture shows him at a building site in a high-vis jacket and helmet with the caption: “Was very pleased to be part of the building process of new businesses in #Stafford area this morning #investment.”
Some of the tweets from fooled residents include Jack Hughes who said: “Any comment on the Boro Council scandal, you Worshipful and esteemed Mayor? Will you all resign now?”
Stafford Round Table even invited Billington to one of their fundraising events, adding: “Fancy joining us on one of our upcoming social events? #makefriends #havefun #dosomegood”
Local Stafford Book Club also invited him to promote on of their events, saying: “@mayorofstafford Hi, we’re launching a new book club in Stafford soon, any chance of a RT?
Following his tweet regarding the mayor of Shrewsbury, Kevin Tanner (@kevtan1066) tweeted: “@mayorofstafford what the hell? Is this a joke, in very poor taste! If it isn’t you should resign now!”
His bizarre actions have drew a mixed response from residents living in the Midlands town, which has a population of 122,000.
Dad-of-one James Longley, 33, said: ““He seems happy to be parading around in his chains acting like the mayor, but it needs to stop.
“There will be people wanting to speak to the mayor on serious issues, but this man is simply a fraud.”
Another resident Bal Singh, 22, added: “I feel so stupid, I believed it was him. How many people know the name of their town mayor? There was no reason to disbelieve him.
“You’ve got to see the funny side though. So many people fell for it.”
The prankster’s actions echo Hollywood film The Real Life of Walter Mitty’ starring Ben Stiller.
In the film, an adaptation of the 1939 short story Mr Mitty attempts to mislead people by posing as made-up characters.
* Some of the other tweets by Billington include: “I’ve opened so many shops/offices today in #Stafford I’ve got an achind hand with all this ribbon cutting!”
“Thought I saw Cristiano Ronaldo inside Guildhall Shopping Centre today. Went and said hello. Turns out it wasn’t him. She (corr) was fine with it.”
“Did you know the average mayor chain weighs 3kg but the Stafford mayor chain weighs over 4 stone? This is because #Stafford is awesome.”
“Mayors wife has a very bad hangover after #StPatricksDay drinking! She was last heard shouting ‘wazzzzzzzzzzup’ at 3am! She’s not even Irish!”
POS M/F – TRYING FOR CHAT WITH JAMES / MAYOR OF SHREWSBURY