Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lets have a clear vision of Thanet not censorship

There's so many things I wished to talk about this last week, not surprisingly one is Thanet council's blatant attempt to curb free speech, in what to some is an extraordinary example of misuse of council officers time and if I might say so, the neutrality of officers as they draw up some ill judged blogging protocol.

Anyway moving on, according to page seven of this week's Gazette, Thanet council is at last considering making available video recordings of the authorities meetings, and in keeping with petty bureaucracy there are of course, conditions attached to what we can see, now in fairness, this is probably an over reaction, as the Gazette's report says that videos will be edited prior to being made available.

Now according to the brief article it says that recordings will be edited by the authorities communications department to ensure that nothing prior to the start or end of the meetings or confidential items are made public, hopefully they will just top and tail the meetings without chopping out things they don't like in the middle.

Just why council officers, Conservative members and to some degree Labour colleagues are so blimin sensitive over the inevitable petty point scoring and personality clashes in the council chamber is frankly beyond me, but if TDC Communications wallahs, seek to chop out bits that are unseemly then of course rightly they will be accused of political interference.

Local Conservatives seem obsessed with image, however at the end of the day for most people what counts, is the entirety of their performance, not how ludicrous they occasionally appear. What concerns the public are results or lack of them and that's what people vote on.

This week's council meeting, had the usual bun fight, mainly I think because Sandy Ezekiel, rightly wished to present the context of council finances, since Labour are the architects to some degree of this countries economic disaster, it's no surprise they threw their toys out the pram.

There are tough harsh decisions to be taken about public finances , uncomfortable as it may be, it's unavoidable that large cuts will be necessary at Thanet council, if for no other reason than because the money simply won't be there, I just hope the Conservatives and Labour both have the balls to face the facts and do what's necessary and be open about it, the public sector has bled the commercial world dry, large cuts are inevitable as will be the outcry from pampered state employees, it's just something politicians will have to get used to.


  1. Tony

    I'm tempted to write in CAPS but I won't. We have already discussed this. There is 'No' attempt anywhere to curb free speech among councillors. There is however a concern, shared by officers and members of all sides, me included, that councillors should express themselves responsibly and courteously in the online world.

    Where broadcasting of council meetings is involved, you asked for it and I have spent a couple of months with officers ironing out what's required.

    Some aspects of council business are by their very nature confidential when they involve sensitive commercial discussions and more. Legally, such material may not be broadcast.

    It's not a question of 'chopping' it's a matter of law. So I would ask you to be pleased at least that we will soon be broadcasting as requested.

  2. I personally would like to see a voluntary code agreed for councillors; this would involve members of all groups as well as parish/town councillors within the Thanet Area meeting to discuss the matter.

    As vice chairman of the Thanet Area Parishes committee, I am willing to represent the interests of parish and town councillors in such a discussion.

    For this to happen, we would need to see the Labour group take a different approach to the issue.

    I have recently seen how councillors blogs can be used to make fase statements about people.

    However, we must keep a balance between the right to freedom of expression, and the right of a person to defend themselves against lies and half truths that have been written about them for political reasons.

    We have recently seen the positive role that the internet has played in Iran regarding freedom; I think we need to be careful that we do not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    I am prepared to talk.

  3. Tony,

    None of the Labour Group have any objection to discussing the Councils finances, indeed come to Tuesday's meeting of Scrutiny and listen to Martin Wise give us a presentation and then answer questions from Labour Members. We would have quite happily accepted an unbiased account from Cllr Ezekiel but it was clear from the first slide that we were to be subjected to a political diatribe on how the whole international financial mess was somehow the fault of the Labour government and not irresponsible lending by the Banks.

    As far as John Worrow's remarks are concerned, as I have posted elswhere why should Councillors be subjected to insulting, defamatory, remarks by anonymous bloggers or insulted by named bloggers without any recourse to any sanction when if we make even a slightly controversial remark we can be subjected to discipline and or sanction.
    I will give you an example:- I accidently mispelt Margaret Sheldrick's name on my blog, technically I have acted in an insulting manner and could be taken to task, conversly I am reffered to as Mike Harris or other things that dont even have those letters in them as these remarks are usually written by cowards who are unwilling to put their name to a post I have no recourse to anyone. Of course as you know people can post using someone elses name or you can put comment moderation in place but that to me smacks of censorship.

  4. Confidential items like where they spend our money.

  5. Reading your comments, Tony, as ever I find myself half in agreement, and half in laughter - which is the beauty of your blog.

    Your headline sort of assumes that blogs are generally truthful and helpful in news terms, which a very rapid review of the local blogs would tell you is just not true.

    This is then followed by the truthful and serious assertion that whoever is in power during the next few years is going to have to cut the public sector. Recent conversations with Treasury wallahs suggest to me that the current political debate around 7 to 10% cuts is way off: the actual figures required may be nearer double that, if there is to be any chance of balancing the books. The alternative, the sort of stealth council tax rises in the papers today dont bear thinking about.

    Is it wrong to outline that in the council chamber? It is widely accepted the level of borrowing to bail out this recession is in the same league as the Napoleonic or First World Wars. Scale comparison? I think we have just about finished paying for the First World War, which finished in 1918. Harry Patch just outlived the overdraft.

    I do think spending time in these circumstances worrying about blog protocols is time wasted, and simply trying to repair some of the damage that the labour party's current standards regime has done.

    In my experience, labour party supporters love dishing it out, but cry foul immediately they are placed on the spot themselves. I would refer you to Mike Harrisons blog description of Thursday night. Labour mini riot (labour words not mine) justified and ok; conservative reminder of the role played by labour in Pleasurama, a fit of the vapours and threats of action. Labour freedom of speech is confined to themselves, and deied to others.

    That said, let them talk, blog, and keep lying. In the end the truth usually comes out, and these twisted and distorted views are revealed for what they are. It is better to live in a society where you are not pursued for having the freedom to express, than a society where it is overly stilted and frowned upon.

    As ever, the blog descriptions leave much of the relevant context out, and have allowed labour salwarts tohode behind 'righteous indignation' to hide from the truth about their failing, fading government. It would appear only labour voters arent fooled - they are staying away, probably with 2 fingers stuck in the air. No amount of blogging hides that now does it!

  6. Although I have a web site, I do not have a blog, so I don't know if it is possible to stop anonymous bloggers, and to only allow people that use names to make posts; is it Tony/Simon/Mike?

    I would recommend the creation of a non-executive cross-party district & town/parish committee that could deal with situations such as mine and Marks.

    I personally see nothing wrong with a blogging-councillor pointing out things like the amount of times another councillor has missed a meeting or just criticizing their views.

    But when someone says something like:

    "councillor Straw is a city councillor who is failing to represent the good people of Birchtown properly"
    just because he objected to a personal attack that was made against him, I think it is wrong.

    This is a very important subject, and just because I have have been treated unfairly, it does not mean that I am against the responsible use of blogs.

    I agree with both Simon and Mike on a number of points. However, if any kind of code is going to work, we need to bring people with us, that would include the Thanet Area Parishes committee.

  7. Yes John, it's possible to stop anonymous bloggers, though anyone can post under a false username. More important is to moderate the comments before they appear on blogs, something that I know Simon, Mark & others do (& so do I).

  8. Chris Wells said,

    " That said, let them talk, blog, and keep lying."

    So what do I do now ?

    Throw a hissy fit and report him to Standards for accusing me in public of lying, or ignore it and put it down to his frustration at not being involved in the top echelons of the Tory Group?

    Its called the hurly burley of politics,,

    I'll just ignore it.

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  10. The preceding comments are made after a particularly grisly saturday night shift, the consequences being similar to jet lag only without the holiday, also pretty much every thing aches.

    Lets dispense with Simon first, why waste time and money on concerns shared mainly by Politicians and "officers" Politics is not the noble game you seem to think and officers shouldn't have opinions unless they'd like to resign and submit to the ballot box.

    Similarly John again politics is a rough old game and assuming that your to have, a future with the Tories I suggest you take a good look at some of their behaviour bad language and back stabbing and manoeuvring its all there.

    Mike as I suggested earlier, I for one think the uproar over the leaders presentation was over the top show boating, the global finance problem is clearly not entirely caused by labour but Gordon Brown's right wing "forget about approach to Bank regulation " goes along way to creating the mess, as does bailing out the crooks as does giving away to VAT income for less than zero benefit.

    Still I'm pleased that you have similar views on censorship Mike.

    Chris I agree with much you say but would point out that truth like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    Peter I don't like to moderate comments since I take a liberal view of personal opinion unfortunately in this country unlike say the US we in this country favour the abuse of rich B*st*rds who can afford to censor the likes of me with draconian laws .
    Also when I moderate comments I generally end up deleting honest comments as well as the defamatory ones.

    Still I always remove defamatory comments when I find them or if pointed out, I also remove comments that might be true but offensive or intrusive.

    The above are views of myself I've not read through I hope they mean what they were meant to, on hear you always have the ability to set the record straight, have a pleasant evening everyone

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  12. The TDC constitution already has a code of conduct for councillors and employees of the council but it seems to me it is largely ignored. If they pay scant regard to the foundation of who they are some bolt on is almost entirely worthless.