Saturday, 25 July 2009

WORKING FOR THE CLAMPDOWN


I have had a great days cycling seeing various relatives around Thanet and good to see cycle route provision steadily improving, especially the new route alongside Ramsgate Road coming out of Margate past the hospital.

I was quoted in yesterday's Isle of Thanet Gazette about Thanet Council's plans to "regulate" blogs. The article has to summarise the views of several people and you know how politicians can go on! That is one of the brilliant things about blogs, you can go on and on and on.

I was asked 3 questions for the article here they are with my full responses:

Why is it important for councillors to have their own blogs?

It’s important for councillors to have blogs because:

1. It allows them to publicise local campaigning issues such as Haine Road

2. It provides a forum for constituents to post comments, eg for my ward Haine Road, Coleman Crescent recreation area.

3. It allows me to publish my detailed views on controversial issues such as China Gateway, Manston Airport etc (it would be impossible to produce a leaflet each time and distribute it) and for local people to question me and debate my views. Often people send me information which can change my view.

4. It shows the work we do. Many councillors have low profiles rarely appearing in the papers and a blog shows the work that a councillor is doing and how responsive they are.

5. It allows interaction, publishing photos, advertising events, recommending websites, conducting opinion polls, linking to podcasts.

Do you think it is right blogs should be regulated under a “code of conduct”?

There should be no separate code of conduct for blogs. The same standard should apply to councillors whether they write in a newspaper, speak to a group or publish a blog. For example the blog code of conduct intends to stop “personal attacks”. Yet Cllr Ezekiel often makes "personal attacks" in his Gazette column. That’s fine by me, it is freedom of speech. Why does he want to allow it in the newspaper columns he writes, but stop it on blogs? My view is that he is over sensitive. He can give criticism, but has great difficulty in taking it. We have seen in the two Standards Board cases that when criticised he can lose his temper. That in my view is one of the reasons he is keen to stop blogs like mine which legitimately criticise and examine his record. Yet Cllr. Ezekiel wishes to retain the right to make personal attacks as he did at the 21st May Full Council meeting, when he criticised Cliftonville West councillors.

Again I defend his right to make criticisms of others, why he is unable to accept that he will be examined and criticised?

We have enough laws such as libel already and current regulations are sufficient, what is the motivation for seeking to increase regulation and by applying it to only one method of freedom of expression?

Your thoughts on a proposed ban?

Cllr. Moores has confirmed there is a proposed policy on local blogs. I think he should publish his draft at the earliest opportunity. This will allow for the widest possible consultation. By keeping the plans secret for as long as possible, he is limiting debate on a matter of legitimate public interest.

As to why this policy has come about I have checked with Thanet Council officers and they advise me they can find nowhere else in the country that has separate regulation of councillor blogs and the internet by a local authority.

As to where this idea came from I do not know. However, I have the mental image of Cllrs. Ezekiel and Latchford when visiting China on their China Gateway visit, talking informally to their Chinese Communist Party hosts. As the evening progresses the talk gets to their respective political critics, with Cllrs Ezekiel and Latchford bemoaning their coverage in local blogs. A Chinese official tells them that they have solved this problem by monitoring and controlling the internet. A light bulb goes on in their heads, and they return with the idea of blog regulation.

I know that Cllrs Ezekiel and Latchford are keen to promote companies from China investing in Thanet, but in suggesting controlling councillor blogs they are trying to do too much to make potential Chinese investors "feel at home!"

Just going to put The Clash's Clampdown on.......

10 comments:

  1. I find it sad that Simon thinks it necessary to have a blog code, maybe its petty jealousy, perhaps blogs written by the Tories are not that good or popular.

    Still you never know with Simon one minute he's supporting an alternative candidate for leader of Thanet Tories next day he's got her job, makes you think.

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  2. We need a code because labour councillors write insulting and malicious personal comments in their blogs. That's why you got turned over at standards and also the mayor of ramsgate. If you were sensible it wouldn't be needed. But you're not, so it is.

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  3. Anon 20.36 examples please? No I have not as you put it been turned over at standards and nor has Dave Green to my knowledge. Yes lots of malicious fabricated standards complaints have been made by Conservatives. Typical Conservative comment, anonymous false smear.

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  4. 20.36 , you seem remarkably well informed concerned Cllr Green and a Standard's issue that is ongoing?
    What you try and dismiss and ignore, of course, is that TDC's Leader has been found twice to be in breach of Standards and his Deputy , once. These are findings, not ongoing enquiries. In respect of Cllr Blogs, the more the merrier and the livlier the better! People in glass houses............

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  5. I am not sure when a personal blog becomes a council one or when should a personal opinion become regulated by a local council.

    You can easily imagine a scenario whereby any politician who would like to stifle debate (or worse inhibit any criticism) could use coercive means to do so.

    seems a bit of a big brother totalitarian state approach to me.

    Cllr. Ezekiel version of free speech

    http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/WindowsLiveWriter/free-speech2.jpg

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  6. The usual left wing hyperbole I have come to expect from this Blog I'm afraid!

    "Cllr. Moores has confirmed there is a proposed policy on local blogs. I think he should publish his draft at the earliest opportunity"

    First there's no tangible policy that I'm aware of at present, even a draft.

    Secondly, what I have said quite clearly and repeatedly is that I believe councillors, Nottingham included, have a public duty to be courteous and should not allow (through unmoderated blogs) defamatory and malicious personal comments to appear concerning other councillors.

    Thirdly, there's no suggestion of censorship of any kind. Simply a concern that a code of conduct, in terms of common courtesy, respect and moderation, would be a step forward in improving local politics.

    Call me old-fashioned if you like but I consider polite, intelligent and perhaps even humerous debate to be more productive than childish name-calling.

    Sadly, Cllr Nottingham, this Blog sets new local standards in both exaggerated news and political bad taste and others, which include council officers and a number of your own members, are embarrased by it.

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  7. Dr M - perhaps you could reign in one of your parish councillors as well who is not adverse to name calling and then running to mummy. He sets a particularly low tone.

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  8. Simon I am afraid you are being economical with the truth here. We both know there is a policy and documentation has been produced. I regret your attempt to cover up the truth here which will place officers you work with in a very difficult and uncomfortable situation.

    The rest of your comments have no standing as they are based on a false assertion. Come on Simon publish what you are up to so that people can discuss it, and stop trying to smear your way out of a difficult and in my view untenable position.

    As I have said on several previous occasions, when you are lsoing the political argument you get personal. This is just the latest example.

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  9. What on earth is so wrong with name calling that you wish to curtail a very decent, democratic form of media 'Dr' M? Sounds like you've arrived at the decision backwards and that name calling is a convenient excuse for curtailment.

    Anyway, you'll never manage it, and you know it.

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  10. As can be seen from my post
    http://marknottingham.blogspot.com/2009/07/how-councillors-blogging-saves.html
    Simon Moores is not taking this matter forward in an honest, professional manner.

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