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.......