Since I started this blog I have hopefully established some themes. One is a desire for openness and accountability. Another is my concern for how poorly the current Standards system for councillors works. Set up for members of the public to complain about councillors’ misconduct, it has repeatedly been misused in Thanet by Conservative councillors. For new readers the Conservative Leader Sandy Ezekiel has twice been censured for misconduct by the Standards Board and his Deputy Roger Latchford once. Despite incontrovertible independent evidence to support these decisions, the fact that both complaints came from Labour councillors has in my view resulted in an organised campaign for revenge by some Thanet Conservatives. Other Labour colleagues have received a number of unpleasant experiences. For myself I have been subject to 3 standards complaints from Cllr. Martin Wise Conservative Cabinet member for Finance. Further standards complaints have been made by Cllr. John Worrow Birchington Conservative councillor, and the Conservative Mayor of Margate and Chief Whip Ted Watt-Ruffell. I note he has finally lost these posts following his criminal conviction.
All of these “complaints” have either been withdrawn or proven to be unfounded. However, their processing has cost Thanet District Council thousands of pounds. They also serve to send out a clear signal. Anybody who criticises Thanet Conservative group will be targeted. Even if it does not stop me, I know that others are understandably unprepared to put their heads above the parapet. That weakens democracy, the less people that are prepared to come forward, the lower the quality of representatives and in Thanet we have some shockers.
People see this and become even more cynical about politics and disconnected. The local “leaders” of the Conservatives endorse this conduct and do not criticise it. Both Parliamentary candidates Laura Sandys and Roger Gale rely on the same people to campaign for them. Throughout this process Thanet Conservative blogger Simon Moores (pictured) has staunchly supported this (mis)conduct of politics. I have been a critic of Simon Moores’ refusal to acknowledge the errors of his colleagues. Before an anonymous Conservative commenter criticises me in comments I have clearly stated that I do not condone misconduct by Labour representatives, and that can be found through this blog on the record including criticism of named individuals.
Simon Moores has now complained formally with Complaint TDCSC 40/10 (I think that may mean there have already been 40 complaints this year!) that I have failed to comply with Thanet District Council’s Code of Conduct in relation to comments I have posted (presumably about Cllr. Moores). Now the absurd thing about this process is I do not know what my supposed offence is. I won’t find out and have no opportunity to defend myself. And yes I know this ridiculous procedure has been set up by the Labour government, but I have been opposed to it since it was set up, but those of you with a blue tinge might enjoy the irony.
As the Private and Confidential letter states....
“the allegation will be considered solely based on the information provided by the complainant”
This “evidence” will be considered in secret, and I cannot rebut anything because I do not know what I am accused of. It is a bit like The Prisoner, or Catch 22.
The great thing for Simon Moores is that you dear reader are paying for his complaint.
Hundreds of pounds will already have been clocked up as council officers including lawyers receive his complaint, consider it, investigate, process it and write reports on it. Then all this paperwork relating to his complaint goes to a secret committee meeting. After that it may be thrown out, or it can be further investigated so that the costs go into the thousands.
Whilst all this goes forward these comments on the web that I have made remain there. The usual complaint is that I have failed to treat the appropriate person with “respect.” So let me assume this is the case. There is a “disrespectful or inaccurate” post out there somewhere which you can go and find and which in Simon Moores eyes is false/wrong. Now in my view of a situation like this I would ask that the comment was withdrawn or suspended. A complaint can still be made but at least the comment that has caused offence is no longer visible, and this has happened in other cases Simon Moores is familiar with.
Indeed he is aware that on varying occasions I have withdrawn or amended posts on this blog in relation to his 3 cabinet colleagues Cllrs. Martin Wise, Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford. So he knows that if he has a reasonable position it will be treated reasonably by me. He also knows that all the posts I have suspended have since been reinstated because his judgment was wrong and that his colleagues had wasted thousands of pounds of Thanet District Council’s money.
Have a look at this post on 15th March 2009 (the Ides of March) from Simon Moores Thanet Life with its implied threat at the end
"I support, irrespective of party, the notion of proper standards in public life and blazing away with a constant stream of unsupported and defamatory allegations runs against the very concept of a standard of public behaviour.
Should Winston Churchill have happened to have read Cllr Nottingham’s weblog this weekend; it may have led him to make that famous remark: “Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.”
To remind you my posts which Simon Moores judged wrong were
Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel was Reasonably Aggressive - true, found by Standards Committee
Laura Sandys would refuse to condemn Thanet Conservative misconduct - true, sadly still one year later she remains staunchly with the wrongdoers
Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford would fail to attend the hearing about their misconduct - true
Simon Moores would refuse to condemn Sandy Ezekiel's abusive behaviour - true, but perhaps understandable a few weeks later Simon Moores was offered a Cabinet job and accepted
So not unsupported and defamatory as Simon Moores wrote but all true. What a bad judge of character Simon Moores is. 0 out of 4 must do better!
To see what all the fuss was about read the details of the guilty verdicts on Council leader Sandy Ezekiel and his Deputy Roger Latchford go here
Now there is no way that my conduct has been comparable to Sandy Ezekiel's (repeatedly) or Roger Latchford.
I have not
Abused and sworn at pensioners
Asked my policial opponents "outside" for a fist fight
Made false complaints to the police wasting taxpayers money
Circulated racially offensive emails
and I could go on....
At the same time Simon Moores posted the comments above, his good colleague and friend Cllr Martin Wise issued 3 Standards complaints against me all matching the description given in his post. I would judge Simon Moores either helped prepare the false complaints or had sight of them before they were received at Thanet District Council's offices.
The problem for Simon Moores is that his judgment was proven wrong 6 months later at Thanet Standards Committee, apart from loyal member of Team Ezekiel Zita Wiltshire who was in a minority of one. The committee voted to reject Martin Wise’s invented view of history and preferred the evidence I supplied, but not before thousands of pounds had been wasted.
So my criticisms of Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford were found to be reasonable, not as Simon Moores falsely portrayed them “unsupported and defamatory”. (If I lived by the Standards of Team Ezekiel I would have excellent grounds to issue a Standards complaint against Simon Moores). Simon Moores of course has not amended his post nor admitted his factual errors.
We now face a situation where an email or a conversation between the respective political parties' Chief Whips could probably resolve matters. It is of course Simon Moores right to issue his complaint, but I question his judgment in spending taxpayers money rather than his own. Of course any lawyer looking at Simon Moores Thanet Life’s many comments about me would suggest there was no case to take forward. Simon Moores knows this so he is going to spend your money, not his own.
I also do not understand why he can complain, and yet leave whatever comment that has caused him to complain, out on the internet where people will continue to read it. I would suggest he really is not that bothered, and this manufactured complaint may be tied in with the coming elections for leading positions in Thanet Conservative group which I understand are this week.
After all a year ago a fierce condemantion of this blog coincided in promotion and extra income, perhaps he thinks the same tactic will work again?
For my part I will continue to criticise people directly and as is said in politics “stab them in the front.” For Simon Moores and his friends there’s a different way. I give you Simon, with Martin Wise and Ted Watt-Ruffell on backing vocals....the backstabbers! (and you’re paying thousands of pounds for them to do it!)