Friday, October 30, 2009

Beware the bloggers, they kill councils

This is one of the strangest blogging stories I've ever read - and I've seen some corkers!

It seems that 15, yes 15, councillors have resigned on mass from Somerton council leaving the body unable to conduct any more business. It seems they were hacked off with being criticised on the internet. really.

The Guardian explains that "The walkout came after blogger Niall Connolly branded some members "jackasses" and referred to one leaflet as being "like a Nazi call to arms"."

Which seems to be about the strength of it, which suggests to me that the councillors were a little bit too uncomfortable with democracy and scrutiny. Surely if the blogger was telling lies they could take legal action, but if he just had an alternative vision of what they should have been doing with their positions, or simply telling the world what they were doing, well, it seems like a poor reason to take their ball home to me.

I took a glace at the photos of the councillors and a more internet friendly, non-backward bunch I could not possibly imagine. Mind you, I have a very poor imagination. I will allow Muck and Brass to recount in their own words how it felt when the councillors caved in (my emphasis);

"The Dunny hasn't had many meetings where the car-park was absolutely crammed and that was the first clue to tell you that something was afoot. Inside it was much the same with all the seats taken and standing room only. A rough head count suggested that 160 people had turned up for the meeting and they included a pretty broad spectrum of the community... then, about 33 minutes into the meeting, it all started to go Pete Tong.

"The Vice Chair stood up, put on his jacket and started a brief speech about how he was sick and tired of something or other and how he was going to leave it all up to the Town. At that point it seemed like he was presenting his resignation and this stunning news was greeted by the audience with rapturous applause. This seemed to trigger of a convulsion of action on the part of most of the rest of the council. As one they rose up and the Chair was subject to a proverbial avalanche of resignation letters before he himself resigned. Clearly a rather well orchestrated action but whose point was rather lost on those who were watching with a growing sense of wonderment. As the sheep filed out, a euphoria spread through the hall and everyone there shared their own 'Berlin Wall' moment. Freedom. Heady days indeed."
Sounds glorious!

I've been flicking through the archives and for the life of me the blog simply seems to be a site dedicated to proper scrutiny of the town council. I've not read the entire thing, obviously, but if Somerton council does not like being compared to a "clown council" then I suggest it does not explore more deeply into the internet where rather harsher language resides.

Let this be a warning to all those other councils out there. The bloggers are coming - better run and hide!


David Cox said...

Politics is a rough old game, I agree, but Jim parish meetings, parish and small town councils (more accurately called community councils in Scotland and Wales) are not really in that league. I don’t know if the blogger was wrong or right, he could have still scrutinised the council without resorting to name-calling and personal abuse – let’s not forget when a blogger was called a ‘twat’ by a councillor, the blogger went straight to the Standards Board who found against the councillor.

Most parish councillors are mainly motivated by a wish to serve their community, some can be a little pompous and many lack imagination or innovation – nevertheless it’s the democracy closest to the people and ultimately it is up to people to vote, stand and attend the annual meeting. In the last election the seats on Somerton Town Council were all uncontested, so all the councillors were either elected unopposed or co-opted, which is a sad indictment on democracy in Somerton, and sadly not that uncommon.

Jim Jay said...

Hmmm, well I don't think his criticisms were couched in particularly strong language - but he was raising serious concerns - like people's business interests and lack of transparency that appear to be backed up by the facts.

We should remember as well that there have been mass meetings (mass for a small place obviously, not albert hall style rallies!) that have expressed concerns over the recycling centre (something I know nothing about).

One key issue appears to have been that this blogger issued freedom of information requests... to be honest if these councillors don't think they should be subject to scrutiny then they really should not be councillors at whatever level.