To The Manor Born
Imagine, if you will, that there is a well-to-do household somewhere in the countryside which consists of a Mother, who is the primary breadwinner, and 6 other family members. They live in a huge house with large grounds and their two lovely Bentleys. The Mother’s job is not high-profile, but is one of those sort of jobs which commands extremely high pay packets.
So that’s the premise.
Now the six other family members might be in quite different circumstances. One might have a low-paid job in a local shop. Another might not have a job at all. But they are unlikely to ever feel, or appear, “poor”. Sure, the Son might resent having to ask to borrow the spare Bentley instead of being able to buy his own. The daughter might need to ask for the occasional “loan” which she knows her Mother probably won’t expect her to ever repay. But they’ll always have plenty of food. They’ll always be warm. They’ll always have more choices and options available to them than somebody who doesn’t live in a house with a well-paid benefactor like their Mother.
Okay, so in our story the Mother decides to take out some loans. She’s not short of cash at all, but the old house is huge and expensive to upkeep and she thinks it needs a lot of work. The roof needs an expensive repair, the ornate fountain on the front lawn hasn’t worked properly for years and let’s face it – it all needs a complete redecoration. Plus, they could do with another couple of cars. The Bentley is awesome, of course, but it’s not really ideal for quick trips around town.
Lenders fall over themselves to lend the Mother money. Of course they do, she’s the best risk ever. She has a great job with a solid income, she’s stable and reliable and has never had any kind of bad debt. And she has that enormous house and those beautiful cars as collateral to back up the debt.
Mother borrows a vast amount of money. But there is a secret and the secret is this – Mother has quit her job. Quietly, carefully, she has decided that she has spent long enough in the Rat Race. She wants to spend more time with her family. She wants to enjoy life a little. She wants to work less and play more. So she’s handed in her notice.
Over the next couple of years nothing changes at all. The family still go on expensive Summer holidays. They still swan about town in luxurious vehicles. They still wear designer clothes. Nobody suspects a thing. But a closer look might reveal some telling points. The fountain still isn’t working. The garden is somewhat overgrown. The roof is now leaking into several of the rooms upstairs, which have been temporarily closed off. Temporarily, in this case, apparently meaning Until Further Notice. Still, it’s fair to say that the other six members of the family haven’t changed their lifestyle at all. They don’t even know that Mother isn’t working, since she keeps up an elaborate charade. Their individual circumstances continue to vary, but they still have the security and safety they have come to rely on behind them. Or they think they do, at least.
At some point Mother notices the money she borrowed is dwindling. So she goes to the Lenders again and asks for more. She has never missed a payment, because she has used the borrowed money, in part, to make those payments. She still has the big house and the flash cars and she still looks like a good credit risk in that respect. But, some of the Lenders notice that her income has changed, that the house value has changed due to its gradual disrepair and that she really does have quite a lot of debt now. They agree to lend her more money – but they increase their rates and they decrease the size of the loans she can have. Mother is really put out by this. How dare they? Don’t they know who she is? But she has no choice but to accept. Choices, for her, are beginning to look limited.
For another Eighteen months not much changes. Still the neighbourhood see the Family as wealthy and well-to-do. Though there is now some gossip relating to the deterioration of the property, most just think it is because Mother is “tight” and prefers to hoard her money. The Family Members still have almost no clue as to what is going on. Though Aunt Hilda is becoming increasingly concerned by the fact that so much of the house is sealed off due leaks, that there is such aggressive damp on the back walls and that the fountain is now buried entirely beneath a mass of weeds and wild flowers. One of the Bentleys is now stored in the garage. It’s not working and nobody seems in a rush to get it repaired. The whole family are now sharing one car, but they aren’t likely to get any pity. After all, telling somebody you have to get by on “just one Bentley” doesn’t exactly pull on the old heart strings.
Where does this story end? Perhaps Mother can spin her debt out a third time and grant them a few more years? Perhaps some miracle of luck will save them – oil found beneath the paddock, or a rare and valuable painting in the attic. Though even those things will simply buy more time, unless Mother and the rest of the family make different choices in future.
The fact is, sooner or later, the Family will not be able to borrow anymore. The debt will be unserviceable and the Lenders will close their doors. The bailiffs will begin to pay regular visits and they will take the grand furniture, the suit of armour, the portraits of long dead queens, the rare book collection. Eventually there will be almost nothing left. This will make some of the family very angry. These things belong to The Family! How dare outsiders remove them and claim them? Debt? Pah. Mother should just refuse to let them in and the debt be damned! But the cries will fall on deaf ears because the Family have still not understood that due to the vast debts involved, Mother is not pulling the strings anymore. Mother doesn’t have a say in it.
At this point the family member’s different lifestyles and personal choices will be thrown into stark relief. Once their rich benefactor is revealed as debt-ridden and bankrupt they will have to pay for their own food. Their own warmth. Their own shelter. Their own everything. Some of them will be better placed than others to handle this. But all of them will be faced with a surprising and chilling dose of reality.
For a while they will blame Mother. And they will be right in some respects, because Mother did make some unwise choices. Suddenly forced into rented accommodation, different jobs (in some cases their first job ever.) Eating less caviar and steak, more sausages and mash. Having to pay their own bills and their own way, they could be forgiven for thinking that their living standards have dramatically reduced through no fault of their own. It is Mother’s fault. Right?
But slowly, gradually, surely, if they are honest the Family may come to see that they are not resolved of fault themselves. Why was it Mother’s job to provide for them all? Couldn’t they see that the lifestyle that had come to think was “normal” and even begun to consider an Entitlement was a fantasy? Didn’t they have some responsibility to understand the family finances and contribute where necessary? The situation was built, first of all, by reliance on Mother to always be there and always be able to work on their behalf. And secondly, on Mother having to borrow until she was bankrupt to maintain the illusion of wealth.
At some point the Family members may consider that their new standard of living is not the aberration they think. It was the wealth that was the aberration, because it was not based on any real wealth-creation. What has happened is that the Lies and Falsehoods have crumbled away to reveal the true state of play. It’s not pretty. It’s not going to be fun. But at least, now, the truth is clear and once that is realised the Family can work towards a genuine, sustainable and tangible recovery that will benefit them all. Or they can stick their heads in the sand and demand entitlements until the end of time. But that’s entirely up to them.
Today I’ll be running a free family Christmas Disco for the kids in Newton. 3.30PM in the Village Hall if you fancy bringing the ‘littluns along.
I have nothing booked in on Sunday at all. A rarity. I may possibly do absolutely nothing. Hurrah!
On Monday I’m out and about at various meetings, culminating in Monday night’s Wisbech Town Council meeting.
On Tuesday I’m working all day.
On Wednesday I’m working for some of the day but am also attending a Fenland District Council planning meeting to support some residents who wish to oppose a development.
On Thursday I’m running another free family Christmas disco, this time in Leverington. 3PM at the Leverington Village Hall so come along and join in the fun with your kids, grandkids, etc. On Thursday evening I’m at an Executive Committee Meeting of NECCA (North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association.)
On Friday I’m out campaigning all day with Michelle Tanfield’s team in Elm & Christchurch. Then in the evening I’m the quizmaster for a fundraising quiz being organised by the FenRATs. If you fancy joining the fun it’s at the Crown & Mitre Pub, in Tydd St. Giles, 7PM.
Something Rotten This Way Comes
There is nothing wrong, per se, with media moguls having a political view or personal bias. We are all only human. After all, if you buy a national newspaper you broadly know what you’re going to get, right? Daily Mirror = Socialist Worker, Guardian = Strong Liberal Bias, Daily Mail = Statist Right-Of-Center, Daily Express = Nationalist Right-Of-Center, you get the idea.
This is fine because people can choose a media outlet which suits their own position and beliefs. They can read the news framed by people who have a similar world view to their own. It risks a “confirmation bias” no doubt, but these days that is balanced by the free-wheeling Wild West of the Internet.
But in local media I think the public expect something different. There is often only one or two options for your most local news and so most local publications do their best to maintain a nominally unbiased and neutral viewpoint. They make an effort to be fair to those with whom they disagree and to evenly scrutinise those with whom they feel an allegiance.
But what happens when an individual decides that their job is no longer to report the news, but to make the news? To drive the news? When they develop their own agenda which involves pushing their favourites to the fore, possibly even feeding them information that suits the aforementioned agenda? When news stories become utterly twisted. When you only ever get to hear things slanted one way? Is this a service to the community, or is it doing harm to the community?
There is nothing subtle about this. It’s not difficult to follow the threads of a story as it develops. To see one person tweet about it and then very shortly afterwards another person seem to reinforce the same thing. Almost as if there was collusion, huh?
To listen to one person announce their new Master Plan and see it almost immediately reflected in print. To notice that some letters get printed, but others never see the light of day. To notice how sometimes an article will feature “supportive” comments from all and sundry, while other times almost no additional comments are sought.
To notice that a very small clique seem to be attached umbilically to the media machine. To see how the Letter Of The Law is laid down in respect of one person, while an unlimited amount of flexibility seems to be available for another. A divergence of treatment. A complete lack of consistency, except where that consistency is a biased one.
The more embattled the current “favourites” become, the more the biased outlets will spring to their defence with over-the-top positive coverage, or will attempt to divert your attention elsewhere with some new drama conjured almost from thin air for precisely that purpose. Notice the sort of coverage, for instance, that seems to appear in the week or two before a by-election.
Imagine if, for instance, just prior to a By-Election, some non-story were to command headlines whose foundations are so tenuous and ethereal as to be virtually non-existent. And yet that story sought to damage one party who were contending the election, while distracting from the troubles of another. That would be a fairly clear case of deliberate and malicious intent, don’t you think?
Too Many Words
Collective nouns are fun, don’t you think? An amble of walkers, an army of caterpillars, an atlas of maps, a balance of accountants, a compromise of senators, a circus of UKIP councillors, a fistful of dollars.
I’ve picked up on the suggestion that my nasty, nasty blog (moi? Shome mishtake, shurely?) has too many words in it. I write big long pieces when I should either write very short snappy ones in keeping with the sublime prose and incisive wit of a local newspaper editor, or better still just not write anything at all.
Of course they don’t say this stuff to me personally, nor even directly. Instead their little (insert collective noun of your choice*) of opposition curl their lips and smugly pass snide little comments to and fro between them on social media. As you might imagine, this behaviour makes me cry myself to sleep almost every night. Oh the cruelty! : ) Oh the heartlessness! : )
It is true that I am given to long inane ramblings. It’s absolutely true that I waffle on endlessly about things most people don’t give a stuff about. It’s true that I can be long-winded and verbose. (I am being right now!) It’s true that in the scheme of things I am a “nobody”, as was correctly pointed out by one individual this week. This is no secret to you, dear reader, for you can see this blog the same as anybody else. But there are quite a lot of us “nobodies” and collectively…? I dunno. What’s the collective noun for nobodies?
I would make two brief points concerning my detractors which I think are pertinent.
(1) If you think my blog too long, poorly written or inappropriate – nobody is forcing you to visit it or to read it. Feel free to contemplate your (insert collective noun of your choice*) navels elsewhere. I’d use more blunt language, but this is a family blog and I am a gentleman. Of sorts.
(2) It’s funny how your little mutual-appreciation gang spends so much time focusing on me. You’re rattled. I take that as a good sign.
Have I written too many words, yet? I need to find this rulebook so I can avoid breaking your rules in future.
“I would rather be a little nobody, than be an evil somebody.”
- Abraham Lincoln
Where Is The Warming?
The global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly for November 2013 is +0.19 degrees Centigrade. In October it was +0.29 degrees Centigrade. So it’s gone down a bit. Just like it seems to month after month, year after year.
Where is the warming? How long must a pause continue before it becomes a Norm?
The Case For The Defence
PLEASE NOTE: Before publishing this blog I have sought advice from the Chief Monitoring Officer and Deputy at Fenland District Council in order that I could be sure I was not breaking any rules in publishing complaints information at this stage. I have today been assured that it is entirely up to me if I want to publish a complaint against me in full on my blog and that no rules will be broken. Accordingly, as promised, I am doing so.
As you may have heard, dear reader, local UKIP Councillor Alan Lay has decided to bring a complaint against me via the Conduct Committee at Fenland District Council. The reason FDC hear the complaint is because as a Wisbech Town Councillor we agree to work beneath that organisations umbrella for these issues. The WTC Wisbech code of conduct 2012 can be read here, so you can see the code Councillors agree to operate under.
Cllr. Lay’s complaint takes the form of two separate documents that I have been supplied. The first, a lengthy PDF document which features bits and pieces of my blog and Twitter feed with different things circled or highlighted. Cllr. Lay doesn’t say precisely what he is complaining about or under which section of the Code of Conduct he feels he has been wronged in any of the information I have been given, but I have nonetheless responded to each of his highlighted pieces separately.
The second part of the complaint features two pages of Twitter comments, which are again highlighted. This time Cllr. Lay does explain what his problem is. Once again, I have responded to each item separately. I will include here on the blog the pieces he has complained about, what he has said (if anything) and what my response was.
I am laying all this information out and in public for two reasons. The first is that I believe this is a misuse of the Complaints procedure and Cllr. Lay seeks to try and prevent my use of free speech and free expression where no part of the Code Of Conduct has been violated. I believe he simply doesn’t like the things I am saying, but if that were a reason to complain then political folk would never be able to say anything. The second reason is that transparency is an antidote to inherent bias which, sadly, I’ve come to expect as the norm from one section of the local media.
This is from my blog, under the heading “This Is Now”
A statement of a personal position, no councillor or party is named in the sentence that is highlighted and it is clearly referring to my personal view on a public issue. If a reader takes meaning from that sentence which is not implicitly stated then that is their view, not what I said.
Page 2, A highlighted entry from a blog post. (Also an email, but only the date is highlighted.)
Not sure what the problem is here? My email was accurate. My comments were also accurate. The statement referencing Cllr. Lay was phrased as a question and was not a statement or accusation.
Note: This refers to an issue where Cllr Lay was suggesting (in notices, posted in public locations) that I hadn’t offered him any help on an issue. I demonstrated the exact email where I had offered him what help as I was able tol. Even so, I didn’t accuse him of anything and tried to be polite despite his somewhat aggressive manner. Funnily enough – despite writing these notices himself and there being a full page spread including comments from him in the Wisbech Standard in May 2013 about the issue concerned – he continued to to make denials about the issue as recently as last month on ShapeYourPlace. It is not me that is tying myself in knots with contradictory statements, is it?
Page 3, Various highlighted sections of a Blog Post I wrote.
Again, what’s the problem? Nothing rude, no accusations. Comments are clearly opinion, political views and items phrased as questions. The final piece is actually phrased as a compliment, for Goodness Sake. Or do UKIP want to outlaw sarcasm and irony as well?
Page 4, A highlighted section of my blog
Another paragraph of what is clearly opinion. No accusations, all facts are accurate. Alan Lay may view them in a different way, and that’s his prerogative, but he cannot tell me how to view them. There are one or two statements which are clearly opinion. If there is a statement of fact which is untrue then I cannot see it. Cllr. Lay can write a response if he likes, or write his own blog, but he doesn’t get to censor mine just because he finds the style uncomfortable.
Page 5, A section of my blog
All true. Notice that in order to qualify the sentence I have added “It seems” which makes it patently clearly that I am not claiming to make a statement of fact, but a view which I and others share.
Page 6, A section of my bio, on my blog.
Alan might not like me expressing my view about him and his party, but I am entitled to do so. I have not used foul language, I have not told any lies, my comments are clearly expressions of my personal opinion. Notice the phrase “No doubt” and “he might” and “he SEEMS to think” which in each case clarify the issue as supposition and opinion rather than statement of fact. This is entirely the proper way to word this sort of opinion in a public forum. Perhaps Alan thinks my supposition that as a UKIP councillor he might blame things on the European Union is unfair? Well, I am entitled to my view, but a quick glance at some of UKIP’s recruitment literature is enlightening. Wasn’t my opinion a reasonably fair one, then?
Page 7, A Tweet
Twitter is an open forum where people speak to one another in an informal way. My Twitter feed has a clear statement that my comments are personal views only by stating that all tweets are in a personal capacity. Here it is:-
The phrase that has so upset Cllr. Lay is a gentle tease – which should be clear by the SMILEY : ) which immediately follows it. I do not believe that the word “lazy”, spoken humorously, is a dire insult or a terrible breach of the Code Of Conduct. It follows a lengthy debate where I try and explain that Cllr. Lay could have reported an issue himself and moved it forwards instead of just writing a letter to one of the two local newspapers. I give examples of what method he could have used and how the issue could be seen to apply to his County role. He has never made a response to any of the facts and ideas I present – and I take that to mean that he is unable to. Consequently, a complaint was issued to try and silence me. Good luck with that.
It also seems odd that the comment from Richard Humphrey has also been highlighted. Is Cllr. Lay attempting to complain about a member of the public too? Will he complain about everybody who doesn’t think he is God’s gift to local politics? I think that might go beyond the remit of the Conduct Committee. : )
(8 – 13)
The following six pages of PDF have nothing highlighted and nothing circled. So it appears that either Cllr. Lay didn’t have an issue with them (in which case, why send them?) or he just didn’t bother to highlight anything. I am definitely not suggesting he was too lazy to highlight anything. Nope. No chance of that. I wouldn’t dare. : )
My actual response:-
Page 8 through 13, Nothing
There doesn’t seem to be anything circled or highlighted on these pages so I have no idea what Cllr. Lay’s problem with them is. I suspect it’s probably more of the same and I expect my responses will be more of the same. Which boils down to the fact that I haven’t been rude, I haven’t told any lies and all my views are clearly expressed as just that – my personal views. The purpose of the Conduct Committee is not to silence normal free speech and expression and as political blogs go, mine is fairly tame. I always tread very carefully to avoid the pitfalls of such writings and as such I am confident that no law has been broken and that I am well within the acceptable standards of speech that can be reasonably expected of an elected councillor in their public life.
(14) UKIP Declaration
I’m not sure what value I’m supposed to put on an internal UKIP document, particularly one that appears to be unsigned and undated. What has this to do with the complaint? And why isn’t it signed or dated? Really, this series of rambling and empty accusations gets stranger and stranger.
Following the initial complaint there was a follow up with seven further “complaints” all concerning Twitter comments. Here are the scans with the highlighted bits that Cllr. Lay has an issue with. The scan quality I was given as part of the complaint is very poor so I’ve “translated” the text for you below in case you struggle to read it. I struggled to read it too, but since I wrote the tweets I’m better positioned to remember what they said! : )
Again I refer to my right to an opinion and free speech within the law and my clear Twitter statement that all views are my personal views. My response to these is as follows:-
(1) Tweet: “Wisbech gridlocked again. Somebody remind me which level of councillor is supposed to challenge/organise this stuff?”
Cllr Lay complains: Concerns the complete resurfacing of the main road through Wisbech. A decision in which no Councillor is, or can be involved.
I respond: This comment does not breach the code of conduct in any way. It mentions no individual. Nothing to answer.
But even though that is the case, his comment has left me flabbergasted. He is the County Councillor and he believes that he cannot be “involved” in discussions concerning highways through the town? Really? It is absolutely the responsibility of County Councillors to deal with highways issues. I wonder what the Area Joing Committee was for then? Or the myriad highways meetings and scrutiny meetings and full council meetings that County Councillors attend? Sure, some of the major roads are under Highways Agency control, but they don’t operate in a vacuum, do they? Councillors are involved in lobbying, debating and developing policy all the time. And even so, the one in question in this tweet was under County Council control. It beggars belief that he thinks: “no Councillor is, or can be involved.” I tell you something, there’s a darn sight more chance of a County Councillor having input into Highways issues than there is into Immigration issues, yet the UKIP election literature told us that their councillors were “fighting for an end to Open Door Immigration.” Didn’t it?
(2) Tweet: “Still no sign of the Standards Board complaint. All mouth and no trousers? Perhaps it was a load of bull? Or just slow/lazy?”
Cllr Lay complains: I leave you to read and mull over.
I respond: This comment does not breach the code of conduct in any way. It mentions no individual. Nothing to answer. But I’d also add that Cllr. Lay seems to be struggling to understand the nature of a “complaint.” You don’t get to ask the officer to “read and mull over.” It’s not the officer making a complaint. You need to state what your issue is. It’s not a guessing game.
(3) Tweet: More UKIP people switching to Conservatives in Fenland. The mixture of reasons “why” is interesting. Welcome all!
Cllr Lay complains: He implies that more UKIP people are switching to the Conservatives in Fenland, He must have reliable evidence to state this, otherwise it is unsubstantiated and deemed “Hearsay” and could be heading towards the libel status.
I respond: No individual named. Nothing derogatory stated. Nothing to answer. Not sure why he thinks that I need “reliable evidence” to state a personal view on Twitter, nor why he thinks I need to provide it to him in any case. But he should probably go take some legal advice. If Cllr. Lay thinks there is “libel” in this statement then he should phone his lawyer. (There isn’t.)
- 1.LAWa published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation.“he was found guilty of a libel on a Liverpool inspector of taxes”
synonyms: defamation, defamation of character, character assassination, calumny,misrepresentation, scandalmongering;
(4) Tweet: Most of the ones around our area used to be Lib Dems. Not that I think they believe in much of anything really.
Cllr Lay complains: For no reason he ridicules the Lib/Deems.
I respond: I don’t know why a comment about the Lib Deems (sic) would form part of a complaint made by a UKIP councillor. Nor do I think it’s likely that ridiculing the Lib Dems breaks the Code Of Conduct, otherwise virtually every Conservative on Earth would be in leg irons. However, I was actually referring to the ex-Libs who have switched to UKIP, which is fairly clear if you view the whole thread. Making a complaint without reading the whole thread could be considered a little lazy, but again I am definitely not suggesting that. Nope. My view is clearly personal opinion of the type stated by councillors of every party, all the time. Particularly since the last two words: “I think” make clear it is a personal view. In any case, no individual named, no foul language, no breach of the code of conduct, nothing to answer.
Now if you want to see somebody who really ridicules the Lib Dems then check out the master.
(5) Tweet: “I’d leave the EU tomorrow. I just think UKIP are bad news, a mixture of protectionist lefty economics and soft racism IMHO.”
Cllr Lay complains: Again “sour Grapes” towards UKIP and without any foundation and against what UKIP stand for. He call us racist, and implies that we are “Lefty Economists”
I respond: I am entitled to a personal opinion about UKIP. I am entitled to “sour grapes” if I want them too, though actually my comments are about the perceived failings of an elected councillor, not any sort of grapes. UKIP are seldom shy in sharing their opinions about other parties. My comment finishes with IMHO which stands for “In My Humble Opinion.” No individual is named, no foul language is used, personal views are expressed. No breach of the code of conduct and no case to answer.
Oddly, when Cllr. Lay went on his anti-immigrant rant earlier in the year Cllr Martin Curtis (Conservative) said: “As a candidate he should not be allowed to hide racism behind anonymity” and Cllr Dave Patrick (Liberal Democrat, then) said he had been: “abhorrent and antagonistic” and UKIP’s Ken Perrin said he had overstepped the mark and they would have to “have a quiet word with him.” It’s all here. All these people (even the UKIP one) are entitled to their personal opinion in the same way I am.
(6) Tweet: “I’ve written several about UKIP. The guinea pigs one or the red-faced one?”
Cllr Lay complains: From this “tweet” I have to question his sanity.
I respond: I often question my own sanity : ) But seriously, what has him calling me names got to do with a complaint against me? Picking a random piece from a long conversation will often make the piece look strange, without the surrounding context. What has that to do with anything?
(7) Tweet: “I’m told that I am “Fenland UKIP Enemy No.1″ It’s like being hunted by very angry guinea pigs. They should #jointhequeue : ) ”
Cllr Lay Complains: Again attacking UKIP and self appointing as to his status within the fenland political horizon.
I respond: Again, what is the problem? The tweet is clearly a bit of fun, has smileys to demonstrate this, there are no lies, it mentions no individuals nor does it use offensive language. No code of conduct breach. Unless a new “Thou Shalt Not Say Anything Nasty, Funny or Sarcastic about UKIP” has been added to the Code Of Conduct recently? As for “self-appointing as to my status within the Fenland political horizon” – I don’t think there’s any rule against that either. But if there is, then issuing a gigantic complaint full of six months worth of “internet stalking” and weird comments probably isn’t the best way to prove I’m not considered Fenland UKIP Enemy No.1. Just saying.
This is the actual final letters of complaint that Cllr. Lay sent:-
Dear (Officer’s Name)
As each and every day pass, I find more unjust and inane ramblings coming from Mr. Steve Tierney’s “tweets” The enclosed were brought to my attention from
two different political Councillors and an eminent local person.
I have to deduce from his irrational and illogical writing that he brings the role of a Councillor into disrepute,
and that in so doing he proves himself incapable and unfit to continue in the role of a Councillor.
I comment on the items highlighted on the enclosed “tweets” of Mr. Tierney.
You asked me to reconsider my position with regards to the writings of Mr. Steve Tierney.
I have done so, and also taken advice, my decision is that Mr. Steve Tierney should be asked in front of the investigating conduct committee to explain why he continues to make derogatory, insulting and nasty statements on his “Tweet” sites in regard to myself.
He has issued wrongful accusations about me and his conduct lowers the integrity and standards of a Councillor.
He calls me “Lazy Lay” in those two words he is insulting and infers wrongly that I do very little, that statement I regard as damaging to my reputation.
That he should be examined as to his status of attempting to stand for any form of council position in the future.
The two other Councillors that have contacted me* are frustrated and annoyed at his “Tweets” with his disparaging and offensive remarks, and that he should be curtailed from continuing .
That if he is allowed to proceed in this vein then a legal challenge could be issued.
He also thinks that I have a comrade as the editor of the Wisbech Standard. That is very far from the truth, an editor that seems to take sides is not doing a fair job.
Lastly, that Steve Tierney is made to issue an apology to me.
CCC Alan Lay.
* Hey – I wonder who the “two other councillors”, unnamed, might possibly be? Curiuser and curiouser. : )
And, dear reader, if you have lasted this long through this (in my opinion) rather ridiculous litany of complaints then here is the conclusion of my response:-
I have looked through the code of conduct that Wisbech Town Councillors are expected to follow. I cannot see what part of this Cllr. Lay is claiming I have breached. The only thing which seems applicable is the short section which claims that Members should treat others with respect. I do not believe the intention of that section is to stifle criticism, comment, free speech, debate or political banter. Were that the case then a great many things that all local and indeed national politicians say to one another every day would be cause for complaint.
In local politics councillors are faced with the cut-and-thrust of debate between each other and political parties. In my view this debate is both healthy and valuable. I strongly believe that it is the duty of local activists and councillors to speak out and make their views known. I strive to make sure everything I write is factual, or is clearly a matter of personal opinion.
It seems odd to me that a party like UKIP, which makes such claim as to how it values free speech and frank opinion, would make such a series of vexatious and in most cases blatantly silly complaints. I suspect this is an attempt to silence criticism from an opposition councillor and I believe his complaint in its entirety is an abuse of the Conduct procedure.
I do not believe I have breached the Code Of Conduct in any way and I stand by my responses as presented in this letter. I will not withdraw my comments, I will not apologise for my comments and I invite Cllr. Lay to take such legal action as he thinks necessary if he feels I have acted illegally. I would also advise that he grow some thicker skin because my blog and twitter feed are tame in comparison to some.
Let me make quite clear, dear reader, that the only way I will stop expressing my personal view on issues that I care deeply about will be when I am in my grave. Cllr. Lay and his “two mystery councillors” can take a hike if they think they will be able to stop me pointing out what I perceive as failings and wrongdoings and if they think I have broken the law then the Police, or a solicitor, would be in order. They can gang up with each other, and a certain local newspaper, and attack me all they like. I will continue to do what I believe is right come Hell or high water. I have broken no rules and I will continue doing what I do. To paraphrase Charlton Heston: “They can take my keyboard when they prise it from my cold dead fingers.” : )
Changes To Standards Board System
When the previous Standards Board System was axed, this is what was said about why it was happening:-
Serious misconduct for personal gain will be a criminal act, while petty local vendettas will no longer get a hearing as the unpopular standards board regime is axed, Communities Minister Andrew Stunell announced today (20 September 2010).
Mr Stunell said the top-down regime set up by central government to monitor council conduct had become a vehicle for malicious and frivolous complaints. For example, 1 authority had to fork out £160,000 after receiving over 170 complaints from the same person. Each 1 had to be examined, but only 3 were considered worth investigating and after investigation all were dismissed.
Local Standards Committees investigated 6,000 complaints in the first 2 years – of which over half were judged not worthy of any further action. The government is axing the entire Standards regime including the central board, which costs over £6 million a year; with investigations of complaints costing thousands of pounds each.
Genuine corruption in local government needs to be rooted out and the new government is legislating to make serious misconduct a criminal offence dealt with by the courts not committees. Councillors will have to register certain personal interests in a publicly available register.
Ministers believe these changes will give voters the confidence that councillors who misuse their office will be effectively dealt with. While councillors themselves will have the confidence to get on with their job knowing they won’t be plagued by petty allegations.
Public will decide councillors’ fates
Under new plans the public will also have greater confidence to challenge poor local services. The government intends to give the Local Government Ombudsman, the established body for investigating public complaints over the way they have been treated by their council, real teeth. For the first time local authorities will be legally compelled to implement the Ombudsman’s findings.
Andrew Stunell said:
The Standards Board regime ended up fuelling petty complaints and malicious vendettas. Nearly every council had investigations hanging over them - most of which would be dismissed but not before reputations were damaged and taxpayer money was wasted. Frivolous allegations undermined local democracy and discouraged people from running for public office.
That’s why we are axing the unpopular and unelected standards board regime. Instead we will legislate to ensure that if a councillor is corrupt and abuses their office for personal gain they will be dealt with in the criminal courts. If a councillor behaves ineffectively or irresponsibly then it’s a matter for the electorate not an unelected quango.
This government is freeing councillors from central prescription and top down bureaucracy so they can get on with their job. In the future councillors must expect to be judged at the ballot box by an electorate with real access to their accounts and personal interests in a new transparent era.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles added:
The standards board regime became the problem, not the solution. Unsubstantiated and petty allegations, often a storm in a teacup, damaged the reputation and standing of local government, as well as wasting taxpayers’ money.
Sadly, I’m not sure much has changed with the new system. The issues the changes were meant to prevent have continued.
There’s no need for me to write much about the triumphant Wisbech Christmas Lights Switch On event, since the news about it is everywhere. And for the first time ever there don’t appear to be any naysayers!
It was a stonking great event, full of excitement and fun. Fifteen hundred or so people turned out to pack the market square from wall to wall. To say it was rammed would be an understatement, but everybody was in a fine festive mood and the crowd seemed to have a brilliant time.
Such a lot of people came and joined in. I saw Dean Reeves and his Wisbech Labour crew (including Cllr. Reg Mee and his band, of course), the We Are Wisbech Folk, virtually every Conservative in the town, various Wisbech Oh Dear! contributors, Newton and Leverington and Tydd St. Giles Parish Councillors, Aigers (the landlord of the Angel) with a huge team of Eastern European volunteers (darn those Eastern Europeans, coming over here and helping us run our festivals!) and dozens of voluntary and charity group members. Not to mention hundreds of Wisbech families and their excited (and well behaved!) children. And let’s not forget all the schools whose pupils performed on the stage and did them (and the town) proud with their talent and enthusiasm.
I have to admit to being quite nervous that my little panto was going to be performed. I know that if it hadn’t worked then I’d never have heard the end of it. So when I heard the kids all joining in, people laughing at the Christmas Cracker jokes and could feel the excitement building it was a great relief. It worked. (Thank you Snow White Panto people, for delivering it so well. And thank you Mr Bear, for being such a great MC.)
The Festivals Committee have delivered another successful event for the town. The committee included Wisbech Town Councillors (and their families), Angie and the Tinfish company team, the Lions and a bunch of other dedicated volunteers. Local businesses including all the supermarkets chipped in to help. Many hours of work and discussion paid off with an event to remember. Particular note should go to Angie (Tinfish), the Mayor Cllr. Samantha Hoy, the Deputy Clerk Susannah Farmer and the Town Council leader Cllr. David Oliver and his daughter. These people led the rest of us humble volunteers and without them this event would not have happened. That said, without the rest of the team and indeed the mighty crowd it wouldn’t have happened either. Let’s call it a team effort and all be proud!
As ever, there were some people who did nothing at all and couldn’t be bothered to turn up to help. People who are happy to run the town and the council down whenever they can, but have no interest in doing any work to make it better. They were the same people they always are and I won’t name them again. Not least because they’ll probably report me to the Standards Committee if I do. Never mind that, as ever, it’s true. They aren’t Conservatives or Labour, I’ll say that much. You Know Who They Are.
They Brought It On!
The much-heralded Conduct Committee complaint has finally arrived. I’ve got a bundle of “evidence” (essentially, bits and pieces of my blog and Twitter feed with big circles around them) supplied by my old UKIP pal who seems to think that he can stop me saying things he doesn’t like or approve of by issuing a Complaint.
Given the lauded and infamous UKIP championship of free speech and expression, I find this batch of issues hypocritical and silly. I don’t personally believe he has a leg to stand on with any of them and I intend to contest his complaint vigorously.
It’s very sad that the local UKIP fellows don’t agree with my personal view or the things I write. But they don’t get to censor me or silence me simply because they don’t agree. I strive to always be factual, and when I am expressing personal opinion this is always clear. I am always extremely careful about what I write because I am experienced enough to know where “the line” is and how to stay clear of it. I’m sure UKIP would prefer to live in a world where their opponents were silenced and they could just spout off anything they like without scrutiny or challenge but this is not that world and no amount of vexatious complaints will make it so.
I think that the fresh air of transparency will be a valuable tonic here, particularly since I anticipate the usual bias from the usual suspects. Once I have checked with Fenland District Council that its within the rules to do so (and presuming they agree) I will publish the entire “complaint” here with all evidence and notation and I will publish my entire response also. Then you, dear reader, can make your mind up who is in the right from a fully-informed position.