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Rose Fair Parade, 2017
What an absolute privilege it was today to be the Mayor of Wisbech and be part of our wonderful Rose Fair Parade.
My Wife, my Son and I all enjoyed the day immensely.
The participants were just amazing, the crowd were awesome, the weather was scorching and it just couldn’t have been better.
The Rose Queen was a lovely young lady, the winners of the parade all deserved their awards. But it was stiff competition this year, since they were all so very good.
Thank you to the Round Table and all the other organisers for another spectacular year.
Wisbech is just the best town in all the world, in my humble opinion.
This One Is Difficult For Me
I have been reading Page 29 of this week’s
Bucknor Wisbech Standard. They make an impassioned plea for help. Here it is.
I am drawn to support this cause. I have always believed in free speech and the freedom of the press. Except that I cannot think of a worse local newspaper to be calling for help than this one. The local newspaper which is, in my personal opinion, intrinsically biased, often deliberately misleading, and no friend of the truth.
“For generations”, the piece claims, “this paper has fulfilled a crucial role by challenging injustice, safe in the knowledge that if we are right then no amount of money, influence or power can stop us telling the truth.” Hah. More like, safe in the knowledge that they can spin for their friends and report in the most unbalanced and unfair way and that their power and influence as the major local newspaper will make it virtually impossible for them to be challenged.
“As a responsible newspaper,” we are told, “this paper was pleased to sign up to the standards of the Independent Regulator IPSO.” What a joke. If the “standards” were actually particularly high it would be impossible for the Wisbech Standard to sign up to it. Truth is, IPSO is a broadly toothless organisation with a very limited set of “standards” which any experienced Editor can easily circumvent simply by cautious phrasing.
“We are not perfect,” says the newspaper. “And on those occasions that we make mistakes we make proper amends and apologise in full.” Sure, they do that once in a while. But only when they’ve really really cocked up. Mostly, I’ve found, they continue to abuse the power of being a near monopoly newspaper and sneer at criticism. It’s interesting that they were forced to retract and apologise for some of their mistakes over the Brenda Lay coverage, and yet despite that have run a new headline this week referring to her being “sacked.” Again. Exactly the sort of misleading guff they were forced to revisit last time. The front page of the very issue in which this heartfelt plea is published has the main headline putting the lie to their claims of accuracy and fairness.
Now here is the bit they don’t tell you.
If the local newspaper tells an outright lie about you, or allows the spread of nasty propaganda which damages your reputation – it is very very very difficult to do anything about it. Libel legislation is incredibly expensive and difficult – and this makes it out of reach of most people of normal means. Your local newspaper knows how tough it is for you to take action against them, and this is why they are so willing to print propaganda and outright lies. They will dress it up in just clever enough wording to make them untouchable by IPSO and then they’ll thumb their nose at you and laugh while you complain. They’ll do more than laugh, in fact – they’ll double down and print something worse and know they are completely untouchable.
The full-page spread encourages readers to support the case to repeal the law. They urge you to consider if you value a “free independent press.” And they are right, I think. Except that we don’t have a free independent press. We have a biased press, guided by the whim of Editors who have carte blanche to say what they like and do what they want and laugh at the consequences. For most of my life I would have supported every word that this newspaper says. But in recent years I have seen the other side of it. I have been the victim of it and I have friends who have been victims also.
There is an imbalance here. Having a local newspaper claiming to “speak truth to power” when the “power” to which they refer is a small local council, and the “truth” to which they refer simply means printing what their mate tells them without fact-checking or giving a balanced view, is laughable. Our local newspapers are able to change the course of elections, by spinning news stories out of kilter with the facts – and there are no viable checks and balances to prevent them doing this.
So I really don’t know what to do. My life-long beliefs press me to agree with the newspapers’ stance. But my experience of the behaviour of the local press tells me that they are out of control and doing more harm than good. I have often felt completely powerless as I watched the latest nonsense unfold in the Wisbech Standard. I have, on several occasions, considered jacking it all in just because what was being said was so unfair and there seemed to be no way to respond. So yes, this one is difficult for me.
Onwards & Upwards
I had to get up early today to drop my Son off for a School Trip. Seems like he had a great time as he came home full of excitement about it all. I had hoped that when I got home I could grab a short nap as I didn’t sleep much last night, but it wasn’t to be. Various issues arose from the ether and time ticked by.
At 11AM I was at Norwich and Peterborough Building Society as the Deputy Mayor. It was their Branch 50th Anniversary and they were using the celebrations to raise money for Marie Curie charity. Cupcake sales, prize draws and guessing games were the order of the day. I had good fun with the staff and customers all in the spirit of raising money for charity.
Then it was off to March for lunch with some colleagues, before whooshing back home to see my wife after a phone call made me aware of some bad news she had received. (I wont relate what that was here.)
Then at 6PM I was out for Citizens’ Patrol, which was a long walk today with three teams covering a huge area of town. I walked up an appetite which a few of us fed by a visit to the newly-opened Dominos Pizza. Not a good diet day, but never mind, I’ve been dieting and training hard and can restart tomorrow.
Somewhere between this stuff I took the time to defend Citizens’ Patrol from the predatory and unwelcome comments of a handful of the Usual Suspects. As usual, some people hate anybody who works for our town and hate anybody who achieves anything in our town. Their world view is about how each new thing can work for them and their ambitions. They are threatened by anything positive and effective because it runs counter to their message of doom, gloom and negativity. But hey ho – they are locked away now in a tiny private forum populated mostly by other similar people who agree with them. They are welcome to their bubble of darkness.
Meanwhile, in the real world – onwards and upwards.
The Devolution Blues
Every dance needs a song.*
This is just a little fun. I am not a great singer at the best of times and this is not the best of times. :)
*The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.
Here To Listen?
Dave Baigent assured everybody he was going to listen to what they had to say in regards to his PCC Candidacy for the Labour Party. He enjoyed mentioning how he was a Cambridge City Councillor.
Taking him at his word, people told him what they wanted. But we aren’t a city and we aren’t called “Cambridge.” So that was that.
Speedwatch – Elm Road
Wisbech Town Council’s very own set of Speedwatch equipment and trained team got its first outing today. Two hours on Elm Road and Churchill Road with the volunteers proved to be both useful and interesting.
It’s important to remember that the job of Speedwatch is not to “catch” speeders but to make people more careful and alert and encourage better driving. In this respect it is very effective as the simple presence of the team in hi-vis jackets slows traffic down to reasonable speeds. You still get the odd person who doesn’t care and those people get caught and recorded.
It was our first time and we were all getting the hang of it, but now we have a team of trained volunteers we expect to be out regularly. The next one is this Friday on South Brink.
My Son wasn’t taking part, by the way. It’s school holidays so he came out with me and just watched from a safe distance. But he was lucky enough to get to try out the Police Speed Camera to see how it works, which he enjoyed very much.
POLICE REPORT, to Wisbech Town Council 28/10/15
The main concern revolves around shoplifting of which there has been an increase in both of the wards where our main retail outlets can be found. PC Stevens, along with PCSO’s Megan Sargent and Andy Bush will look into this further to determine what educational/prevention activities can be undertaken to reduce this crime type.
The overall trend continues to be a reduction in the reports of ASB. We have had some issues within the town park during the summer holidays however these reports do appear to be decreasing. Waterless where we had some significant issues in late 2014 has seen a current reduction of 39% in reported ASB when compared to the same April to August period of 2014.
We currently continue to have a close working relationship with both FDC and Cambs County Council about the play park at the Spinney.
There has been some concern raised about activities in the Admirals Drive area of Waterlees and as a result PCSO Steve Staniforth and partners have completed an environmental audit in the locality today to better understand the issues and possible causes.
We continue to work closely with our partners in supporting the Alcohol Project being led by Aaron Locks. Through our patrol activity we obtain details of all those involved in street drinking activity and the details from these reports helps identify and influence how our partners can support those individuals who have or appear to have long term alcohol abuse problems.
Each of the primary schools have been allocated an identified PCSO who will be visible at the schools morning or afternoon when on duty and will also develop closer working relationships with staff to support safeguarding activities.
In the last week we have been working with FDC with the delivery of some educational work linked to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). This has involved a theatre group production being performed which is based on true events linked to CSE, question & answer sessions and some workshops. Some of you may have had the opportunity to attend one of these sessions. I found the production very thought provoking, hard hitting and emotional. These events were held at Thomas Clarkson, Isle College and the Fenland Learning Base.
I’m going to be changing the focus of my blog a little. I intend to blog about three things; personal views, Ward issues, Fenland District Council Policy. Each type of post with have it’s own header so people who aren’t interested in one of the fields can quickly see what it is and avoid if if they want to.
Personal views: These will be my “soap box” stuff about national issues, or just waffling about something which is nothing to do with politics at all. I don’t intend to do very much of this, though.
Ward Issues: Assisting my role as a Ward Councillor this will be stuff pertaining to Medworth or Wisbech which I encounter in my role as a Town & District Councillor.
FDC Policy: I will be exploring the small print and detail of Fenland District Council policy in order to help people be better informed and to shine a light into some of the darker policy corners, in a constructive way.
I think this means that for the time being the more “chatty” style I have favoured for quite some time now will take a back seat. My blog may be a bit drier than before, but it’s nice to shake things up every once in a while, I reckon.