Thursday, 30 August 2012

Its not in the public interest - but the national interest

I wondered who would be the first of the local political bloggers to show outrage at the Sun for publishing photos of Prince Harry naked playing strip billiards and the award goes to Lib Dem Neil Monnery.

Neil has stated his reasons why it was wrong for the Sun to publish the photos and I profoundly disagree, but not for the reasons that Neil has stated. I do not really care if Prince Harry had a harem of women in his hotel as part of his Vegas bender or really particularly want to see pictures of Prince Harry's buttocks, but the real issue is about the cornerstone of a free press within our our democracy.

I can almost guarantee that pre Leverson, most, if not all, of the national newspapers would have published the photos alongside the story. Whilst in the short term the remainder of the press will have their cheap shots the Sun but in the long term I believe they have done them a favour.

The absurdity of the whole situation is that the Prince Harry photos could be viewed on line at the click of a button and yet the British press were trying to be gagged - even when all the major international newspapers were publishing them. Whether or not the decision to publish them is in the public interest will ultimately be down to the the Sun's readership but to protect the principle of a free press is certainly in the national interest.

What the Sun has now proved is what most people thought - that the press now play second fiddle to the internet. This is now the public beginning of the end for the dead tree press.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Let the Games Begin

On Wednesday, the Opening Ceremony will mark the start of the world’s second largest sporting event in London the Paralympic Games. With games organisers estimating that only 100,000 tickets remain, the Paralympics is on course for its first sell out games.

I was interested to read comments made by Sir Philip Craven, President of International Paralympic Committee, in the Observer last Sunday, who suggested that the word disabled should be dropped from Paralympic coverage.

Sir Philip is right of course but it is hard to ignore the remarkable stories of some of the athletes as to how they became Paralympians and is understandable why most of the media are focusing on the human aspect. Just this morning for example, some of the press are devoting double page spreads on some of the personal stories of members of Team GB.

Once the games start there will be many athletes competing like Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson, Britain’s first disabled sports superstar, who in her own words during a radio broadcast this morning, said that grew up a normal middle class home with a sports background and didn’t have a remarkable story to tell.

For the 11 days of competition Britain and London will be back to its welcoming best. Much has been spoken regarding legacy of the Olympic Games but if there is one legacy which I hope remains from these Paralympics will be an end to the shocking rise last year of recorded disability hate crime in this country.

A Bright Future For West Road

Yesterday, I was delighted to attend with the Mayor of Southend and fellow West Shoebury ward councillor Derek Jarvis the opening of the West Road Community Event and the formal launch of the West Road Community & Traders Association.

I have highlight previously on this blog that the key to breathing life in the West Road Shopping Area  lied with the traders themselves and by coming together, produced a fantastic day which provided fun for all the family. So successful was the event, that a local resident in West commented to me that this was the busiest day that they had seen in West Road or many, many years. 

There is a long way to go but this certainly is a very positive step in the right direction and I was more than delighted to be able to assist the group in getting all the necessary permissions to enable the event to take place.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Oh dear, never mind

Whilst I'm sure most have been enjoying the summer sun it would appear that Cllr Chalk may have taken on board one too many rays.

In her latest post Cllr Chalk seems to be crying poor me after I offered readers of this blog the chance to view one of her emails sent to me. What Cllr Chalk will not mention is that the reason I gave this offer, was to expose her sheer hypocrisy on the issue of CCTV Vehicles.

I have mentioned several times on this blog that one trait that I detest in public life is hypocrisy. It is my belief that if an elected councillor is prepared to say one thing to residents and one thing in private then it is in the public interest to see what type of figure that they have elected. For that I make no apology.

As for bombarding the public with information, I believe in open and transparent government and not the secret state that Cllr Chalk desires.

For those that may have missed it, I have attached a copy of the article which was published in the Echo recently on Cllr Chalk's little stunt.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The law of Unintended Consequences

Yesterday, whilst doing some research on a particular issue and reading through the many press clippings and comment on the subject, it was not at all uncommon for people to point out something they perceived that was “wrong” and ask: “Why has this happened?” Each individual case usually has its own story.

I have spoken many times about how common it is for people to think their view is the “majority” view, when actually the majority view turns out to be highly polarised. I’ve also spoken on occasions at length about how something which seems like an “easy fix” which only needs “common sense” to resolve is usually much more complicated, though to be fair, we politicians have often brought this complexity upon ourselves. I have also previously talked about the propensity to demand action without considering (or even caring) how that action is paid for or how we avoid dealing with previous mistakes by patching over the problems with new legislative mistakes.

None of these things are the problem. The problem is the often cry: “Something must be done” and its cause is the application of a solution which deals only with the visible problem itself and does not properly consider the potential invisible costs and negative consequences of that “solution.”

Yet by following this path there is a danger that policy after policy, proposal after proposal, could be carried along on a populist wave, fueled by one type of outrage or another, on both left and right and everywhere in between. When dealing with an issue that is brought to my attention, there are three main considerations that I try to give.

The first is to have a sensible, logical economical look at proposals where it is feasible to do so. I am not saying that economics should always decide as not every issue or decision can be resolved by a straight cost/benefit analysis.

The second is to allow some time for honest reflection when a problem arises, to ask : “has this been caused by something we did in the past?” If so, maybe reversing or amending that past decision would be better than another layer of “fixes” leading to another batch of unintended consequences?

The third is not to respond to every pressure group, every angry opposition member and every furious media campaign with immediate knee-jerk action. They may be right and action may be needed, but if it’s the wrong action that will not help anybody, it may lead to more of those unintended consequences which will be the cause of tomorrow’s cries of: “Something must be done!”

I am not making a case for local government to “do nothing” as inertia creates its own problems but I am a strong believer in that a little less legislating and rule-making and a little more providing the services upon which we all rely is a better long term options.

West Shoebury Summer In Touch

The latest Summer newsletter has been delivered to homes throughout West Shoebury. To view a larger image of the newsletter, please click on the images below.

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Friday, 10 August 2012

Never let a good story get in the way of facts

Whilst Team GB are close to winning enough gold to replace what Gordon Brown sold, the efforts of Team GB has pretty much dominated the local and national media.

As we marvel in the achievements of our nations Olympians there was a little nugget of a story featured in yesterday's Echo regarding work that is about to commence to stabilise the Cliffs on Southend seafront. Pictured in the story is Independent Party Cllr Brian Ayling along with his SKIPP camping buddies.

It was interesting to read that Cllr Ayling was thanking divine intervention for Southend Council about to commence with these works, especially when less than a month ago Cllr Ayling and SKIPP tried to prevent these works happening.

As part of the planning permission for new museum, phase 1 of the permission was to stabilise the cliff slip area.  What residents may not be aware of is that Cllr Ayling and Mark Sharp of the SKIPP committee attended the recent Development & Control Committee which considered this application and spoke against the planning application which would have prevented the stabilisation of the Cliffs of which they are now so supportive.

Fortunately, the efforts of Cllr Ayling and SKIPP at Development & Control Committee were resoundly defeated and work to stabilise the Cliffs will begin next month.