Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Protocol Harem

Urgh. The old bonce is playing up, what with tossing on the high seas and all that fine food and drink last night. There's not been a moment when my head hasn't been in the head this morning.

Still, where was I? Oh yes. Catching up with correspondence. Regular contributor Walter tells me he's spotted some rare birds in Pegwell Bay. No, haha, no, er, nothing to do with top Thanet nudie Peter Checksfield. No, these were Alpine Swifts. For confirmation of that, take a gander at the Rare Bird Alert website. And here's a picture of one of the little fellers I found on the interwhatsit:

Speaking of things internetty, this email comes from Ron Councillor (not his/her real name I'm guessing):

Richard,

I am most concerned that Thanet Council has seen fit to introduce a 'Blogging Protocol'. This is nothing less than an attempt by the corrupt and incompetent Tory Administration to stifle freedom of speech and political criticism of their woeful inadequacies. I note that Councillor Moores specifically denied
on your blog a few weeks ago that any such protocol was being contemplated, at a time when this protocol would in fact have been in the process of being drafted no doubt with his full knowledge. That illustrates the extent to which the Conservatives will go to dissimulate and mislead the media.

As far as I am aware Thanet Council is the only administration in the UK that has seen fit to introduce such censorship. Their Chinese friends, for whom Margate Old Town was blocked off recently causing distress to market traders who were not notified in advance of this decision, must approve wholeheartedly.

I have consulted with other members who also find this measure wholly unacceptable. If the council goes ahead with it, we will have no alternative but to disseminate our views through 'anonymous' blogs such as yours. To that end I have been charged with offering you a small consideration for the unrestricted use of your blog for such purposes should the need arise.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Ron Councillor


Hmmm. Interesting. And a way of making a bit of dosh to stash away in Cyril's Jersey Cash Cow Fund to boot! I'm tempted!

Click here to read Thanet Council's Daft Blogging Protocol

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of rare birds, I was on the clifftop above Botany Nudie beach yesterday for a spot of twitching (honest) and I was amazed at how much erosion has appeared on the cliffs above the willies hangout (so to speak) It seems to have got markedly worse this summer than in previous summers. The ogglers will have to be careful the whole lot doesn't give way under them or they might get a rather closer look than they intended.

Peter Checksfield said...

Did you see many birds there yesterday?

DrM. said...

I recognise the hand of the "Usual suspect" at work but this time AKA Cllr Ron.

He writes: " I note that Councillor Moores specifically denied on your blog a few weeks ago that any such protocol was being contemplated."

This statement is totally untrue as a quick trawl back through your weblog and mine will show.

I said many times and for the record that a protocol, if you wish to call it that, was an officer-driven subject of discussion only and did not exist in any tangible form. In fact, until yesterday I hadn't seen anything in writing!

Recent events, as I have explained on ThanetLife, have added some impetus to the same discussion and created a useful reference document to offer guidelines to blogging councillors, myself included.

The facts however are of no interest to 'Ron' and somewhere else I'm sure to read that I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll at Dallas as he hasn't tried that line yet!

Anonymous said...

Is it defamation to publicly accuse someone of defamatory remarks?

Eastcliff Richard said...

Dr M! Er, I have had a 'quick trawl' through my weblog, and you did comment on this post on 22 July thus:

I repeat that there is no attempt on the part of the council to censor blogs.

There's no protocol either! It's a discussion only.

This is a rumour, a figment of the imagination. It doesn't exist. All that has happened has been a series of short conversations surrounding the concern that councillors as public figures, should sensibly set themselves a higher standard of courtesy, debate and self expression on their weblogs


That seems pretty much like a denial to me! However, I am willing to be persuaded that there is another interpretation of your statement.

Cllr Ron - anything to add?

DrM. said...

Sure.. I stand by the statement!

At the time of writing there was and there is still no attempt on the part of the council to censor blogs.

At the time of writing there was no protocol either, it was, as I said, a matter for discussion and since that time has materialised as the document now published on the council website which serves as guidance for blogging councillors, as they are bound by a code of conduct in public life.

At the time, such a protocol and in particular, as implied here and elsewhere, the subject of censorship was a rumour, a figment of the imagination. It didn't exist. All that existed at the time was a series of short conversations surrounding the concern that councillors as public figures, should sensibly set themselves a higher standard of courtesy, debate and self expression on their weblogs.

I hope that makes it clear. It didn't exist in material form at the time, but recent events have made such guidance necessary in the hope that councillors will clearly understand their obligations when "Blogging" as councillors.. !

Anonymous said...

Paranoia by tory led administration to deflect the fuss away from the resignation of Panama man i call it! The resignation of Panama man only came about because of blog coverage, keep up the good work and dont reveal yourself otherwise you will be subjected to the same threats as others - beware ECR!
Cllr Moores appears to be no more than Sandy's man with a mission to try and shut you down and at the very least discredit you?

Anonymous said...

We in the harbour have just been told that Evans the harbour has just been suspended ?

DrM. said...

"Paranoia by tory led administration to deflect the fuss away from the resignation of Panama man i call it!"

Don't be silly!!

It's only a guidance document for councillors in regard to their obligations under the code of conduct they sign-up to when it comes to blogging under their names. Nothing more sinister than that. If you care to read it then you will see it makes perfect sense!

Richard Card said...

An officer led initiative ?

Name them Simon.

DrM. said...

Richard, it's not relevant. The Chief Executive has already had a letter published a letter on the same subject on Tony Flaig's weblog so I suggest you go there and read it.

If you expect me to take the time to answer the occasional comment and dismiss the many absurd conspiracy theories you are so fond of, spare me the interrogation!

Anonymous said...

Re: 3.54pm - send him an email and draw your own conclusions from the out-of-office reply.

Anonymous said...

In these tough economic times, with cuts expected to local councils funds, why of all the councils in the land did Thanet find it necessary to spend council officers time and loads of money on producing such an insulting report. Insulting to councilors that is. A complete waste of tax payers money. Councilors sign up to a code of practice when they take office and a separated code for blogging can just be binned by all of them.

So Thanet council stop wasting your time, councilors time and us tax payers money on such a waste.

It looks like nothing but a witch hunt aimed at specific persons.

Why dont they keep the public informed on real issues like progress or lack of it with the Euroferries service that they recently crowed about.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I saw Little Egret, Turnstone,Ringed plover,Sanderling, Grey plover and a couple of Knot. It's a very good place. There were also a couple of twits (not nudists)gawping. I will refrain from the obvious tit joke.

Ron Councillor said...

Just to put the record straight I am not 'the usual suspect' Dr Moores, but I am serious in my threat to resort to anonymous blogging if this ludicrous code of blogging censorship is put into practice.

It is quite insulting to one's intelligence to be handed a Janet and John guide to defamation drawn up by a Thanet Council bureaucrat who has in all likelihood just copied it from Wikipedia. In real life a libel suit is much more complex, and in the first place depends on the willingness of the party alleging defamation to risk a substantial amount of money to fight the case. I have not personally seen anything in any Thanet blogs over the past few years that would even remotely tempt me to risk my house on such a foolish venture.

The nature of politics dictates that one must develop a thick skin and take the rough with the smooth. Surely you knew that when you put yourself up for election? The public have very little time for politicians who keep running to the law courts screaming 'libel', they expect their politicians to be able to take it.

This 'protocol' is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt by a very small number of Thanet Tories, egged on by council officers who see it as a way of stifling criticism of their incompetence, to censor rightful and proper debate of district matters that affect the entire electorate.

Westgate Old Lady said...

Ooo, Dr Moores, you're beginning to sound like an important politician with all the proper language. I'm getting quite excited at the prospect of watching you slide up the slippery pole!

DrM. said...

I suggest then Ron Councillor that you read the document and digest it.

Having had the past benefit of court actions on both sides of the Atlantic, I would say that the expert advice that it offers is good and may yet form the foundation of a template that other councils can follow.

Where you draw the conclusion that some kind of censorship is involved I don't know. The advice attempts to balance a councillor's responsibilities under the code of conduct with the law of the land. The the clear objective is to provide a recommended path that neither strays across conduct or the law.

Criticism and scrutiny are both functions of the local democratic process that are welcomed and to be encouraged. Bad language, unsubstantiated allegations and defamatory and unmoderated comments are another matter altogether and sadly, some councillors may need reminding that they are bound by a code of conduct and may be personally exposed.

As for remaining anonymous. I predict that in a relatively short period of time online anonymity will be a polite myth. Governments don't like it and now Google is facing sizeable damages as a consequence of its stance on Blogger. Given the position of the Chinese and other Governments too, I suspect that soon, a simple court order will be sufficient for even Google to reveal an account name and ISPs will now deliver the same information when served with papers. So it's quite irrelevant whether you comment anonymously or not as the mechanism now exists to reveal the name behind the comment should that comment or others be actionable under the law.

Anon. said...

@DrM. (sic). Unless you use a internet cafe? Isn't anonymous comment prohibition an unrealistic aim?

Hugin said...

I took Dr M's advice to Ron and read the draft protocol.

This extract from it says it all '..a member who could not be sued in defamation for a defamatory remark about another member because the remark is true and he can prove it to be true, could still be found to have breached the Members Code of Conduct by failing to treat the other member with respect and/or bringing his office or the Council into disrepute..'

No councillor should accept any restriction on speaking the truth.

Anonymous said...

This debate is all too symptomatic of the political class I've had the misfortune to observe since moving down here a few years ago.

For too long, Thanet has had an island-mentality both socially and politically. A few fixers (political and commercial) have been pulling the strings, free of any intelligent scrutiny for too long.

The deference that these individuals expected as part of the package of power is simply no longer there, largely thanks to blogs like this. Bad decisions, indescretions and unacceptable behavior are now very difficult to hide from the electorate.

Slowly, the balance of power, in terms of the ability to control news-flow, is shifting away from the councillors and officers.

Guess what, they don't like it.

Tough. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle and the cork nowhere to be found. If someone feels that they've been libelled, then let them sue. Equally, the poster should be able to back up their claims both online, and if necessary, in court.

I suspect, that those with a thin skin would be horrified if they found out who some of the anonymous posts are made by. In a previous life, I was left speechless by comments made by a colleague (he owned up)under the cloak of anonymity.

Anonymity can save a lot of blushes on both sides!

There's been a lot of commentary in the Broadies recently about the growing phenomenon of 'Snarking'.
It can be tiring, but our politicians, all of us, have to be big enough to put up with it.

The best blogs (like this one) have the atmosphere of an intelligent local pub, near closing time, where 'friends' old and new feel free to wind-up, abuse, snog, cajole and generally get up the noses of all around, safe in the knowledge, that if boundaries are sometimes crossed, it's rarely brutal and there's always tomorrow night and the chance to kiss, make up and start all over again.

Anonymous said...

You dont need to paid at a internet cafe to remain anonymous. Yes the ISP can be traced but who is at then end of all those free Wi-Fi point that litter Thanet. There are many offered by hotels, bars, cafes etc. When recently staying in a Harbour St Hotel there were four unsecured private networks available(but illegal to use without permission). What about TDC/KCC's own free internet in the Gateway and in Libraries etc.

I dont think anybody is going to spend thousands trying to trace a blogger because he/she has called a Thanet councilor a silly billy. This draft doc is a bit like a sledge hammer to crack one or two nuts.

TDC and local councilors who set the local agenda have to accept a bit of critism from the general puplic, thats politics, there always has been mud slinging and if you are not squeaky clean or dont like it get out.

Anonymous said...

Has my memory failed me or did I not read in the Gazette that Dr. Moores was involved in drafting this alleged protocol or was this yet another example of a reporter misquoting?

Now, how would a reporter get confused over 'I'm assisting the Chief Executive in drawing up this protocol' with 'I'm in no way involved. It's all being done by the Chief Exec.' or something similar. perhaps Thom Morris should ensure he has a dictaphone next time.

How exciting that Dr. Moores has 'been involved with court actions on both sides of the Atlantic.' Is there end to this man's achievements? Can we know more?

Anonymous said...

Gives us all some idea of life under Prime Minister Moores.

Anonymous said...

Heil, noo sorry, Hail the Chief.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eastcliff Richard said...

A thoroughly amusing and entertaining comment, 12:19, but not one which I can risk leaving up given the current rather strained and fragile state of some of my fellow Thanet bloggers!

WCGB said...

No problem. Funny though. LucyMail would have loved the ideas.