Sunday, March 15, 2009

Budgie

I see that I have ‘headline’ billing on Cllr Nottingham’s Blog this afternoon. Not content with having discovered a new form of the “purest political green” in the absence of his colleague’s weblog, the good Councillor for Northwood appears to have thrown the public standards rule-book out of the window and with it, any advice he might have been given on our own strict laws governing defamation of character.

It’s all rather “Ooh ahh Daily Star” and any moment, I expect to read that it was Cllr Ezekiel and not Gordon Brown, who was principally responsible for the sudden, rapid collapse of the British economy.

Apparently as one who is reportedly running a single-handed campaign for the survival of “shirts and ties” in local government “to improve standards”, I’m accused of being “Silent on drunken abusive behaviour.”

Let’s be clear about one thing, Cllr Ezekiel has made an apology in the matter of the most recent standards board report and that’s good enough for me. Publishing vitriolic criticism of any person on my weblog, when we have processes in place to deal with standards complaints properly, is not a productive use of my time. Cllr Nottingham also refers to an earlier matter involving Cllr Clark. However, exploring such issues and allegations on councillors’ weblogs, is not, I believe, the proper place.

One can’t simply make unsupported allegations on a weblog when a public office is involved. For example, Cllr Nottingham, who has now accused the leader of the council of being a “coward”, writes:

“Cllr. Watkins went in person in the Leader’s office the following day and told him of his intentions, whereupon Cllr. Ezekiel called Cllr. Watkins ‘a gutless bastard.’

There being no witness to this abusive behaviour, Cllr. Watkins immediately left Cllr. Ezekiel's office.

Only an ignorant, rude fool would call Cllr. Watkins gutless.”


This is reported speech; it is not evidenced in that there are no witnesses to the conversation. Cllr Ezekiel might have also strangled Cllr Watkins’ budgie, ‘Lenin’ at the same meeting but you can’t be sure of the truth of that statement or the defamatory allegation of “drunken abusive behaviour.”

I do rather wonder if the Labour group’s leader, Cllr Nicholson is aware of what is being written in the group’s name, as Cllr Nottingham, beneath the photo of him and Gordon Brown of the strangely bleached smile, has the byline:” I am a Labour councillor for Northwood Ward, Ramsgate, Thanet District Council.”

If you are ECR and anonymous, you can write what you like but if you happen to be a councillor, Conservative, Labour or even the temporarily absent ‘Green' Party, there are strict rules and standards that have to be applied. What I think personally about Cllr Clark, or Cllr Ezekiel, Cllr Watkins or even Lenin the Budgie is irrelevant and wouldn’t make one iota of difference anyway. However, I support, irrespective of party, the notion of proper standards in public life and blazing away with a constant stream of unsupported and defamatory allegations runs against the very concept of a standard of public behaviour.

Should Winston Churchill have happened to have read Cllr Nottingham’s weblog this weekend; it may have led him to make that famous remark: “Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.”

Unfortunately Winston been absent from public life for a rather long time now!

3 comments:

Ken Gregory said...

Well said Simon, Though I think I would have been a bit more 'Prescott'ish about it

Anonymous said...

Yet again you are making assertions of defamation when you are not qualified. Only a court of law is qualified to say whether something is defamatory or not. I presume you meant defamatory 'in my opinion'? Otherwise your statement could in itself be regarded as defamatory. In my opinion that is!

DrMoores said...

Well it would be my opinion wouldn't it? It's my weblog!

Funnily enough, I do have opinions from time to time and quite frequently, others hold quite the opposite and in this example, completely miss the point, on whether one councillor should use his weblog - title included - to make allegations about another. I think it's wrong. We already have one councillor's weblog taking an unscheduled break for what is reportedly a similar breach of standards.

And yes, only a court of law can finally decide on what is defamatory or not when considering or awarding damages. I've had some experience of this and so perhaps my 'opinion' is the result of some rather expensive legal advice in the past.