Monday, 1 June 2009

Please preserve us from another standards board.....................

Of all the ill considered, micro managing nonsenses that have oozed out of New Labour the Standards Board is amongst the most discredited. It attracts silly complaints. It focuses on trivia. Is often plain daft. I got cleared of a complaint. The board decided what I was accused of was not a breach. Okay. So why go on to declare that I was guilty of what I was accused of? Bizarre. Others have had far worse experiences.
It is clear that instead of all this bureaucracy what we need is transparency. MP's expenses have been cleaned up because of the Freedom of Information Act. Reform the electoral system so that there are no safe seats. The ballot box is the answer. Consultation, or the judgement of the great and the good are part of the same problem. Give the electorate the information and trust the people at the ballot box. Johnathon Calder makes a similar point across at Liberal England
One flaw in this is the quality of much local media. There is a major campaign on at present with falling circulation and advertising revenue to preserve local media. This campaign keeps asserting that local media is essential to democracy. In theory I agree. But my experience makes me pause. In Congleton Mrs Winterton-sacked by Michael Howard for telling racist jokes- was treated with kid gloves by some of the press. Her racist story did not come as a surprise. I remember equally odious husband trying to tell me a very similar 'joke' at a civic dinner. There was no proper scrutiny of her views or record. At elections she became almost invisible refusing the Churches invitations to meeting with the candidates. Instead she was treated like some grande dame and it would have been rude to challenge her. Her extreme right wing views were not examined but she could be assured of lots of a-political photos. Mrs Winterton buys a new car. Mrs Winterton smiles.
During the great march that took place to free Nelson Mandela her views on the apartheid regime scarcely got an airing. Her visits to South Africa were written up with little comment.
Her views on expences(and actions) -which have at last forced her to stand down-were well known. She was open about them in political circles. In the 90's some of the local media was part of the 'gentleman's club' and continued membership of it was more important to them than their role of scrutiny. It is no accident that the age of the internet has forced changes. Rules approved by the club are no substitute