Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sunday ramble, Royal Sands development on the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate, blogging culpability and so on.

Now the councillors have decided to terminate The Royal Sands Pleasurama development agreement I guess some people will be wondering where that leaves us? Will we be seeing the site put to some use? And when?

I think the key to all of the answers is that the council didn’t plan for the eventuality of the development not happening. Rightly or wrongly the council officers and the councillors made the assumption that the developer intended to develop the site and that the developer had the experience and financial resources to do this.

From the point of view of the uninformed and unconsulted onlookers and even the few people who were expecting the Whitbread development and had seen the artist’s impressions of this and read the bumph about it being set well below the clifftop, the first indication that something was amiss was when the planning drawings appeared for a completely different development that towered over the clifftop. The next indication was being told by the council that although the plans hadn’t been approved they wouldn’t accept any objections to them.

This is when I got involved as did various other people after this slowly and reluctantly the council admitted that they had no idea if the surrounding infrastructure, which was to be maintained out of council tax, was in a viable state to support the development.

The main issues here are, flood risk, distance from the cliff face to allow for cliff face maintenance and the road access down the inclined Marina Road viaduct. Obviously all of these things have to work in a reasonably viable way for the life of the development. Of course the other side of this coin is that council tax usually pays for the infrastructure to reach developments, the road to your house, street lights etc.

In the case of The Turner Contemporary in Margate both a cliff support structure and sea defence that should last abut as long as the gallery were built at large public expense. With this sort of thing there has to be limits, if you want say to build your house on the edge of the cliff, then you may lose it when the cliff collapses.

In the case of The Royal Sands the council seemed to be underwriting the developer doing the equivalent of building on the end of the cliff and I think the councillors slowly began to appreciate this problem.   

My understanding of the situation with regard to the council ending what has become a great local farce was there were three options, one being to terminate the development agreement, one being to enter into negotiations with a third party that hoped to take over SFP and the other being to offer further concessions including delaying the completion date to 2017.

The council decided to terminate the development agreement.

Going down the road of terminating the development agreement the problem faced by the council is that the development agreement doesn’t contain any really definite dates by which the developer would be seen as having failed to do certain aspects of the development and therefore be in beach of the agreement. I think in legal terms this is described as there being no long stop date.

So now the council has to get an expert building consultant to produce a building time framework and wait for the developer to go outside of that framework before thy can legally terminate the agreement. Once this happens then the council should be able to terminate the site leases. How long all this takes is dependent on what the developer does. If the developer starts to get on with building the site then there isn’t anything the council can do about it while the developer sticks to the framwork.

While all this is going on of course the developer has the site leases so there isn’t much that can be done to the site, of course the developer may decide just to hand the leases back to the council, but this seems unlikely.

My own feelings are that we are likely to be at the beginning of a legal battle between the council and the developer and that the site is likely to remain derelict for years rather than months.

On to the business about comments on blogs and likes on facebook covered recent by Simon Moores http://birchington.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/reasons-to-be-careful-1-2-3.html and some newspapers http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/feb/23/rival-facebook-campaigns-stir-storm-margate-tesco

The keys here being anonymity and liability. One aspect of the internet is that it is possible to publish information to it anonymously, there are various ways of doing this but the net result is the same.

The nearest non internet equivalent is graffiti and to a lesser or greater extent the responsibility of those involved who are not anonymous, like the owner of the wall that has had the graffiti painted on to it.

To explain this it is easiest to make up an unacceptable word “xxyyxx” will do.

So if someone writes xxyyxx on my wall I probably have some legal or moral obligation to remove it.

With the internet things become more difficult, for instance it is possible for someone to anonymously write xxyyxx on a wall and then someone to like it who isn’t anonymous. It is possible for someone to comment xxyyxx and for the blog administrator to allow the comment.  

This blog is actually owned by Google and rented to me by them for nothing and my stance is that I am safest allowing comments and then deleting those which are either unsuitable or may be unsuitable, particularly if a third party asks me to remove a comment. This is basically how Google cover themselves, if you find xxyyxx on a blog and you write to Google they will remove it.

I have a wall and you can write on it as opposed to I have a wall behind a grill and I unlock the grill to allow you to write on it, which is the position when the administrator of the blog applies comment administration.

We now have a situation where the law and policing are very unclear, let us suppose that I call you an xxyyxxer on this blog, you could of course take action through the civil courts, but most likely you will make the reasonable assumption that this is a case of cyber bullying and therefore criminal, so you may ask the police to take action.

There is of course the argument that this is wasting police time when they out be out stopping the costa from jumping on his coffee, but this is a new area of crime, and as such there is very good argument for the rights and wrongs of to be thrashed out using public funding.

The answers to what constitutes a UK crime are pertinent to everyone in the UK with a blog or facebook account and even to anonymous commentators unless they are absolutely certain of their anonymity
  


I will ramble on here       

79 comments:

  1. Seems where Pleasurama is concerned the "fat lady has yet to sing" and on we go.

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  2. James Maskell (who let's not forget is a Tory) summed it up far better than I could on Thanet Life: “What a damp squib of a revelation this story was. The police wont bring charges. This is a non-story and should have been treated as such, rather than making a public show of it to ruin her name. This is pathetic.”

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    1. It's also good to see the lady in question keeping a dignified silence on this instead of (potentially) turning it into a public slanging match.

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    2. Peter, Remind me - who gave birth to this story by lodging a complaint with the Police and then to Ann Barnes?

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    3. John the person who abused many people before he suddenly stopped after a phone call from the police. And before that abused people on FB, and blogs adding to months of fear and annoyance to more than one person. And John 4 people contacted Ann barnes and at least two had been to the police before Ann as I discovered last night

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    4. John, I was going to say "John Hamilton" but Barry beat me to it. Fact remains that Simon didn't need to mention publicly that he'd been interviewed by the police, much less go to the press with it. So he's the one making a mountain out of a mole hill and acting like a 12 year-old (ironic, given his constant digs at the far more mature and level-headed Will Scobie!).

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    5. Who was John Hamilton? I didn't think he'd been named.

      In fairness, neither person handled this right. She should have seen Moores after the first rejection and sorted things out. Mick T criticised the accuracy of the mock ups in a Council meeting and I know a number of Cllrs nodded in agreement. There's no evidence to support it and she must know this. She's one of the smartest non-Cllrs but she doesn't know when to stop.

      Moores should have kept this to himself until after the investigation was concluded. There was plenty of time to ask for answers from the police on the handling of the investigation afterwards. Instead he had a full week build up and posted a lengthy story and went to the press. Having his say is one thing, this is quite another. In fact, this is closer to harassment than anything before.

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    6. John Hamilton was an ex-Thanet resident named Paul who now lives in Arizona... alledgedly!



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    7. James

      I am drawn to your statement : "Mick T criticised the accuracy of the mock ups in a council meeting and I know a number of councillors nodded in agreement"

      Could you please explain what you mean by "mock ups"

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    8. Mr Maskells statement at 8.26 is very revealing. I must assume he is a busy man and will not be back on for awhile?
      I assume by "mock ups" he refers to some hazy meetings at the council offices where one set of scaled models was produced for Arlington Tesco at one meeting, and a very different set at another?

      Now although there was probably some disquiet at the changed size of the modelling, the plans were voted through anyway. Councillors did at least cover themselves by showing concern? And it probably remains difficult, if not impossible to see videos of these meetings where models were presented because these meetings were not even recorded perhaps? And who controlled the videoing anyway?

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    9. I believe James means that Mick T mentioned the mock-ups made by the "No" brigade (which show a vast Tesco store and sign visible from the beach) during a council meeting. So, nothing sinister or underhand, apart from lies by the no to Tesco group.

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    10. This inaccurate fantasy mock-up can be seen on Simon's latest post.

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    11. That is after the event tit for tat. I am interested in what was presented and discussed when the decisions were taken. We need to see video evidence of this

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    12. Did you even read my comments? If so, you obviously didn't understand them... NOTHING was presented, Mick T merely mentioned the NO TO TESCO MOCK-UP(S) at a COUNCIL MEETING! Got it now?

      Not sure why I'm even trying to explain to someone who likes to hide behind anonymity anyway.

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    13. Mick T who was on the Planning Committee at the time, abstained from Tesco Superstore vote then?

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    15. Eh? Any reason why he should've? Just for pointing out that a mock-up by the anti-campaigners was inaccurate?

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    16. Is Mick T in a position to share with us what was discussed and agreed in Planning Committee, taking into account councillors reservations revealed here : " Mick T criticised accuracy......in a Council Meeting"

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    17. He didn't criticise any official plans for accuracy, only those made by a fantasist. BIG difference!

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    18. Are you able to point me in the direction of obtaining records of the planning meeting to which James Maskell refers?

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    19. I suppose this all begs the question - how many Councillors saw scaled models of the Arlington Development they were being asked to vote upon? And could an informed decision really be made about its impact without such a visual interpretation? Certainly as a Thanet resident I was never afforded the opportuntity to have a look?

      This all reminds me of a Colombo episode (a seventies detective series for our younger listeners - he with the fawn raincoat and cigar!). I remember seeing a scaled model of some proposed development in a town in the offices of the town Mayor. Colombo uncovered some inappropriate relationships between councillors/ town hall officials and land owners/developers after people got murdered. But at least the townsfolk in this fictional episode had the visual treat of seeing what the proposed development would have looked like before being silenced

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    20. The important thing is that we WON, instead of letting people who don't even live in Margate influence us... and yes, I'm aware of Colombo, though I always preferred Kojak myself!

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    21. I don't know what was going on with Facebook, but I took an interest in this case because I saw parallels with what has happened to my mother. I even spent two whole days at the inquiry trying to understand what had gone on, and I must admit I was a bit disappointed that the positioning of the superstore was misrepresented in the local press.
      But this is far from over from what I can see?

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    22. Simon Moores has been attacked therefore I do not consider it ureasonable for him to defend himself, and if that means going to the press then so be it. His accusers do not have the sole choice of weapons.

      Speaking for myself, if I were falsely accused of a crime that brought the police to my door then I would come down on my accusers like a ton of bricks.

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    23. I agree SG, it's not over until the store is built and opened... but it's all very likely to happen, and I hope to be their first customer!

      Or alternatively John, he could've persued this privately, as I suspect the mysterious "3rd Tory cllr" is doing. Instead to many people it just looks like yet more misbehaving TDC Tories, especially to outsiders who only see the newspapers. An own goal for Moores I'm afraid.

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    24. John

      I have just read through James' comment again. It appears this can be taken two ways. According to Peter, the Councillors were discussing the mock up plans as attributed to Louise Oldfield at a Council Meeting (if this is the case then I would suggest there are grounds here for conspiracy to harass?). This presumably being sometime after the decision was taken to allow the development?

      As a member of the public is it unreasonable to ask why no drawings or mock-ups were released into the public domain by officers or councillors prior to a decision being taken? Leaving the door open for Loiuse(or someone else) to interpret them for us?

      I can tell you one thing I learned at the Arlingon Inquiry though, The individual officer responsible for that task, had adopted the same worrying carelessness in my mother's case

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    25. I will expand further for readers:

      John Hamilton on occasions attacked a Mr Simon Pengelli, a resident at Arlington House. Mr Pengelli gave evidence at the inquiry. It was compelling. He had made copious notes over the years about lack on consultation and the role of Planning Officers and the things they did to conceal or limit information. Both lawyers for Freshwaters (managing agent and lessor of Arlington complex) and the inspector asked for copies of his notes to which Mr Pengelli agreed.

      I do just wonder if Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, had anything to say about Mr Pengellis' evidence in regards to his decision to allow the development?

      The Architect for Tesco clearly wished to reach out to all sides, and although you could argue an opportunity was missed, what had gone on in TDC Planning Department either with or without the knowledge of Councillors (remember Councillors hire the officers), the bitterness that existed made the prospect of reaching an agreement at the Inquiry extremely unlikely in any event. Shame.

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    26. Peter (2:03),

      I take your point.

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    28. My God, he's STILL milking it!!!

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    29. Got the meeting wrong, it was Planning in December 2011. I did a Ville Views blog on the meeting as "The Twilight Zone" with links to the two mock ups. I wasn't very kind about it and I'm embarrassed about it. This was the meeting which discussed whether the higher listing of the Scenic Railway would've changed the Council's thinking on the Arlington plans.This was before the Public Inquiry.

      Its not evidence of conspiracy to harass as it was directly relevant to the matter at hand. The mock ups were put out by the "No" camp to get votes against the plans, therefore it was looking for Councillors to see and comment, hopefully in favour. The fact that it attracted criticism rather than support is beside the point. There's no logic in the argument against him.

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    30. Peter your 8:57.

      Who is "STILL milking out!!!" Me or Simon Moores?

      Just because you want to be able to shuffle down to a megastore in your slippers there is no need to be rude!

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    31. SG, I'm talking about Moores! I'm just wondering how many blog posts it needs.

      And anyway, I don't wear slippers... I'm not THAT old!

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    32. I know.....I did have a sneaky look at your Valentines day Portrait!

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    33. strange behaviour! now the Gazette has published and Simon is saying on Twitter they "I would describe that a the press prejudicing a police inquiry with an opinion on a case yet to be decided"

      So why on earth does 3 blog posts do?
      Michael my take is a fully moderated blog has to take some responsibility for the comments they allow to be seen.

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    35. As Simon Moores looks a bit like Columbo and Mick Tomlinson looks like Kojak, can we assume that the 3rd cllr looks like Sam McCloud, or perhaps Angie Dickinson in Police Woman?

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    36. Yet another blog post on the subject from Moores, and another strange one at that (complaining about the costs of FOI requests to TDC by putting in a FOI request to the TDC!).

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    37. Thanet Gazette this morning have reported all charges against John Worrow dropped due to insufficient evidence. I have to say he kept his silence on the matter until notified that he wouldn't face charges in Court.

      Very dignified behaviour.

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    38. He also (alledgedly) carried on accepting his cllrs allowance without turning up at any meetings for months. Not such dignified behavior.

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    39. funny thing Peter anyone suspended whilst legal matters are discussed or suspended due to disciplinary would still be in receipt of a salary. And in JW case do you know whether he was advised to stay away? I have no feelings or point to make re this case except it wasnt discussed in public whilst things progressed.

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    40. Was he suspended? Other cllrs / bloggers didn't seem to think so.

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    41. Was a general not specific comment about this sort of situation. What happened concerning JW I have no knowledge so I didn't speculate I'm sure in the fullness of time the public may find out

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    42. Even if this is the case, he could still have a public opinion on what is happening in the area he (supposedly) represents. Birchington hasn't had a post office for a couple of weeks now, so all the pensioners (including many who are in wheelchairs or disability scooters) are having to get buses into Westgate instead. Roger Gale has spoken out against this publicly, but John Worrow has remained silent. So, much as I'm happy he isn't facing a trial, I still believe he's worse than hopeless as an elected councillor, and only cares about himself.

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    43. He hasn't been at a Council meeting since 3rd October's one. There is one tomorrow which he is expected at. He walked out of an OSP meeting shouting about attending only when he wanted (the paper throwing incident). Im not certain but I think if he misses this one, the Council can vote him out for non-attendance because the next one will be towards the end of April. I hope he does attend and contributes, even if he doesn't wish to stand for re-election next year.

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    45. SG if the content has a restriction like say nakedinthanet has then the link won’t work by me using the url, I would have to wait until you have some content and try various feed permutations.

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    49. Why are you posting all this on here if you have your own blog(s)? You're starting to sound like another spammer!

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    53. Nope, not interested in reading criticism of TDC members from people who hide behind anonymity... but as I said it's Michael's blog, not mine (and it looks like he doesn't want some of your posts on here either).

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    54. Look SG I have deleted two of the comments which I think could prejudice any case that the people you say you are trying to defend may have. As I said before there are limits to what you can link to in terms of restricted websites and in the case of the one you have asked me to link to which is completely closed I can’t link to it on the blogroll.

      Frankly I don’t really have time to deal with comments, which may or may not be inappropriate, libellous, out of context and so on.

      On my day off any moderation has to be done with my mobile, which is difficult and comment once deleted has gone for good so there isn’t a situation where I can put it on hold for when I have time to review it properly.

      If you carry on posting comment which is unrelated to the post and is attempting to promote your own agenda then I will treat it as spam, which is the easiest option open to me particularly from a mobile.

      Obviously if you publish an open blog about local issues then I will link to it, publishing material here that you are not prepared to publish openly yourself suggests you hope any action will be taken against me and not you.

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    56. Did John Worrow show up at yesterday's council meeting?

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    58. Your "own kind"? White? English? Old? Please elaborate.

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    60. I like to think there's a bit more to "my kind" than just people who are sexually compatible! Talk about obsessed.

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  3. The Daily Mail has picked up on the story:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2565998/Police-question-councillors-Facebook-row-beach-supermarket-stirred-Mary-Portas-gets-hand.html

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  4. I think the comment is drifting away from the real issue here, which is about how the law criminal or civil deals with comment on the internet.

    For instance on this blog who is responsible for comments made by a third party? Me as the blog administrator, the third party who commented or Google as the bog owner.

    Then what is the appropriate action for an abusive comment made here by a third party? The police interviewing me under caution as a potential criminal. International criminal action towards Google. Google being forced to reveal the IP address of the commentator and the commentators ISP being forced to reveal the commentators identity. The victim having to engage in a prohibitively expensive civil action.

    As a blog administrator I find that I really need to know what the position is and as far as I can tell, at the moment there is no clear position.

    There are certainly limits beyond which I wouldn’t go in terms of financial and criminal risk, my own solicitor charges £295 per hour plus VAT as an example of what I mean.

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    1. Michael, for what it is worth, it appears that the general advice to blog owners is to only allow comments you'd be prepared to defend in court. If the comment is abusive, you, as a blog administrator, run the risk of being liable for the effect of the comment as well as the person making the comment - the courts appear to consider making public statements on blogs to be the same as publishing them in any other kind of media. Google, facebook etc seem to have got a get-out by arguing that they're just providing the platform and that they will act if notified of a problem, but that they're less to blame, given that they can't possibly know of everything that is happening on a massive network.

      There appears to be some debate as to whether a blog or website owner is responsible for third-party comments when the thing is totally unmoderated, but whatever the case there, if you have a moderated blog and you seem to be considered to have consented to an abusive comment if you allow it to stand.

      Again, if you're not prepared to defend it in court, don't allow it. If other people want to post abusive stuff on their own blog, then that isn't your problem.

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    2. Michael, If you want to see some real insults in a comment section of a blog then I suggest you have a glance at Guido Fawkes. Though to be fair these insults are targeted at thick skinned grown up politicians and celebs. Guido Fawkes' blog serves to highlight just what a small pond is Thanet.

      http://order-order.com/

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    3. John Holyer, I suspect Guido Fawkes pays a lot of money for legal representation, as does Private Eye, the Daily Mail and so on.

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    4. Joe Turner,

      If what you say is correct then presumably his expensive lawyers see no harm in the comments.

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    5. Thank you for bringing this back to the point Michael. The point being "is it potentially dangerous to have a blog?" For the last few months, I have run a facebook site. I have had nearly 100,000 likes, shares and comments. Am I liable for all of them? What if someone makes a comment that is offensive to someone that I personally cant see the offence in it? I am very critical of the Councillors - I have even called Alan Poole incompetent. Can I be sued over an opinion which is expressed in public? There was an example recently where someone was critical about their experience at a shop. The shop complained to the police. I recently upset someone on this blog for using the term 'diplomatic exit', which I instantly apologised for. Yet protesters can use loud hailers to call people scum, rats and Nazis and this is legitimate protest. I personally try not to be personal, looking at the business case and discussing this point. But I get accused of being 'holier than thou'. So I guess the only answer is silence.

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    6. Duncan,

      At the risk of interfering can offer a little help.

      Instead of saying that X is incompetent try this, "From his action in this matter I get the impression that X is incompetent"; or " I cannot overlook the possibility that X is incompetent, though I'm sure he cannot be"; or "a less charitable person might say that X is incompetent"; or " X disappoints me"; or that the service I received in shop was on this occasion disappointing and had the effect of sullying the excellent reputation that shop enjoys”.

      I was taught that when you want to really have a go at someone then first write it down in say 'John Hamilton' style. Next bash it around with a thesaurus replacing all the nasty words. For example instead of saying, “you are an exasperating lying ratbag” replace it with “ Try as I might I find it [difficult/impossible] to accept your version of events”.


      Spend time on it, play around with the language and have fun.

      And before anyone leaps in I will readily admit that on this blog I do not always practice what I preach. [But I always did when I was a servant of the Queen] .

      Duncan, you should not give up just because someone purports to be offended.

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    7. John the issue with making remarks like "X is incompetent" in a statement is twofold, firstly it (on its own) provides no context and secondly it does depend on whether the remark is in reply, or agreement, to the initiator of the conversation or as a (provocative) statement to a wider audience.
      For a specific example of the gentleman in question during a Q&A at Chatham House school last year AP responded to an audience member asking a question concerning Pleasurama by asking "how long have you lived here?" when told 2 years AP responded by saying "you haven't lived here long enough to have an opinion."

      Now is that an example of incompetence or an example of "foot in mouth" The audience certainly didn't approve as he was roundly booed.

      The problem as your examples above show and the law as it stands should always mean blog owners and others should always veer away from mentioning people by name and stick to statements such as TDC is incompetent as the interpretation of the Law of defamation is fraught with issues. Unless of course you can back up with proof of what you write.

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    8. Barry,

      I was simply talking about the use of language.

      An answer to the how long have you been here question could go something like this:

      AP: How long have you been here?

      Member: How is that relevant to my question?

      or

      AP: How long have you been here?

      Member: Two years.

      AP: .......not long enough...

      Member is then spoilt for choice: how many years to qualify, why do you say that, is there a time requirement bye law? and so on and so on. AP could be reduced to a gibbering heap.

      If you want to see a master at work dealing with a stroppy politician then watch Andrew Neil. He is the best forensic interviewer on TV.

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    9. Barry,

      I am afraid that you may have missed my point, for which I apologise. I did not say that you should state that X is incompetent; rather you should say that you get the impression he is incompetent. There is an enormous difference. As I am sure you realise.

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    10. AP was certainly coming across as bemused during the booing and I suspect he didn't understand why people were booing him for his remark

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    11. I hope AP didn't come across like me.

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  5. I am glad this debate has started, but I would not get too frightened about it. We all know we should not incite hatred against any racial or interest group or individual because this could encourage stalking and violence. The tensions in society can come about because of one "Tribe" (if you like) wanting to take something away from another tribe for their own enrichment or convenience. This gives rise to blogging when we feel we are becoming isolated in our fight for survival. I don't think there is such a thing as a "wayward" blogger as Simon has recently commented. So why does Simon blog?

    The only reason I comment on here extensively from time to time is because of open un moderated comment (my own blog does not have scope for much in the way of diverse conversation). As I said before Michael, I think you should be paid for this role, and I absolutely have no problem with the odd comment being deleted if you feel I have stepped over the line, because it will not stop my campaign anyway.

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Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

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