Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Thanet Life, Simon Moores Moves the Goalposts, is it a new Thanet Blog Wars?

I have been commenting on Thanet Life blog since sometime in 2006, sending Simon information and pictures that he has published there since that time too, so I was pretty much gob smacked when I got an email from him today saying that he was refusing to publish a comment I had made there. This hasn’t happened before and I am not certain if I will ever be able to comment there again, or for that matter if I will even bother to try.

This relates to a key Thanet issue that Simon raised on his blog about consultation over the disposal Thanet’s council owned leases.

Here is what the said:

“DrM. said...
Andrew, the most fundamental change is the treatment of long leases of 25 years or more as part of the overall asset disposal process.

The emphasis is now very much on consultation as part of such a process to avoid circumstances where the council is seen to be over-riding the wishes of local people without proper consideration of their arguments. 1.37 pm.”

Now an important point here is when this change came into effect, because of some of the disposal issues that have come up recently in Thanet. There have been many contentious asset issues in Thanet, part of Hartsdown Park in Margate being the most recent.

Here in Ramsgate there are several large council owned assets in prominent positions and some of them have been effected by this rule, Pleasurama where the council granted a 200 year lease to the developer without any consultation, The Maritime Museum where the council invoked this rule in a way that caused the closure of the museum, the slipways where the council used this rule to prevent a developer obtaining a long lease to build a bar complex there.

This is essentially an issue about money, as developers need leases longer than 25 years to finance developments on council owned land, hence the council are able to effectively halt the Margate Football Club development, that has planning permission, by not offering the club a long lease. This can also effect grant funding for charitable organisations wishing to run council assets. There is also the common sense side of this, it you are going to run a museum or theatre, you are in for the long hall and can’t invest heavily when the building’s security is a matter of the council’s whim, even if you could I doubt the charity commissioner would let you.

Anyway here is the link to Simon’s blog post http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/lost-in-translation.html and here is my comment that he refused to publish.

Michael Child has left a new comment on your post "Lost in Translation":

Thank you Simon for the information, did you mean 26th July 2010 or 2009?

This is a quote from an email I received from the council in February 2010.

“The position regarding the Clock-Tower Building, occupied by the Steam Trust is as follows. The subject was discussed by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny (Asset Management Working Party) in view of the length of lease sought by the Trust.”

With relation to your pervious replies the difficulty here is that you are different from the other bloggers, in as much as you are privy to council information that we are not.

In an ideal world the council’s information department would have a forum where major local issues could be discussed openly on the internet, it is the perception from outside the council, is that the councils information department exists exclusively to control the information that is available to the public.

I suppose in a way even that would be mostly unnecessary if the council published all of the information it held, apart from the information that would be refused in a foi request, as the council receives it, onto its website.

This could be achieved with considerable savings in costs to the council, by the council insisting that all information sent to the council, was supplied in preferred file formats, with the council levying a charge to commercial organisations either sending information on paper – so it has top be scanned in – or in a file format that has to manual converted for web publication.

In this instance I would say that you are as much a victim as the rest of us, in as much as the changes to such a fundamental rule about the way the council conducts its business, should have been publicised and the rules governing the way the council rents out its properties should be clearly and openly available on the council’s website.

The discussion I had with the leader of the council isn’t pertinent to this issue as it relates to a lease of less than 25 years and not the older lease that council didn’t issue due to the new rules. However it demonstrates very clearly what I am saying about information that you are privy to and we are not, put the shoe on the other foot for a moment and consider the situation if I was privy to your conversations with the leader of the council and said to you. “Simon. I understand the Leader of the Council called you to personally explain the issues surrounding such and such an issue, and hopefully that should have answered most if not all of your questions.” By way of an answer to a question you had asked me on a blog

Comment posted 11.18 am 2nd March 2011-03-02

Don’t misunderstand me here I delete comments that are potentially libellous, offensive or containing personal abuse, I suppose all bloggers do, but to delete a comment because it disagrees with your point of view, well that is another matter altogether.

When a local councillor who claims to support transparency and impartiality does this, then one can only form ones own conclusions.

41 comments:

  1. Its very simple MIchael just delete all of DR M,s coments in the future and deprive hime of his oxygen.

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  2. Maybe its because your left wing bias is too evident. Shame you are not so investigative of what is going on in the local Labour party or would that not serve the cause. No you just keep on knocking the TDC until you get your Hart/Poole team utopia and then it will be so good there will be nothing to blog about.

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  3. Michael is "left wing"? Where did that come from? This is my preferred Thanet blog reading for the simple reason that (like me) Michael doesn't show any political bias.

    As for Simon, I like him (& his blog), but he's between a rock & a hard place at times: he (I believe) tries to be transparent & open, but inevitably there are times when TDC &/or the local conservatives look bad so he then tries to rewrite his rules as it were.

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  4. 1907 is just a k**b.

    As we've discussed before, Simon will only go so far and then his inbuilt sense of his own self importance kicks in and everyone else is wrong. Interestingly enough I checked out the governance of this blog site last time Simon censored material and it would appear that it is governed by the laws of the State of California. And as you know censorship is unlawful in the USA, being contrary to the First Amendment.
    Anyway, enough on that. In an idle moment, if such a thing exists, I may run back through Simon's archives and see if a pattern emerges with regard to his moments of max testiness.
    You can't have it both ways. If you host a political blog site then you must expect differing views. If you have neither the time nor the patience for such views then you either make your blog non-political or you shut down. Whichever, the Adoration of the Moores needs to be reined in; you are either a Friend of the People or you aren't.
    In last week's IOTG the Glorious Leaders column exhorted us to stop discussing local issues in the press and instead talk to the Council - if he and the other Councillors really want this then; (1) they have to make themselves available
    (2) they have to listen
    (3) they have to respond
    (4) they have to accept that they are going to be told things that they don't like
    (5) they have to employ Caesars slave, to stand by their shoulders and remind them that they are only mortal.
    (6) they have to accept that the Island is not completely (or even slightly) populated by morons

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  5. Simon has always been spot on, in my view, in setting out the economic realities the UK faces.

    He has had the courage of his convictions and offered himself as a candidate to the electorate and been duly elected.

    Maybe from time to time he has flexed his muscles making warning noises about libel. But that appears to yield him the beneficial experience of being grounded again on the fact that any Thanet tory will be judged by the company he keeps and the history of Thanet tories.

    Mark Nottingham, a recent target of Simon's ire about blogs, works for Mary Honeyball MEP. I think she has lost her pen as I have received no response to my correspondence asking her to report the UK's last Labour govt to the Council of Ministers via the European Parliament.

    The European Parliament passed a resolution in 1990 for member states to dismantle unauthorized military organisations.

    Now yer Jack Straw supressed such inquiry when he was Home Secretary even when called for by Kent Police Authority. And when he became justice secretary he repealed the law that defined what is lawful and what is unlawful military organisation.

    He likes privatized armies as evidenced by his mate Tim Spicer running the largest private army in the world Aegis the largest security contractor deployed in Iraq.

    Now we have a London based insurance company raising a private navy.

    The thing is a private army don't need a Queens Order to go to war. And their soldiers make no oath of loyalty to the Crown. They only need govt nod and wink to go to war. New Labour dismantling the constitutional monarchy, taking us into Blairite dictatorship and even breaking resolutions of the European Parliament in order to go about their dangerous constitutional vandalism.

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  6. Some interesting comments here with a range of views.

    Andrew, I think you will find the 'God bless America' fraternity manage to exercise their own brand of censorship pretty successfully. Nonetheless, I tend to agree with you that bloggers effectively invite comment and should take what they get, the personally offensive excluded. In the main though, Simon does try to provide some answers.

    As to Michael's a-political stance well, I guess near if you regard the Guardian and the BBC as also neutral. There is a touch of Polly about him.

    As to Retired, well I am afraid in a troubled world, private armies are inevitable. There have always been mercenaries and many are just ex-servicemen, unable to settle in civilian life, who just sell their skills like folk of any other trade or profession do. Sometimes they do the dirty, but necessary, jobs that governments are loathe to.

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  7. Retired, Your point about the private Navy: I believe that Elizabeth I came up with this wheeze. It worked well for her, and us. She cannot be accused of having been a European federalist; and that also worked well for us.

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  8. Michael, About Bluenote's comment,

    "As to Michael's a-political stance well, I guess near if you regard the Guardian and the BBC as also neutral. There is a touch of Polly about him."

    How say you? Are you a Guardianista?

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  9. Michael, he censors anything he doesn't like. I regularly comment, he rarely allows it to be published.

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  10. Bluenote. The USA bit was a goad and boy did you rise to it!!

    Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Simon's blog and appreciate that he treads a difficult path. I respect the fact that he does try and engage with the public - there are one or two other Councillors who have blog sites but they rarely enter into the level of discussion that Simon allows. But, as I said, he can't have it both ways.

    Michael calls himself a floating voter and, like several of us in the area, have very real concerns that no-one seems to want to address. Now I think Rick and his private armies is just fanciful but there are some pretty malodourous undertones wafting around this Island, on both sides of the political divide, and someone needs to get a grip on this. Simon offers a channel for these issues to be aired but does us a disservice if he engages in the sort of censorship exposed by this post

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  11. Ah a difficult one (in two parts as it wont fit in one comment) most of the comments here seem to be either telling me where I stand politically or asking me. I don’t really think I know the answer to that one, years on and off in bookselling has to some extent had an effect there, back in another age before large companies had decimated retail and bookshops in particular, one thing I did was sell the various political party manifestos in the run up to elections.

    Now a question here, do you make some sort of political point here and refuse to stock the manifestos of the far right or the far left, or even both?

    Chances are that the first customer for the far left manifesto will be the far right candidate and vice versa, how can you discuss oppose the thing if you can’t read it?

    Freedom of expression you could say has become engrained, and I suppose when I do delete comments it is often because they contain what may amount to libel and I have no practical way of finding out if they are true, or if they are true but just too much of a risk.

    I suppose like many people I no longer really know where the political parties stand, particularly at a local level, what they say they stand for and what they actually do doesn’t always tally.

    News wise I tend to listen to the BBC and or Euronews when getting up, this is partly habit, my parents always had The Home Service or The Word Service on in the morning. Local news wise the local papers and the internet, as far as the Guardian goes, well I can’t spell if that helps, I don’t take a regular national paper.

    But you have to appreciate that this is a small local blog, with the interests of Ramsgate and to a lesser extent Thanet at its heart, I assume that if people want to know about wider issues they will look elsewhere.

    Anyway back to comments and censorship, one always has to treat anonymous comment differently, and there are levels of anonymity with the blogs:

    There are people like Simon and me who are not anonymous at all, I don’t think I have ever had to delete a comment from one of those.

    There are people like Retired who have their own blog but conceal their identity to a lesser or greater extent, if they comment with something that may be libellous my first thought is why haven’t they done so on their own blog where they take the responsibility? If I delete these then I mention the fact that I have in a comment, with the reason.

    Then there are people like Bluenote and Andrew, with concealed identities but no blog to air their views. My first though here is that they may be in a situation where their true identity would compromise their position. If one of those says something potentially libellous then I go to considerable efforts to check it out, particularly if they are a regular local blog contributor.

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  12. Then there are the totally anonymous comments, where people haven’t even got a pseudonym and one can’t tell one commentator from the other, about 95% of these are spam, and quite a few of these that aren’t spam, I find in the spam filter sometime after they have commented and have to be marked by me as not being spam before they appear. This is something that I have no control over, I can’t turn the spam filter off, not that I would want to.

    A thread of comments is essentially a conversation often between a group of people and frankly to delete a comment, just because I don’t agree with it, just never occurred to me.

    You also have to appreciate there is no comment moderation here, no irritating word recognition either for that matter, so the first time I see the comments is when they are already on the blog.

    So say for example I deleted 19.07s comment because I disagreed with it, then parts of several subsequent comments, made by other people, wouldn’t make sense.

    I don’t really think the point here is about one’s politics but much more about one’s principles, if you say that you are trying to be fair and open but will delete comment that is potentially libellous (because the responsibility is ultimately the person who runs the blog), comment that is just offensive, spam, and that’s what you do then that’s fine. If you say you are going to delete comment that disagrees with your point of view that’s also fine.

    The point here is that by publishing a libel, with the way UK law stands, you are condoning it, publishing a comment you disagree with isn’t in any was and indication that you agree with it.

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  13. Michael
    Your last two comments are spot on. If any blogger states that he will remove comments that he disagrees with then that's fair enough; we all know where we stand. I suspect that said blogger would find his traffic falling off and as you pointed out removing a comment has the potential to make all subsequent comments seem out of context.
    That said, I can't see the point of a political blog, even one that is Britains 16th worst political weblog, if you are going to remove comments that you don't agree with. It ceases to be a blog and at best becomes a lecture; at worst a rant.

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  14. Anyone who gives me what I want when I want it is being helpful. Anyone who agrees with me is wise reasonable. Anyone who disagrees with me is wrong and a fool.

    Though, I must confess that this approach has not always worked awfully well. Do you think perchance I have got it wrong?

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  15. I suppose the nitty critty here is that we all derive some pleasure from posting comments on blogs. As to politics well I am with Michael to some extent whereby I am not sure where I stand. To the right, for sure, but not too keen on the current limp hand shake of a compromise government.

    Guess I prefer clear cut divisions rather than right of centre socialists and left of centre Tories, if that makes sense. At local level a return to good, committed, independent and upright citizens who give of their time freely would be nice. Sadly that all came to an end after WWII when Labour introduce labels into local elections.

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  16. I guess we can now draw the line here, since the two "protagonists" seems to agree. Simon, who has only deleted 42 comments in the eight years since 2009(?) has eventually said exactly what Michael also said; that bloggers have to be aware of their legal responsibilities when publishing.

    So moving on to openness in government. Cllr Baywatch said (and I'll quote directly so that no-one can misinterpret) in last weeks IOTG. "What would make life better for all of us would be a greater appreciation of what can be achieved and for dialogue with the council to be carried out face-to-face rather than in the local press." If the mechanisms were in place for such interaction you might get it Bob, but they are not. None of you reply to correspondence unless you really have to - I'm still waiting for your response to my letter regarding the Governance Consultation and that was sent in October - and the Great Communicator's personal weblog doesn't accept posts in accordance with his own protocols. One of those is that, when backed into a corner, he just stops commenting on that thread. Maybe he, as a world-renowned exponent of communication, would like to offer a solution to this conundrum; how can we engage in a dialogue when all avenues are closed to us?

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  17. Andrew straight to point of the blog here. I frankly wouldn’t post as much but for several reasons, the first is purely financial, I need a strong web presence to remain in business, google my name Michael Child and you will see what I mean. Another is the business of the rather repetitive and seemingly uninteresting local pictures, so many people say that they look at them, not sure enjoy is quite the right word, these tend to be people who I think have just got used to wandering around the area and for one reason or another can’t. The other is it has just become something I do, something strange happens, like the dead whale in Pegwell bay at the moment and I am tempted to go and take a picture of it and do a post.

    My internet presence predates the blog by quite a long time, starting with various unsuccessful ways to sell books and then becoming political, if you like when Pleasurama came along.

    Simple really, lunch times in the summer, I often walk out of the front door of my bookshop and straight up the hill onto the cliff top where I eat my sandwiches enjoying a view of the sea. I resented plans to build a development in front of the cliff that was so tall I doubted if I would be able to see the sea anymore, hence my launch into what I discovered to be local politics on the internet.

    So from someone who puts stuff on the internet to someone who may not, I suspect that most websites have some element of financial gain behind them or some sort of personal advantage to be gained like seeing the sea and when you say what is the point of said blog there is where I look first.

    Ah John, this looks like philosophy, as I am making personal revelations here while wondering how to extend some sort of olive branch to Simon mine is, I think, therefore I am confused.

    Bluneote my first big disillusionment with politics was when I was a child and Harold Macmillan introduced the tax on sweets, he used to come to Sunday lunch with his brother the publisher and told me later that I gave him a worse time that he had had at many PMQs. The next was as a teenager when I heard Harold Wilson address the Oxford Union using an accent that sounded like any other Oxford Don’s.

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  18. TOO much to read here, I will try again later when I feel a bit better.

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  19. Michael,

    I am a sucker for a good case and a reasoned argument. To be fair, you do not get much of that on blogs.

    But I say that as you, Michael, own this blog then you entitled to say what you damn well please, and have no need to explain nor make excuses. You keep TDC on their toes and that must be a good thing.

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  20. Michael,

    To continue with your Descartes theme: nowadays it seems to be a case of 'I feel, therefore I am'. It seems that I am surrounded by single issue fanatics who want me to be 'caring' and to 'care' about everything. Which I don't. Which indeed cannot be done. So I arrive at you door with 'I think - therefore I am confused'.

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  21. It wasn't thanetonline that I was questioning the point of. There's something rather bucolic about your ramblings and I especially like the photos. I'm not local and the visions of this town in its heyday are a reminder of what we have lost, and what I never knew.

    My politics. I don't know. As Bluenote says, it's hard to tell which side is which nowadays.
    I was in infant school with Diane Abbott; I don't remember her being particularly political in those days! Apart from that I don't think I've had that much close contact with politicians who, it has to be said, I have always viewed as somewhat shifty types who either can't get a proper job or are on some sort of ego trip. I suppose that, post Parliament of Shame, I should also add a third type - money-grabbing thieving ba***rds! And since at least one MP has now been convicted that last is no longer libellous!

    Do keep posting especially the pictures. I shalln't be bothering too much in future with what Simon evidently views as his own personal diary.

    I notice he's no longer a dare-devil stunt pilot or whatever it was that he had on his profile for a while.

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  22. Michael, I'm not sure about Harold Wilson's accent. I was a staff officer for a time when he was PM and met him once at Northolt. I seem to recall his voice as having a rather Dalek quality - and almost as menacing!

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  23. Sorry to hear you are not feeling so good Don, hope you perk up soon.

    John it’s a philosophy that had served me well.

    Andrew it’s my day off today so I am trying to comprehend this mostly via my antiquated mobile allegedly a Raspberry. Seems I missed your 14.06 comment about Simon’s post http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/03/freedom-to-debate.html I don’t think the Tony Flaig, stranded whale link is in the best possible taste and am wondering if Simon’s eye is off the ball for some reason.

    Bluenote, I never met him, and I think that was the only time I heard him speak in the flesh as it were, not one of my favourite politicians I have to say.

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  24. Michael

    Completely off topic but this is an excellent site for reporting those niggley problems that you encounter as you m ove around the place - potholes, abandoned cars, etc. It's semi-official and reports for forwarded to the relevant authority to be dealt with. Well worth advertising

    http://www.fixmystreet.com/

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  25. Oh dear. Simons admonishment went out at lunchtime and not one comment yet. Does that tell you something Simon?

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  26. Andrew I have a feed on my press release blog but I reported the Pleasurama problem to them a long time ago and it seems to have vanished of their site.

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  27. Michael

    Sorry, the FixMyStreet URL wasn't meant to be about any specific problem. I just think that the site is so useful it ought to get more publicity.

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  28. Andrew I have now fixed it so every time someone reports new problem in Thanet on fix my street it will come up on the top of the new posts on other blog wotsisname on my sidebar the code to put in for any other bloggers who want to do this is http://www.fixmystreet.com/rss/area/Thanet best I can think of tho keep the website in people’s minds.

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  29. Final words on the subject. I notice that eventually Tories stick together and Bluenote couldn't resist commenting but I'm with you here Michael "I am not certain if I will ever be able to comment there again, or for that matter if I will even bother to try". He's shown himself up to be no different to the others; it's just that he makes more noise. My Mum used to say "there's a lot of noise on the stairs, but no-one comes down" - that's the Doctor.

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  30. Difficult, I don’t really understand what he is on about on his blog, as anyone can see from the comment that he refused to publish that it didn’t have any unsuitable or unacceptable content and didn’t compromise anyone’s position. I have just read through what I said again and can’t for the life of me see what is in that could have caused offence. I can’t imagine that your comment that wasn’t published was offensive or compromised confidentiality in the council either.

    It does leave one with this peculiar feeling that one wouldn’t know how to define a suitable comment there, but as you say probably best to draw a line under the issue and not even try to work out what would be allowed or disallowed.

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  31. He should at least link to your post Michael so that people can judge for themselves.

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  32. This is not news. I have had comments unpublished similarly so no longer try. I object to censors. I know others who have had the same problem. You will find plenty of criticism of me on my blog. It's called free speech and democracy.

    Peter, Simon has failed to link on many previous occasions. He seems to not want to make it easy for people to make up their own minds.

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  33. Bit of hypocrisy there from Mark Nottingham of deselection fame. Having had a reasonable comment rejected on One End of Kent and another edited to the point of gastration, Mark is in no position to claim some moral high ground on freedom of speech.

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  34. 11.55 I editted your comment because it was libellous. Just checked my records and there are no other comments I haven't published thatI've received. Sometimes blogger does this, suggest you resubmit your comment.

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  35. Both Simon & Mark have published all my comments.

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  36. Michael, you have, of late, pressed your case on Moores's blog on a range of issues. You have challenged him with some persistence, albeit always politely and constructively. As Andrew will undoubtedly establish if he does find the time to review Moores's archives, THAT is what has got to him.

    He not only rejects challenges that are hostile in nature - whether or not they extend to being "strongly worded" - but also rejects points of view that are presented persistently in argument against his own. He does not like that.

    What motivates him and provides the rationale behind his behaviour and reactions, I shall leave others to speculate.

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  37. Mark, in your opinion libellous, but quite mild by comparison with stuff being published on Big News Margate. I really only made the point to illustrate that you also reserve the right to select what you publish and it seems unreasonable, therefore, to criticise others for doing the same thing.

    The other item you did not publish was so historic now as to make its resubmission pointless.

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  38. To be fair, Mark & Simon probably have to be a little more careful about what they print than Tony (I still don't understand why Simon couldn't print Michael's comment though).

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  39. Sorry I have only just got to responding to the comments, a busy market day here in Ramsgate.

    Peter I suppose that his post doesn’t really make much sense without a link to this one.

    Mark I don’t think this could really be exploited politically in the sense of your blog being more open than Simon’s unless you removed comment moderation, as we can’t see what you have deleted apart from when your recently deleted a whole post and the associated comments. The moving finger, and all that.

    Peter up until recently Simon has published all mine and I don’t think anyone on any of the blogs including Mark has ever deleted one of my comments, have you tried to comment on Simon’s blog about this issue though as I would like to know what aspect of my comment it he finds unacceptable.

    11.55 15.57 the problem here is that in English law the responsibility for an anonymous comment is entirely that of the blog editor, and frankly there often just isn’t time to check the authenticity of comments.

    Peter you could ask him for me, my response was an email telling me not to contact him.

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  40. 13.28 just fished your comment out of the spam bin, I suppose the real issue here is what the various TDC administrations have failed to achieve over this issue which is the assets they hold in our names. Here in Ramsgate so many are either just trashed, like Westcliff Hall, Nero’s, the pavilion or moving along dubious lines like the Pleasurama. Most irritating is the secrecy that surrounds them, simple questions to the council or the leading councillors elicit either no response or such an odd response that one wonders what they think they are doing. It is as though their attitude isn’t that they are guardians of our public assets, but somehow it is as though they see them as pawns in some bizarre game.

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  41. I really do wonder about Councillor Moores. After all of his breast beating earlier this week and his complaints about how he is misunderstood, got at, undermined and whatever, he now puts up a post speculating that the imminent Council Election probably means he will be "back in the firing line"?

    Why court attention and controversy? He clearly misses the limelight - and the blog visitor numbers - and is now putting himself out there almost in the fashion of the football hooligan - "come on, hit me, hit me". It's all rather sad, though a bit amusing. Perhaps he wants to get back to threatening legal retribution against those he has wound up in the first place?

    He needs to get out some.

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