Inbetween the jobs in what for me is a working Saturday I generally try to catch up on any local news and one method I use is to put Thanet into Google and click on the news tab on the left, you can see from the screen shot, picture above, the news isn’t something one would necessarily want to see on the first day of the jubilee holiday weekend.
I guess over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with our council, the priorities that one would hope and expect for from a council just don’t seem to be there.
Here in Ramsgate the acid test for me has been the management of council owned assets, the main leisure site in the town Pleasurama (our equivalent to Margate’s Dreamland) derelict for 12 years, the town’s royal residence Albion House empty unused, The Royal Victoria Pavillion empty and derelict, Westcliff Hall (our equivalent to Margate’s Winter Garden’s) empty and derelict.
One or two of these unfortunate occurrences could be viewed as coincidental but not the number we have and have had. Recently talking to councillors particularly with respect to the maritime museum, I came to the unhappy conclusion that to a greater or lesser extent some of our local problems were spite related. This spite being directed towards parts of Thanet where the ward councillors were out of favour with the governing councillors.
An added problem here is that local politics in Thanet has become a two party system, theoretically Labour and Conservative although it would seem that in many cases standing under one party or another has little to do with any political ideology and a lot to do with getting elected.
Outside of the council, perceptions of why councillors stand to be elected are not as one would hope and few of the people I speak to here, perceive councillors as public-spirited people who represent the community.
Ask a Conservative councillor why they think a Labour councillor stood for elections and they will mostly say for the allowances. Ask a Labour Councillor why a conservative councillor why a Conservative councillor stood and the answer will probably be more directed towards the power and the enhancement of business opportunities.
Of course ask any councillor why they stood themselves and they will say, for the benefit of the community.
I guess I think it probably boils down to a bit of most of the above.
Anyway on to the homophobia issue, starting with the question. Are all the councillors homophobic? Personally I think the answer to this is, yes.
Here in the UK, up until recently homosexuality was illegal, camp homosexuals real or acted are funny and homophobia to a greater or lesser extent I would think exists in pretty much everyone in the UK including homosexuals. We are all products of our society and the framework of the language we use to think with, it is unavoidable.
I would say that there are areas where homophobia is acceptable, but frankly where the dividing lines are exactly I don’t know. Perhaps an example here, gay men often make jokes about homosexuality, I guess they always will, this often happens in the media and the effect on young people forming their impressions is probably negative.
There is also another whole set of problems, you may for instance just dislike someone, perhaps just because the are dislikeable, but if they are both dislikeable and homosexual this could be construed as homophobia.
There is also the other side of the coin, pretending to homosexual or publicising of homosexuality or bisexuality so that one can call any opposition or insult to you homophobic. It is a bit of a minefield this.
One thing I am fairly certain of and that is there has to be some set standards that people in public life abide by and this includes councillors.
At the moment we have two openly bisexual councillors and the furthest you could go with this is to say they can never be the but of any joke and can never be called less than perfect, in case this is construed as homophobia. Well his can’t be right one has to draw the line somewhere.
I would say that, calling one of the “the shirt lifting gender bender” is not the behaviour that we would want or expect from a serving councillor. Mind you I am not happy about calling another councillor, presumably David Green, Fat Bastard.
So is this a sacking from the Labour group issue, is it a resigning as a councillor issue? If this individual was working for me and had posted either comment on the internet about another member of staff, it would have been immediate dismissal.
This brings us around to the institutional part, and the part about the whole issue that I found most worrying and offensive, which was Bob Bayford’s deaf ear on the BBC.
As I have already said, I think all of us start off homophobic and this is unavoidable, the thing to do is to learn how not to be by not behaving in a homophobic way, sometimes this all breaks down as it has in the cases of Mike Harrison and Ken Gregory.
Then of course the victim, or the concerned right minded people in whatever group it is goes to the leader of that group who acts in a right and proper way, or turns a blind eye, deaf ear, blocked nose etc to the situation.
If this happens then the whole situation moves into the realms of institutional homophobia, where it is effectively impossible for a homosexual to be part of the group.
This begs the question, should both offences carry the same punishment?
As Tony Bignews has already pointed out, the nature of the police action leaves them forbidden to communicate with their victims who are other councillors, however the main part of a councillors function is to communicate with the other councillors.
I guess this brings us back to us all still being homophobic and that includes the police and their very restrained action, sic. “As this is the first time you have left a voicemail wishing someone dead, raped, beaten up or whatever, we will let you off with a caution.
Stupid to ask foxes and chickens to cooperate I suppose, but at the moment there are so many problems in Thanet far to evident to disagree about that you could probably find some common ground.
Obviously in the case of Ken Gregory the offence was far more serious for three reasons, one being that he holds and has held senior positions in the council, another being that this was directed anonymously and deliberately towards the victim, another being that the homophobia was much more vicious and would have been enough in my opinion to be a resigning sacking issue without the homophobic connotations.
As I have already pointed out, if they worked for me, they would have both got dismissed immediately, but I don’t think either of them can be sacked as councillors, this leaves us with the difficulty that they may remain councillors and possibly even form yet another group.
Lets for a moment here put the shoe on the other foot and say that one if the TIGs left a voicemail on Simon Moores’s phone, saying the he hoped his plane crashed and he died a slow and painful death.
I would have thought a bit more than police caution would have been appropriate.
God alone knows what Simon would have had to say if the voicemail had been played to the TIG group leader on the BBC news and the TIG group leader had tried the blind eye, deaf ear, card.
Having said all this and rather laboured some of my points because I don’t really think I was getting my message across, it is evident that we have a problem and that I think even the most die hard party supporters must realise that all is not right with their parties.
The councillors and officers rode completely over the leadership consultation and decided to stay with the cabinet system, so rightly or wrongly this is the system we have.
In most cases the selection of councillors isn’t really democratic because we the electorate can only vote for the candidates selected by the parties, most of which relate to safe seats and national political swings dictated by the government in parliament.
So a message to councillors, stop blaming the other party, finding their faults is far too easy, a mugs game where you will always find plenty at fault, look to your own parties faults and do your best to sort them out.