Saturday, 2 June 2012

Institutional homophobia and Thanet District Council and a ramble about the problems facing the council.

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.

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.   

This begs the question, should both offences carry the same punishment?

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.

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.

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.

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.       

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.

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.     


  1. a useful summary - harrison and gregory must go and clive and bob are past their sellby date on this, and the aquifer

  2. What a happy conclusion from michael child the completely impartial observer - the tory is worse than the labour one - what a surprise, never would have predicted that one. Let's really compare - one made a wholly unacceptable and nasty phone call and was cautioned by the police. He should resign in my view. The other, Labour one, has been found to have brought the council into disrepute by sexist abuse, then given a harassment notice for homophobic abuse on facebook, he also lied about doing it and accused the tories of doing it to discredit him, then he states that he did write them things (sic) yet is not guilty of anything. The tory was immediately suspended by Bob Bayford, while Hart dithers with an 'investigation'. When it comes down to it both should resign but Harrison's lies and accusations against others when he knew he'd done it makes him the more sordid case. And Hart the weak leader.

    1. 6.30 you commented on the post before I finished writing it, helpful to me as realised I had to clarify my points better, my thanks for that and I hope you think I have made why I think it is a case of the Tory worse than the Labour one this time.

      I guess in both cases the best thing all round would be to persuade the individuals to resign.

      But the blind eye, deaf ear issue is the serious one here and what this post is about, I notice you didn’t mention it, any ideas?

  3. What a happy conclusion from Anonymous 6.30 the completely impartial observer. You seem to know a lot about all this Mr Tory Councillor.

    Is that Cllr Wise as usual, or Cllr Wells, or perhaps Cllr Moores(although he often uses fake accounts to make 'comments')?

    1. Coming from an anonymous that is a bit rich. Are you Cllr. Hart, or Cllr. Nicholson or maybe even Cllr. Worrow? Or maybe you are just some Labour troll who likes to believe that, despite getting the most votes last time, the Conservatives have no supporters, just a few councillors.

    2. I suspect that the vast majority of anonymous comments on blogs are by local councillors (but not this one!).

    3. I AM NOT A DISTRICT COUNCILLORJune 03, 2012 10:17 am

      And the grounds for your suspicions, Anon 9:31? Who should we suspect who you are?

  4. Sadly we have a situation where much of what Michael alleges is true, if as usual, he shows some bias against the right. Nonetheless he has some valid points. Whilst we currently have a former Conservative leader facing charges of abuse of public office, we have a new young Labour councillor already complaining that he is not paid enough. Despite the fact that many other young graduates his age have to take expenses only internships to even get a step onto the earning ladder. Evidently no gratitude there to his father and the party who have given him this leg up on his political career.

    We could, of course, go on at length about councillors failings and indiscretions, yet many do put in a lot of time for very modest allowances. Elsewhere Chris Wells has commented on the things he is currently doing for people. I know councillors often get calls over dinner or late at night and often on matters well outside their local remit. Most still give of their time and, where it is a county council of even MP related matter, feed the enquiry on. They are not all money grabbing freeloaders.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, public impression is most important and on issues like those involving the two councillors this week, leaders need to act promptly and there should be no hesitation on suspension pending investigation. Once confirmed they should be sacked, but, regretably, there is no mechanism for that.

    We should also not overlook the antics of the miltants in all this who seem to be constantluy stirring things up and employing double standards. It is OK for them to call Christians homophobes or a lady resident in Birchington, who spoke out against one of them, a pig complete with unflattering cartoon pig character and comment on a blog site, but don't you dare criticise them, for they have the protection of bisexuality.

    All in all, the people of Thanet are the losers, we have a party in power that did not win the most seats or get anything like the most votes and, on closer examination, we find they are not really in power for their strings are being manipulated by two men elected under false colours. On top we have a council engaged in disciplinary issues instead of concentrating on what they were elected to do. Pretty sad state of affairs all round.

  5. The act is they should be doing things to help and improve Thanet but all of those involved dont seem to want to improve the area and are set on personal agendas. To me they should resign and disappear. Thanet has got mmore than its share of problems without them adding to them.

  6. 7.26 - read a newspaper or watch the news on tv - it's all there, no inside knowledge required.

  7. Thanet Council should be abolished. It's too easy for their carrying on to be invisible down here away from the rest of Kent. It's a recipe for local self interest and empire making to thrive.

  8. Michael. I'm afraid you may feel that you are homophobic, but please don't assume that everyone is. I know that I for one am not. Nor am I ageophobic, genderophobic or bibliopoleophobic - although I am starting to struggle with the latter.
    As you're well aware the police caution was introduced to save both time and money in the judicial system. Cllr Gregory has admitted the crime, and now has a criminal record. He could have elected to insist on committal to Crown Court, which would have strung the whole thing out for months more and cost a whole stack of money. I suspect that what you really resent is the lack of a show trial. He now sits with the real Independents, although I suspect not too close. North Thanet Conservatives will undoubtedly expel him in the fullness of time - he can always try and rejoin the Labour Group from whence he came.
    Cllr Harrison does not have a criminal record and his misdeeds are certainly less severe than those of Cllr Gregory. He did, however, lie about the matter until you pointed out that the alleged fraping or hacking (he couldn't decide which) would have been extremely unlikely. He subsequently admitted his misdeeds, which sit along with his earlier sexist remarks to indicate just what a throw back he really is. The local Labour Group are investigating and will doubtless issue the necessary telling off, which will fall well short of suspension or expulsion. They will also remove him from OSP, and Cllr Driver will have got his way again.
    There are 56 council seats is I remember rightly. One is vacant since the incumbent died. Of the remaining 55 we hear a lot from Cllrs Driver, Worrow, Harrison, Wells and Moores. Cllr Hart lets us in on the secrets of the local swimming pool on Twitter and Scobie Minor, having abandoned blogging following a mauling earlier in the year, also tweets about his exploits. We occasionally hear from Cllr Wise and by all accounts Cllr Cohen struggles with anything more technologically advanced than a Biro. That leaves 46 councillors from whom we hear nothing. It is to be hoped that they can call this rabble to order and persuade all the children to concentrate a bit more on the problems surrounding us. At the moment, the biggest problem is the council itself.

  9. Yes and for years they've covered up the monitors and aquifer and 0% fraud

    1. If there is such a thing as aquiferphonia then poor old 12:15 has got it bad.

  10. Michael
    I think that your post is well considered and largely I agree with what you are saying. However, I do not think we are all homophobic even if we have a suspicion or even distaste of homosexuality. After all, an arachnophobe is not someone who isn't too fond of spiders, they have a pathological fear of them!

    As for the miscreant councillors, I think they have fallen short of the standards required of public office and should resign or be sacked, on whatever side of the chamber they sit.

    The fact that some people are detecting left or right bias in what you are saying is, I am afraid, more indication of the pettiness that is dominating our local politics at a time when we really need strong governance on the real issues.

    1. Well said on homophobia, Anon 9:16, for local interpretation seems to have reached the point where if you don't rush out and hug a gay, call me Dave style, you are homophobic. Whereas the label should be confined to those who verbally or physically assault homosexuals, individually or collectively, it seems now to extend to anyone who is uncomfortable with homosexuality or has religious reservations, as demonstrated in the recent debate on same sex marriage. Everyone who spoke out against it or who felt it was an issue outside the remit of TDC, was branded homophobic and, in some cases, even threatened with being reported.

      Agree with you on the need for strong governance, but I am afraid politics is a fact of life in which Michael plays his part along with many others of us. From top to bottom, or Westminster to Minster, an indiscretion by a politician from outright villainy to removing the wrong knickers, is seized upon by the opposite party along with demands for inquiries (regardless of cost), sackings or resignations. It can only get worse if the trend for career politicians continues for they know no other world.

    2. I agree Tom. That's why I wouldn't (for example) call Cannon and Ball with their "wooly woofter" jokes homophobic, same as I wouldn't call Jim Davidson with his "chalky white" jokes racist... there's a BIG difference between political correctness and an actual phobia.

    3. Peter, we really must stop agreeing like this or people will talk. Indeed, some might even demand an inquiry.

  11. I find most of the councillors in Thanet most distastful, not many have the manners higher than a dog, some take their wages and do nothing for the community they are employed to work with, in fact, hardly any work to acheive what the public want, but do as they wish.
    I personally couldn't give a toss if a councillor is gay, as long as they keep away from my kids. Bisexualality may be an issue, unless it can be medically proven, they were born that way, but only 1 in 1000 is.
    Reading all this awful mess at meetings, with rudeness and offensive behavious to the public, certainly should not be over ridden as it was. Heads should have rolled, councillors should have been sacked from their position as this behaviour is totally against the code of conduct written fr the councillors and signed by them all.
    Why hasn't this been dealt with? Surely the guilty ones are not to be ignored but disciplined.
    Just how many councillors have disgraced themselves in the past 3 years? I believe the first was Ezekiel attacking a female councillor in public, also swearing in a public place at a Christmas function, spitting in the face of residents at a TDC a year ago, being arrested for fraud, accusing the public of being a rabble and swearing and hissing in the public gallery, not appearing in court when summoned. Cllr Watt Ruffel arrested for causing the death of a kitten, found guilty. Left his position as Margate Mayor 4 months early but taking the rest of the yearly funding with him, promising to pay back the money but failure to do so. Cllr Mike Harrison accused of homophobic abuse towards Cllr Ian Drive. Cllr Ken Gregory homophobic abuse against Cllr John Worrow. If I have missed out any please feel free to add them on.
    Just what kind of people are being paid to run our wards? Can someone tell me why a councillor who has been voted in by the residents as a Tory, can just suddenly be allowed to jump ship and expect the residents to still contribute to his wages. Surely they should be re-elected by the people if they are wanted, is there not a rule that covers this? I feel most councillors make up their rules as they go on.

    1. See you still agree with Clause 28 then 4:45. Whilst having some sympathy with what you say, councillors cannot be sacked by their party leaders, only suspended from or expelled from their parties. Basically, the public should have the right to remove offending councillors including those who leave the parties they stood for at the election. I agree with you about bisexuality.

    2. Why do you want them to keep away from your kids, because they're councillors or because they're gay (or both)? ; )

    3. I spotted that too, Peter, but was scared to ask lest we got something to spark off the TIGs in reply.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Ive deleted the previous comment as I might be wrong. In any case it's:

    7. The group was started by "LocalEvents Thanet" (whoever that is):

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Sorry you can’t accuse councillors and officers of fraud anonymously here, continued site misuse will result in difficulties using blogger.


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