Wednesday, 21 July 2010

'Crackpot' Brighton Council to suspend councillor - for posting footage of council meetings on the web


I meant to blog about this last week, but this really is a journalists' dream yarn: a story that seems to mature, rather than diminsh, with age.

Brighton Council held its first ever standards board panel hearing last week, and it decided to suspend Green Councillor Jason Kitcat for the heinous crime of... wait for it... drawing attention to public council meetings!

Yes, you read it right. After a 21-day period for him to decide whether or not to appeal the decision, Cllr Kitcat will be suspended as a councillor for up to six months, or until he apologises to Tory Geoffrey Theobald for posing a clip of him addressing a city council meeting on the video search engine YouTube.

The move will, of course, leave Regency residents a councillor down, and the Green Group without one of it's finest speakers and value-for-money firebrands.

More importantly, it will give the Tories (who lodged the initial complaint) a working majority with which to foist public service cuts and hikes in charges on those living in the city.

That the decision was taken, effectively, by two councillors, one of whom admitted not having viewed the clip in question (Jeane Lepper), and another (David Watkins) who appeared to be asleep for some of the hearing, just shows how open to political interference is our fragile local democracy.

That the council can over-ride voters' wishes so easily, inappropriately using a standards and complaints system when the ballot box didn't give them the result they sought, is nothing short of a scandal.

If you're interested, here's the clip in question. It shows Tory Councillor Geoffrey Theobald speaking at a council meeting last year.

I have used the footage from the Argus report into the whole fiasco, so I'm pretty sure I'm safe from a similar complaint being made against me for telling the tale!

4 comments:

  1. He made a clip which was edited down to humiliate a colleague and uploaded it to youtube. If someone in my work place did this I'd be taking disciplinary action against them.
    This is not behaviour that I'd expect from any professional, least of all a councillor.

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  2. I've written a less partisan take on events:
    http://blog.andrewhancox.com/2010/07/green-councillor-jason-kitcat-youtube-and-the-grown-up-world-of-local-politics/

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  3. Andrew

    As I understand it, here editing consists of nothing more than choosing when to start and stop, rather than changing anything.

    Re-posting clips of long videos already in the public domain, to illustrate a factual report of a councillor's words at a council meeting, can only enhance transparency, and access to local democracy, surely?

    In any event I can't see how the clip concerned could possibly be humiliating - do you really think it is? Isn't it just how it was?

    Isn't the bigger issue the Tories' use of the confidential standards board process in the face of rejection at the ballot box.

    Surely, the truth is the suspension of an opposition councillor will strengthen the Tories' stranglehold on the council - despite the fact that the party's councillors hold only 25 of the city's 54 seats - three short of a majority.

    Ben

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  4. It isn't "editing" to show a continuous clip. If he had actually changed the order of things or maybe spliced together things which actually occurred at separate times, THAT would be editing.

    What Andrew Hancox forgets is that the only person with any entitlement at all to feel humiliated (and it's arguable at best) actually isn't remotely bothered. In truth Cllr Theobald has enough nous to realise what a massive own-goal this is for the Tories - something which his boneheaded colleagues don't.

    What we have here is one Tory Councillor (Ted Kemble) acting as a willing stooge for the leadership. If it didn't have potentially serious implications for freedom of speech and democracy it would be laughably pathetic.

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