Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Focus turns on Brighton Tories in YouTube row

Last month I reported on how Green Party councillor Jason Kitcat had been suspended for six months - for trying to make Brighton council a little more transparent by posting clips of some of its meetings on video search site YouTube.

He was given 28 days to appeal against the bizarre-seeming ruling and has now launched just such an appeal: his suspension has been suspended while the Tribunals Service for Local Government Standards in England makes up its mind.

In my earlier report of the incident I mused that perhaps the Tories' enthusiasm for pursuing this particularly nonsensical complaint was simple political gerrymandering: Cllr Kitcat's suspension would change the delicate balance of council politics in the Tories' favour and give them back their majority in most meetings.

But a few weeks on, I wonder if in fact the Tories concerned - Mary Mears, Ted Kemble and Brian Oxley - were actually engaged in trying to boost transparency with an elaborate double-bluff: the media coverage of the original incident has boosted viewings of the clip in question about five-fold.

OK maybe not. To be honest I imagine they were motivated more by the simple fact that shortening clips from webcasts of counci meetings - and posting them on YouTube - is simply beyond their technical abilities, and if they couldn't manage it, they didn't want anyone else doing it either.

Who knows what motivated the original complaint, or how the Tories' complaint, and motivation, will be judged at the Tribunal (scheduled to take place on October 18th - I'll keep you posted).

But in the words of Cllr Kitcat himself:

"The Conservative councillors' pursuit of their complaint against me shows poor judgement. The public have the right to know what is happening in the council meetings they pay for: for the Tories to use a code of conduct complaint to try and block openness and transparency is extraordinarily disappointing."

Some might argue it brings the council into disrepute all by itself.

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