Archive for September 29th, 2011

This is cross-post from Kevin d’Arcy’s blog. Kevin is a governor at Morpeth school and an award-winning journalist who has worked for the BBC and The Economist; he is also a former adviser to the World Bank and various European institutions. He’s also the independent mayor we should have had.

Democracy dies again

Without communication with the public, no government is valid
Perhaps I should not have been surprised. The council newspaper, East End Life, declared on its front page in giant letters ‘London loves Vicky Park’. Also that it was voted the people’s favourite. What it did not say is that, out of 215,300 people in Tower Hamlets just 279 of them named the park as the best. Which compares with the overall British winner of The Old Station, in Tintern, where a population of 750 managed a vote of 2,421. I have to admit that Vicky Park is far superior to Tintern’s Old Station, despite it now looking like a building site, but both elections raise serious doubts about the nature of democracy. It reminds me somewhat of our mayor’s own election by one in seven voters.

The trouble is that all this a secret. The public is not being told. Clearly not byEast End Life, but neither by the previously independent East London Advertiser. Ted Jeory, now of the Sunday Express, who was previously deputy editor of theAdvertiser, says on his blog ‘trial by jeory’ what a pity this has happened.
Councillors still have regular meetings to decide how best to spend our money, but not a word about their work is reported to the public. Two newspapers every week elect to keep their silence.

Occasionally the truth leaks out. Either in the pages of Private Eye, or more recently in the Evening Standard, where the latest embarrassing spat was reported between the mayor and leader of the council about the use of the official car. The semi-elected mayor, having been prevented by councillors from taking over the vehicle, decided to hire a car of his own, then also blocked the use of the vehicle to the man who still represents the council, so needs to wear ceremonial gear.

This kind of nonsense is the only account we have of how our borough is run. Central government directives on the use of publicity, paid for out of the public purse, are totally ignored.

Endless pictures of the semi-elected mayor, smiling broadly at old people and children, is no compensation for practical facts about who is doing what and how.

As somebody use to say all the time: there ought to be a law against it.

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