Monday, October 3, 2022

Tory leader dealt blow as own members vote against code of conduct for local press

A MOTION by Tory group leader Phil Anderson that sought support for local press to sign a code of conduct was defeated at a full council meeting last night (Wednesday).

The debate had stemmed from concerns regarding the comments sections of websites which councillors felt had become “kangaroo courts”

Cllr Anderson said: “We must also be aware that new technology is radically changing the way that local media operates. Every media outlet in Thurrock now has a website, and this has opened up new ways for the public to get involved and have their say.

“It has also opened up the opportunity for anonymous individuals to broadcast lies and vicious verbal abuse to a mass audience. This would be unacceptable in any other context and it should be unacceptable on local media websites too.

Cllr Anderson proposed the motion by stating that this had been motivated by the phone-hacking scandal which he said: “Was not on the same scale in Thurrock”.

But he said the overall intention was to have a “Free press, freedom of speech and a fair hearing”.

Cllr Anderson had stressed that there was no legal enforcement for the motion but rather a moral one.

In an earlier draft of his speech he had made it clear to the press what could happen if they did not sign.

Cllr Anderson said: “It would also lead businesses and public bodies to question whether they should continue to deal with any organisations that refused to sign up.”

Council leader, John Kent spoke against the motion.

He said: “What is local. The Thurrock Gazette is run from Basildon, Surrey and Virginia; The Enquirer from Billericay and YourThurrock from Harlow.

“Are we to include the BBC, ITN and the national papers who all, from time to time, report in Thurrock.”

He also questioned cllr Anderson’s remark about phone-hacking not being on the same scale.

He said: “Are the Thurrock Gazette and Thurrock Enquirer breaking the law?

Cllr Martin Healy questioned the motion asking: “What message does it send out to small businesses?

“Should we not be trying to get our own house in order before trying to smash new financial models?”

Orsett councillor Mike Revell was in less forgiving mood.

He said: “I have nothing but praise for the printed press. It is down-right lies and rumours on websites that have, especially in relation to me and the other member for Orsett that have been sickening.”

Both Labour’s deputy leader, cllr Val Morris-Cook and public protection portfolio holder, cllr Lynn Worrall rounded on the Tories making veiled references to “websites that sail close to the wind.”

Cllr Morris-Cook was seen last week being harangued by Tory councillor Mark Coxshall in the civic offices after she insinuated that he was a contributor to one of the anonymous websites.

Stanford councillor, Shane Hebb seconded the motion and asked: “We should be held up to scrutiny not persecution.

“We have elections in six months time. Are we putting people off if they see how councillors can be vilified by the press.”

Cllr Anderson concluded the debate by saying: “This is a pro-active motion that looks for proper self regulation by a reasonable set of rules.”

All Labour councillors voted against it. Conservative councillors, Sue MacPherson, James Halden, Ben Maney and Mark Coxshall also voted it down.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Cllr Healy has got it spot on with his quote ““Should we not be trying to get our own house in order before trying to smash new financial models?”

    Maybe if the Councillors of Thurrock Council took a long hard look at themselves and the successive failures that they have been along with all the party political in-fighting which distracts them from the real work of running a borough then maybe they woudl not be running scared of the press.

  2. Cllr Anderson “methinks thou doth protest too much”. Your motion regarding the conduct of the Local media was peevish and revealed more about your own feelings rather than to the merit of the objective of your motion i.e. a “Thurrock Code of Conduct for the Local Media”. Some people may interpret your motion somewhat differently and see it as “Thurrock Councillors Code for CONTROL of the Local media”. You particularly singled out the Internet based media, eg “Your Thurrock”, for criticism claiming they were a platform allowing the public, sometimes anoniimously, to attack Councillors, make abusive comments and circulate stories that may be untrue, There are some Councillors who need to examine their own conduct when it comes to harrassment of members of the public but that may be a story for another day. As “Growler” so eloquently puts it “grow up for goodness sake. If you can;t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.
    So Cllr Anderson your motion deserved to be defeated ,not just for its silliness but also for the cogency of Cllr Kent’s opposition. I am inclined to the view that it was not an issue which Councillors should be taking up time discussing in the Council Chamber when there are far more important matters which they should be concerned about, like “knocking off” before completion of buisness,
    Get on with the job you were elected to do and leave it to the public and the appropriate authorities to adjudicate upon the conduct of the local news media.

  3. Looks like Phil’s reign could be coming to a very sudden end.

    For months there have been whispers of a division in the Tory parts and the four who voted it down along with the Revells have been the names that have been floated as the next leaders of Thurrock Tories.

    Watch this space.

  4. You have to accept the good with the bad you should have never brought this motion to full council and has for becoming “kangaroo courts the Tory group seem to have a website that permently supports them and no other political group. a number of people might even believe it is members of the Tory group who have designed this website for gossip and slanderous accusation who knows ?

  5. Well said Sting
    Its quite a surprise poor Phil has lasted so long.
    It’s quite a shame he never saw what was happening.
    The names you mentioned all new that they couldn’t get enough votes to become the leader so put Phil up for the job,they knew he didn’t have the experience to do it, so now it’s falling apart around him they will take the opportunity to sneak in.
    if I were Phil I’d be thinking of the verse that contains ” SCAPE & GOAT. Oh but isn’t that what the Tories are best at? Finding a good scape goat to blame all their missdermeaners

  6. Well said Sting
    Its quite a surprise poor Phil has lasted so long.
    It’s quite a shame he never saw what was happening.
    The names you mentioned all new that they couldn’t get enough votes to become the leader so put Phil up for the job,they knew he didn’t have the experience to do it, so now it’s falling apart around him they will take the opportunity to sneak in.
    if I were Phil I’d be thinking of the verse that contains ” SCAPE & GOAT. Oh but isn’t that what the Tories are best at? Finding a good scape goat to blame all their problems on. never mind Phil just remember it will all be BETTER AFTER YOUR GONE .

  7. Under current law, websites are liable for defamatory statements made by their users. If they fail to take down a post when they receive a complaint, they risk being treated as the “primary publisher” of the statement.

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