By Peter Perrin
1. Hypocritical Oafs?
There are many descriptions people use when commenting on MPs and Councillors, alongside “being economical with the truth” possibly the most used is “hypocrites”, you only have to read comments posted on “Your Thurrock” to confirm this.
Some may say that we should not be surprised that politicians are perceived as hypocrites, after all they are well known for “preaching one thing and practicing another” on the other hand some people may be inclined to the opinion that it is an unfair and cynical view of politicians.
However, allowing for both points of view, I was shocked and angered by the sheer hypocrisy of the comments made by Cllr Charles Curtis to a proposal that the Council should give ex-service personnel, residing in the Borough and applying for accommodation, priority status and treat them as “special cases”.
He said “I do not believe they [ex-service personnel] should be given any special treatment they should be treated the same as everybody else. They volunteer to join the Army, they know what they are letting themselves in for, that is what they are paid to do. I do not understand what the fuss is about. What about the young mum with 3 children living in a top floor flat who has no hope of being moved? That is my main concern”.
If Cllr Curtis had confined his comments to the fact that he did not think it was right to give these soldiers special treatment, whilst I would have disagreed with him, I would have respected his right to express his opinion. What particularly angered me was his inference that these soldiers, some suffering from terrible injuries and all of them traumatised by their experiences, were somehow receiving special treatment at the expense of others.
He cited the plight of a “young mum with 3 children” living in a top floor flat creating the impression that giving an ex-soldier priority status was depriving this “young mum” of the chance of being moved to more suitable accommodation.
He appears to ignore the fact that these are two entirely different cases with different needs and circumstances.
On the one hand the “young mum” already has a roof over her head, albeit unsuitable” and is looking to “upgrade” to meet her changed circumstances whilst on the other hand the ex-soldier is “homeless” and in urgent need of a roof over his/her head.
The type of accommodation required by the “young mum” [2/3 bedroom] is not likely to be the same as that required by the ex-soldier [1 bedroom] therefore one case does not impinge on the other and, contrary to what Cllr Curtis would have us believe, no deprivation or lessening of the “young mum’s” chances of being re-housed would be occasioned.
I find the recent expression of concern Cllr Curtis has for the “young mum with 3 children living in a top floor flat” at odds with his opinions expressed to me on the subject and another example of his hypocrisy.
About two years ago, I raised this exact same issue, with the then Leader of the Council Cllr Gary Hague, especially with regard to the safety of very young children living in flats both low rise [3 floors] and high rise [3 floors and more} with an open balcony.
During a subsequent private discussion I had with Cllr Curtis he said 40 years ago he had lived with his wife and children on the top floor of a 3 story block of flats in Broxburn Drive and that he was grateful just to have a roof over his head and that tenants of today expected too much from the Council. Tenants should count themselves fortunate to have a property to live in and stop complaining and anyway there was nothing the Council could do about it.
Whilst I welcome his “road to Damascus” conversion and that he has at last seen the “light” I question his sincerity, I suspect that his concern has more to do with party politics than genuine concern for the “young mum and her three children”.
The number of ex-service personnel seeking council accommodation in Thurrock would probably be 1 or 2 a year at most, surely even Mr Curtis would not claim that is putting a strain on the housing stock and depriving others of being housed.
Cllr Curtis, it is possible to care about BOTH the “young mum” and the ex-soldier without excluding one or the other. The hypocrisy of his comments regarding ex-service personnel is made even more galling by the fact that it was just over a year ago that Cllr Curtis, then Mayor, with attendant publicity signed into being the Council’s “Veterans Charter”.
Cllr Curtis then makes matters worse by stating “I served in the Army myself. You know what you are signing up for”. The audacity of his implication that his experience as a soldier gives his opinions more weight and gravitas beggars belief. It is also an affront to suggest his military “career” is in any way comparable to that of those who have served or are currently serving in war zones.
What dangers did he sign up for? What injury and trauma did he experience? Did he risk his life serving his country? If I remember correctly the highlight of his military “career” was his absence [AWOL} and time in detention.
During his time as mayor, cllr Curtis was described as “affable” and “cool”, the “people’s mayor”. It is sad that many will now regard him not as “affable” but “laffable” not a figure of “cool” but one of “ridicool”.
Whilst on the subject of hypocrisy I take this opportunity of mentioning other incidences.
The current practice of being preached to and the saying of prayers at the Meetings of Full Council. I believe that religious beliefs are a personal matter and should not be imposed upon people at Council meetings who may feel embarrassed but obliged to conform less they be seen as disrespectful.
If Councillors wish to hold such meetings then perhaps they should conduct them in the privacy of the Mayor’s Parlour prior to the commencement of the Council Meeting. I class this practice as hypocritical on the grounds that I believe it is done more to enhance the public image of the Mayor and Councillors as God fearing upright citizens occupying the moral high ground. I doubt that many Councillors, if any, are regular attenders at their local church and only do so when it is in their interests to be seen to be doing their “duty attending functions such as “Remembrance Day” services. I also find it hypocritical to be asked to stand for a minute in silence as a mark of respect for people who have died in disasters abroad but cannot recall ever being asked by the Mayor at a Council meeting to accord the same respect to our own service personnel who have given their lives in the service of their country.
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