What is a “reasonable person”? Do you trust EDDC to decide?

1 Oct

EDDC has amended its draft social media policy where councillors were to have been banned for discussing “sensitive issues” in public or in blogs or newspaper articles.  The new clause now says that “you must not make any comment or post so as to give a reasonable person the impression that you have brought your office as a councillor or the council into disrepute”.

But what is a “reasonable person”?

In some churches, for example, discussing matters of personal sexuality is allowed, in others it is banned.  Which one is reasonable?  In Parliament we see all parties insult each other, patronise each other and belittle each other.  Is this reasonable?  If it is not, why is it allowed to continue?  If this sort of behaviour is accepted in Parliament, why is it frowned on lower down in the political pecking order.

We do not elect our councillors or our MPs to be bland and boring.  We elect them to stand up for what is right and publicise what they believe is wrong.  This will differ if you are Conservative, LibDem, UKIP, Independent or British National Party.  It is the healthy debate on these matters that keeps our democracy on its toes.

Has anyone seen the blog of the right-wing commentator Guido Fawkes?


Just see what he has to say about his own party conference and about other parties at the moment.  Is this reasonable?  Is it fair?  Probably not, but does it matter – if we are all imbued with our own sense of what is reasonable and we do not look to others to dictate that.

EDDC is entering a minefield.  The decision about what is “reasonable” will rest with a few people who will have enormous pressures put on them to conform to power whether that is morally right or not. If we are not careful, we will find that the “reasonable person” in East Devon thinks, acts and writes like whichever party is in power at the time.  At one time, it will be reasonable to keep council tax down and for income to come from such things as parking and burials.  At another time, and in the blink of an eye at an election, it might be considered reasonable to put council tax up and reduce costs of parking and burials.

Eric Pickles, our Local Government minister, is on record as saying that councillors in Cornwall should “buy themselves the darkest sunglasses they can possibly get” after awarding themselves a pay rise in a time of austerity  (see This is Cornwall – Pickles attacks “greedy” payrise of Cornwall councillors”) and goes on to say they have their noses “in the trough”.

If this had been said by an EDDC councillor, would it have been reasonable?  If not, why is it OK for Mr Pickles to say it – a man who is supposed to be more experienced and wiser than they are at the job they all do?

“It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech,  Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own” (Herbert Hoover).

“Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter.  The audience that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance” (William O. Douglas) 

“Fear of serious injury alone cannot justify oppression of free speech and assembly.  Men feared witches and burnt women.  It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of their irrational fears” (Louis D, Brandeis)  




2 Responses to “What is a “reasonable person”? Do you trust EDDC to decide?”

  1. Tim October 1, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Evidence that we cannot trust EDDC to keep us informed, thus demonstrating a need for private bloggers, is to be found in one of EDDC’s own documents. Agenda Item 10 for last weeks Audit and Governance Ctte (26/9.13) addresses “two risks that were scored as high on the risk register…. I quote below the relevant extracts.

    Failure to provide information proactively to residents, businesses,
    town and parish councils and other stakeholders.
    Initial Score High – Impact: Serious Likelihood: Very likely
    Re-assessed Score Medium – Impact: Significant Likelihood: Likely

    Perceived reputation of the planning service by local community
    causes preventable demand through complaints
    Initial Score High – Impact: Major Likelihood: Very likely
    Re-assessed Medium – Impact: Serious Likelihood: Likely

    These comments will come as no surprise to many and act to add official confirmation of what we have long known. EDDC cannot be trusted to provide the information to us that it is both legally and morally bound so to do. The secrecy of the overly represented Lodge has no place in Local Authorities.

  2. Media Mandy October 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    In today’s global, international and multi-cultural yet separatist world it is getting more and more difficult to define reasonable. How can EDDC believe that it can do it any better than anyone else? I want to read opposing views – they are often much more interesting and challenging than pro- views. They may or may not change my mind and I may or may not agree but I want them to be available to me to enable me to decide.

    The only exceptions should be incitement to hatred and/or violence.

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