“Communication” in politics: spin v. information

18 Mar

Below are two versions of the same event – a meeting for people who were interested in standing as councillors and who wanted to know about how local and national politics work:  see which one you think gives you the best report of how the evening went:

First: the press release from East Devon District Council:


 EDDC held a successful evening event aimed at encouraging more people to engage in local democracy, overseen by Council Chairman Graham Godbeer.  Guest speakers included Elizabeth Price from the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service, whose task is to spread awareness of the work, processes and relevance of Parliament.  Elizabeth was followed by Julian Bassham from the Cabinet Office, who outlined imminent changes to the electoral register that will affect all people of voting age.  He explained what the changes are, what they will mean to us and when they are going to happen.


Younger voters were represented by George Downs from the Youth Parliament and by Alfie Weaver. They spoke about the importance of having a say in local politics and their perception of electoral representation and voting.  The final speaker was Councillor Andrew Moulding, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Strategic Development and Partnership.  Andrew described what being a district councillor means to him and why people should consider standing at the next election in May 2015.

After a short question and answer session, the 150-minute event ended a little later than the scheduled finish time of 9pm.

Source, Press release from East Devon District Council: http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/communications_and_consultation.htm?newsid=1053

And now the same event described by Independent Councillor Claire Wright who was also at the meeting:


 There were a few heated exchanges at tonight’s elections event,which was put on at EDDC.  With around 80 or so people were present, the event kicked off with a presentation on parliament and how decisions are made and laws passed. It was really interesting and very well articulated, by a locally based civil servant, who was obviously passionate about her job.

Next up, after a very pleasant sociable coffee and cake break, was a presentation by someone from the cabinet office, about how registration is changing for elections. The jist was that people will soon need to register individually, rather than someone being allowed to register on their behalf.

Then, youth campaigners, 17 year old Alfie Weaver and 16 year old George Downs presented on their work for the youth service. George explained about his role in the youth parliament.  And Alfie told the group what work he had been doing within schools and the community, helping young people.  He explained that much work was currently ongoing to challenge the youth review.

After this excellent presentation, deputy leader, Cllr Andrew Moulding, said a few words on campaigning for election and being a councillor, (including words of advice from former EDDC leader, Ted Pinney, accounts of dog bites and leaflets being thrown in bins).   Unfortunately, the talk went down badly with some attendees, who were hoping to hear more about the work of a councillor and less about the hazards of putting your hand through a letterbox, with a silent but aggressive dog on the other side.

During questions, West Hill resident, Philip Algar, raised his hand.  He asked why the council was lacking in democracy and why the ruling conservative group tended to vote en bloc at full council meetings.  The question received a smattering of applause and started an outbreak of muttering.

Cllr Moulding replied that if the tory whip (Cllr Phil Twiss) had been present, he would have confirmed that no whipping of conservative councillors ever takes place.  This remark received a few derisive murmurs and prompted Alfie Weaver to raise his hand.

Alfie asked why, when he had brought his fellow youth campaigners to address the county councillors on budget day (20 February), had Cllr Moulding been part of the bloc conservative vote against allowing them to speak.  Cllr Moulding first replied that the young campaigners hadn’t registered in time. Alfie put him straight. They had, but had been told they couldn’t speak.

Cllr Moulding said he didn’t know about that but went on to say that if the council (Devon County Council) had allowed the youth campaigners to speak, they would have had to allow the badger campaigners to speak and maybe other members of the public.

I hadn’t intended to say anything this evening but this comment was so ridiculous that I put up my hand to respond. Out of a six hour meeting, this would have meant SIX MINUTES of time spent listening to the public!

Other hands also went up.  However, the chairman, Cllr Graham Godbeer, perhaps sensing that a can of worms had just been opened, hurriedly closed the meeting.

Source: blog of Independent Councillor Claire Wright






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