Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You can please some of the people...

At risk of starting a prolonged blog debate, I felt I ought to respond to the criticism made in the comments of one of my posts last week. A local blogger, "Chalton Average" seems to have cast themselves in the role of Greenwich's blog regulator (a kind of "OFBlog" I guess) and has been rating this blog, along with those of some of my Conservative colleagues in Greenwich.

I am taken to task for not blogging a sufficient number of local stories for OFBlog's liking, and apparently this isn't the first time I've been subjected to such a performance review, with another having been conducted last May. We're told "since then he's improved, he was on about a 25% local post rate and he's now doubled that to 50%". Gosh, aren't I good? Promising improvement, but must try harder.

Joking aside, I've now read the various posts about me by this person (who doesn't identify themselves, so I can't afford them the courtesy of referring to them as Mr or Mrs whoever). I must confess to being initially somewhat hurt by the contemptuous and downright rude manner in which they choose to express themself, but that's the nature of an anonymous blog I suppose - I've heard worse. And of course they are entitled to criticise me and express a view on what I write.

What I do take issue with, however, is the substance of the argument being levelled. I am attacked as though this blog were some kind of official communication, paid for by Greenwich taxpayers (or even by Greenwich Conservatives), which is failing to give value for money. Well, I hate to disappoint people, but that just ain't the case. This is a personal blog, written as an outlet for my thoughts and observations, from the perspective of someone with a vested interest in opposition - hence the title. It's not called "Nigel Fletcher for Eltham North" or "Nigel Fletcher in Greenwich", and is not intended as a campaigning tool. Like anyone, I have a range of interests, and all of them will appear from time to time in what I write about on my blog.

Of course a lot of my interests are political - as well as being a Councillor I have worked in national politics, I am researching a thesis on political opposition, run a research group on the same subject, and I do have many friends in, and connections to, the Westminster 'village' (which seems to be my worst crime in the eyes of Mr/Mrs Average). But I also love history and heritage, wandering around historic buildings and museums; I enjoy messing about in boats and enthusing about maritime matters; I love Doctor Who and know far more about it than is strictly healthy.

None of these things are directly relevant to my being a Councillor in Eltham North, but all of them shape me and how I see the world ('the fundamental interconnectedness of all things' as Douglas Adams might have put it). If you want a blog that is 100% local politics, I am sorry you feel let down, but I have never considered that to be what I am writing. If you want our official political messages, go to the Greenwich Conservatives or Eltham North Conservatives sites, which feature news stories from me and my Council colleagues.

Of course I write a lot about Greenwich - it is where I live, I love the area, and being a Councillor is a huge part of my life. When I get angry with the latest failing of the local Labour administration I will rant about it here (and just wait for tomorrow's rant...), just as I will write about an enjoyable day out like last weekend's Royal Navy display. But I do not pretend this blog is the sharp end of local political debate - for a start my readership is tiny, compared to how many people read the local press, or receive our campaign literature. I made contact with far more local people last Saturday morning delivering campaign leaflets than I ever do with a blogpost, and that's how it should be. If I'm not blogging about campaigning, it may be because I'm out campaigning.

Over the next year I'll be out on the streets of Greenwich with my colleagues pretty much every week, as well as in the Council Chamber, attacking Labour for the mess they have made of running this Borough. Make no mistake, I badly, badly want to get rid of them next May and replace them with a Council that actually listens to local people - and if anyone doubts that commitment, they clearly haven't met me. This blog may not be 100% dedicated to the fight for Greenwich, but I sure am.


Charlton Average said...

Wouldn’t starting a prolonged blog debate actually be a good thing? It’s the sort of conversation that Greenwich Council consistently seems to avoid and it would be a welcome breath of fresh air and passion.

So on those grounds I thank you for your response, it genuinely is good to talk.

I regret that I came across as rude rather than frustrated with a Council that doesn’t consult with us, Labour Councillors that won’t solve problems and having to find out stories about the Council’s misdeeds for ourselves due to the seeming lack of any decent level of opposition or media exposure.

I’m not setting myself up as any kind of OfBlog, all that I am is a life long Labour supporters who can no longer vote for the current ruling Labour establishment. So I look around trying to find some opposition that I can believe in and vote for, and to be honest I simply don’t see it.

I am not the only person who is somewhat cynical about Greenwich Conservative’s level of commitment. The retired Greenwich Watch said it better, and more pithily, than I’m sure that I could manage:

The only thing worse than Greenwich Nu Labour is Greenwich Olde Tories. Their ultimate political nightmare is not Premier Galloway and President Scargill, but waking up one morning and finding themselves responsible for running Greenwich. They have spent their lives turning up at the council AGM and complaining about not getting a turn at being Mayor and then doing nothing for the rest of the year. The last people to actively oppose Labour machine politics in Greenwich were the Valley Party. Labour get in every time not because of voter apathy but because no other party is remotely interested in running Greenwich.I know that there are Greenwich Conservative group web sites out there but I think that on a local level people are more interested in people than party. I am sure that I’m not alone in wanting to know what you personally get up to in your day to day duties representing the people of your ward. You are someone in a real position of power within Greenwich, well certainly when compared to small time blogger like me, and I’d like to see you using that to shine a light on what the Council is up to and waving the flag for the battles you are fighting against them.

Too many stories about Westminster which while interesting do little to combat the feeling that seems to exist that Greenwich Conservatives have no serious ambition to really go toe to toe with the Council. Yes you are of course free to blog about what you want to blog about. But when there are floating voters like me looking for a chance of change in Greenwich why not try your hardest to grab them?

Greenwich Council set the bar pretty low in terms of involvement and achievement, it really wouldn’t take very much to surpass them and make a genuine difference to the borough whether you are in power or in opposition.

Nigel said...

Thanks for this thoughtful critique - I've taken it on board, and will be posting more about my day-to-day Council work and frustrations in future. I just hope you will also accept the occasional post about other things - we have Eurovision coming up this weekend, for example, and I reserve the right to rant on that too!