Sunday, 16 November 2008

leaderdoesntlisten.com

Former Barnet resident : Chief Abiola - an example to Mike Freer


Barnet Council has decided to spend £400 of Taxpayers money setting up a blog for Councillor Mike Freer, Leader of Barnet Council. It is called Leaderlistens.com and if you want to see what Mike has to say, click HERE. Now it may surprise you to know that I think that Mike Freer having a blog is a great idea. I thoroughly disagree with his colleague Brian Coleman (Click HERE to find out about him)who says that blogs are a waste of time and Twitter is for twits (presumably why he thought his leader set up a Barnet Council Twitter site. Click HERE to see what our local twits are up to). Now Mike Freer used to have a blog on the local paper (The Times Group) which he got free of charge. It seems he stopped that when he started his new blog. My blog here on Blogspot is also free. Anyone can have one and even someone (me) described by a certain local Tory Councillor as "an imbecile who's blatherings are only of interest to himself" can easily put one together. Now why Mike needs an expensive blog, when everyone else gets one for free mystifies me, but hey he's not paying, so I guess he doesn't really care.

Having said that I didn't write this to moan about that. I'm writing this blog to have a little discussion about his Blogmaster policies. He's presumably justified the expense of the blog on the grounds that it's a public service. He says he'd love to hear from us, but I know of several people who've posted comments to the blog which have never appeared. In fact the only comments which have been successfully moderated were four comments that were posted between 14:13 and 15:19 on the 4th November. Strangely enough these four comments, the only ones to appear, were all rather tame and were posted on the day of the last Council meeting, when Mike knew he had a plethora of questions regarding his blog from Lib Dem Duncan MacDonald. Now far be it from me to cast doubts about the motives of "Amanda", "Sam" and "Gloria" who all independently posted their questions in a period of just over 1 hour on the day of the council meeting, but it does look rather fishy doesn't it?

In his latest blog Mike bravely puts the boot into the racists who've sent him nasty messages about the single Nigerian mother living on benefits in a house valued by some at £1 Million at taxpayers expense. Now I've had much experience of Nigerians over the years. I worked for a building firm which had many contracts arranged by the Nigerian embassy. One of the last projects I worked on was a large house in Temple Fortune owned by Chief Abiola (click HERE to find out about Chief Abiola). Chief Abiola at the time was running a campaign to become president and replace military rule with a civilian Government. He eventually won an election, but the result was nullified by the Military and they refused to let him take over. Chief Abiola was a highly intelligent man who would sit down with us, share a cup of tea and discuss politics. He was a highly impressive man who had a great understanding of human nature and the way politics works. One of the things which has always stuck in my mind was his analysis of what was wrong with Nigeria and the political system. He stated that as soon as he became president he'd completely abolish all censorship of the press. He said that it was impossible to have a successful country unless you knew what was going on. If you relied on your secret police to tell you, you'd find out nothing. He said that many African leaders clamped down on the press because they didn't like reading nasty things about themselves. He said that they were fools and just censoring the comments didn't stop people saying them. He said that all happened was people ceased trusting the press and believed every rumour, no matter how ridiculous.

It seems that Chief Abiola could teach Mike Freer a thing or two about gaining the trust of your electorate. Mike doesn't publish posts he doesn't like. This makes his blog a highly ineffective medium for communication, and as such it is an even bigger waste of the £400. As the blog is run by the council, to encourage two way dialog, surely Mike's editorial policy is actually an abuse of resources. I don't really have a problem with any of the information he's posted, but I have a massive issue with the fact he apparently accepts comments from the general public, but only prints the ones he likes. In an answer to Councillor MacDonald at the Council Meeting, he stated that the one response he'd had from me was unsuitable for publication. Councillor MacDonald allowed the comment to be printed on his blog (click HERE to see), but Freer wouldn't explain why he'd banned it.

It is quite painfully clear that Mike Freer is censoring his blog. There is a great tradition of free speech in Great Britain. Politicians, especially those standing for Parliament need a thick skin. If you can't stand the heat, you really shouldn't be in the kitchen. All Mike really needs to do is read the comments, publish them, think about the issue raised and post a response when he's got a proper answer. If he has no answers, then I'm afraid he's in the wrong job. Trust the judgement of his readers. If someone posts a ridiculous or unfair comment, then people will see through it. I'd like to see the Leader Listen format work. I think it's a good thing that Mike Freer is going out into the community and taking public questions. I just think it's a shame he ruins it with his Pravda inspired blog policies.

We all know about regimes which are keen on censorship, both past and present. Unlike Tory Councillor Daniel Thomas, I would never compare a mainstream politician to an extremist Party, as that would be most unfair and quite ridiculous. I do however think that history is there to guide us and teach us lessons. The lesson I've learned is that censorship doesn't work.

12 comments:

danfhope said...

Just want to pick you up on your off the cuff comment about Mike Freer being 'brave' in standing up to the racists.

I don't think he was doing any such thing and, worse, I think he was playing the race card in order to divert attention and shut people up.

Looking at his blog piece he rightly rounds on a small number of 'green ink' outright racist emails. So far, so good. Then he tars 'most' of those who have been outraged by this story as being racist too, even if they haven't mentioned race. They are accused of showing a 'racist tone'.

So the message goes out loud and clear from Mr Freer, don't dare criticise how tax payers money is spent to house people who are not white or I will tar you as a racist.

Last time Freer referred to his mailbox to support his argument, he refused to produce the evidence. So here is the challenge again, produce all of your emails on this matter, redact the private details and show us how the majority were racist.

Brave? Cowardly, more like.

Statler and Waldorf said...

That Mr Hope sure does whine on sometimes!

Mr RogT, sir, we have been inspired by your post and have set up a new site http://leaderlectures.blogspot.com/

We, like you, have been most upset that our questions have not been answered. So if you get no joy from the 'real' leaderlistens site, ask your questions at leaderlectures and we guarantee that you will get a fast and honest reply.

Rog T said...

Dan,

The lady at the centre of the case is a fellow parent at a school my children attend. from comments I've heard Mr Freer may have a much larger postbag than usual.

Having criticised Freer for posting Nazi youtube clips, I really couldn't support him posting his fascist mailbox entries.

I think your comment shows that his attitude to censoring his responses, validates my theory that he's ended up making us mistrust everything he writes.

Maybe Mike could ask you to his office, show you a few of the emails and then you could report back as to whether he was telling porkies, here or on one of the other blogs? I'd think that would be an excellent way forward!

Statler and Waldorf,

Thank you very much chaps. A semi naked Mike Freer was not what I wanted as I sat down to lunch. You should have included a warning on your link !!!!

danfhope said...

Dear RogT,

I have no interest in seeing racist emails pasted all over the place. Quite the reverse! Apart from the very few outright racist emails that he claims to have received, I don't believe racism exists in the rest, in any meaningful way.

I suspect by bringing race into this debate, it is hoped that the lid will be placed on the discussion.

I want to know on what basis Freer defines these other (non racist) emails as having a 'racist tone'. My bet is that some people mentioned, as did the press, the fact that this family came from Africa and that this is enough for Mike Freer to suggest 'most' of his emails are 'racist in tone'.

As for asking his office, that was a waste of time last time... Mike reads this blog several times a day. Maybe he'll forward you some, or allow you to see them all and make your mind up of 'most' of them are racist in tone...

Rog T said...

Dan,

I'd be happy to visit his office and have a look at the emails. It's easy enough for him to show he's not spinning the truth isn't it.

Statler and Waldorf said...

Dear Mr RogT,

Please accept our apologies for any indigestion caused.

We hope you will take the opportunity to test out our new contracted out and privatised blog. Submit any questions that you would like.

With fuzzy hugs,

S&W

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Rog

I have posted a question to the leader listens blog asking Cllr Freer if he will refer the e-mails he has received, which are allegedly racist or have racist overtones, to the Borough Commander. This is what he did with the YouTube video.

Cllr Freer has not yet published any questions from anyone known to oppose him. I hope this childish practice will now cease, otherwise people may begin to question whether his blog is an appropriate use of public money.

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Rog T - its very kind of you to link to:
http://www.myspace.com/mr_toad_has_got_to_go

Thank you.

Rog T said...

Bloggers 2 - 0 Mike Freer

It seems he's blinked again and actually bothered to moderate a couple of comments. Who know's, when he's got approval from the Ministry of Truth, he may even post a reply.

Sorry, that response sounds a bit too gloaty. Try this one.

Well done to Mike Freer for his fantastic Leaderlistens.com website. Good old Mike has found time in his busy schedule to read a couple of comments and press the approve button. We are so lucky to have him as leader !!!!

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Rog

If Cllr Freer had continued to block publication of our questions, he would have looked as if he was running scared, especially as his first posting specifically encouraged the public to take part. Unlike his Barnet Times blog, which was free, the Leader Listens is funded by the taxpayer. Therefore Cllr Freer has to accept questions from all taxpayers, including those who may criticise him from time to time.

Whether he answers the questions or not is a different matter - and if he refuses, the public will draw their own conclusions from that.

do call me dave said...

So is former councillor Hope insinuating really as daft as his message sounds?

The way I read his comment is that he is insinuating that Mike Freer is in fact racist!

I wonder if former councillor Hope would be brave enough to actually speak to Mike Freer man to man rather than hide behind his online status? I bet not!

Brave? Cowardly, more like.

danfhope said...

Re: "Do Call Me Dave",

I'll debate any of this with Mike Freer but he only seems to want to talk about potholes and pavements to Finchley and Golders Green voters of late.

Mike Freer is no racist and there's no way that any literate person could see my comment in that way!

When it comes to Mike Freer and me, it's not me who is the coward. He will know exactly what that means, why don't you go and ask him?