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.