Behind the scenes there has ... apparently been some disquiet from some of my Liberal Democrat colleagues who feel all communication with the electorate should be politically vetted – this has come to a head today with a rather brusque email from the Leader of the City Council, Fraser Reynolds telling me to remove all mention of City Council decisions and any comments on them as soon as possible and refrain from commenting further, and that all comments that are placed in the public domain should be agreed by the press secretary
I stood for election on a manifesto of openness, fairness and honesty, and have always tried to deliver on this. While the Liberal Democrats have run the Council much better than Labour did (particularly the finances), I have had growing concerns about the failure so far to deliver on parts of the manifesto people elected me under, but felt, on balance, I stood a better chance of achieving it working within the group of Liberal Democrat councillors. This is however is the final straw – I will not do a poorer job as a local councillor in order to do better for the party. I remain 100 per cent committed to the manifesto I was elected on – but I can best get that manifesto delivered on as an Independent, able to speak my mind and hold the council leadership to account.
I don't know the background to this and I suspect there's more to this than just the issue of the blog. But it does seem sad. Tensions and stresses can easily develop within a council group. I remember when I was leader of a group of about 20 Lib Dems (before I stepped down from the leadership to really spend more time with my family). One chap phoned me up at 6 a.m. to say "I've had enough, I want to resign" , and I talked him out of it. So I have some intrinsic sympathy for almost any group leader.
On the other hand , blogging should be quick and a direct link between the writer and the reader. When the day arrives when any large group of councillors will have a dozen or so bloggers, nobody is going to be able to enforce any external discipline or editing on them. The leader of that hypothetical group is simply going to have to trust them. (although I can imagine in the seemingly bitchy world of North-East political blogging, there will be scavengers out there ready to seize on any scrap of disagreement or poor choice of words that can be found.)
If I was in hot water with the Lib Dems over something on a website - and I suppose it could happen, I'm sure that I wouldn't quit, I'd just carry on regardless.
Meanwhile , if you look at Don't Blog - "Blogging Headlines from the Future Backlash" you will find cases where people have been dooced (sacked because of their blog) or have karshed (quit their job because of their website). I hereby coin a new word:
Pleake (vb.) - to leave a political party because of your blog
Anyway, good luck to everybody in Durham.