Friday, December 19, 2008

An Unfortunate Echo

Yesterday's Full Council meeting raised an important question of journalistic ethics; namely, should a journalist publish words that were spoken in a meeting but then struck from the record? Unfortunately for David James of the South Wales Echo, the answer is not if the reason they were struck from the record is as watertight as a mermaid's brassiere.

Perhaps inevitably there was something of an end of term feel to the meeting, with plenty of entertainment for the layman between two walkouts (one by the Labour and Conservatives en masse, the other by the Labour Group Leader in a bizarre fit of pique) an assortment of malapropisms and a devastatingly embarrassing performance from one Tory councillor as he tried to deny that a petition he'd submitted to the Welsh Assembly asked for what it said on the tin, namely concreting over part of an allotment.

The main order of business, however, was a Conservative motion calling for a zero Council Tax increase in 2009/10. The debate was lengthy and of a high standard, covering many of the technical issues surrounding local government financing and delving into the philosophical basis of property taxes. The mainstay of it all was the fundamental truth that actually, the Conservatives have been asking for this for years and every time they do, the alternative budget they come up with means cuts, cuts and more cuts.

Naturally, the Leader of the Conservative Group, David Walker, denied that this was the case (falling, much like his petitionally-challenged colleague, into the trap of of trying to deny the contents of publicly available documents). But as they went on, his relatively rent-a-Tory comments headed off on a tangent into bizarre (as in “I'll show you the proof, but not right now”) allegations of corrupt overtime practices in refuse collection. But instead of letting the ante-upping rest at corrupt, Cllr Walker decided to find a more powerful adjective.


Cllr McEvoy rightly complained to the Lord Mayor and, to his credit, Cllr Walker withdrew the comment immediately. Unfortunately, this didn't stop the slur being repeated in the first line of the coverage of the debate in today's Echo.

I don't for a second believe that anyone involved meant any ill will by any of this. I do, however, think that the record should show that the slur did not pass unchallenged and that we took a firm stance on comments that, however traditional they may be, are clearly no longer acceptable.

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