Online Anonymous Attacks

by Nigel Bakhai on 29 January, 2013

Please find below a copy of a speech to the January 2013 Council meeting in response to a Labour motion on anonymous online attacks against members of the council:-

Mr Mayor, in most resident surveys politicians are viewed by the public on a par with second hand car dealers, estate agents and journalists. All too often on the doorstep we come across people who are disillusioned with our political system and say all politicians are the same.  The public gallery is rarely full except on major civic occasions or the most important of debates. Moreover, the public do not understand and are turned off by the yah boo politics which often takes place in this chamber with members more likely to heckle those of a different political viewpoint than listen to them with the respect they deserve as elected representatives of the borough.

As councillors we have a role as a local champion, an ambassador for our community, the council and the borough.  As such we should all aim for the highest standards of conduct and ethics in the performance of all our council duties and in our dealings with officers, residents and with each other. I am sure we have all read the code of conduct which says we need to exhibit the general principles of selflessness, integrity, openness, honesty, objectivity, accountability and leadership.

I don’t really want to comment on individual cases as really any significant breaches of council protocol should be reported to and dealt with by the standards committee but to make a general point on the behaviour of councillors and their activities.

In my opinion, to use false identities to secretly attack our opponents as stated in this motion is contrary to the principles of honesty and openness that as a councillor we should espouse.

Many of us in this chamber have blogs, or use social media like Facebook and Twitter. I personally try to use my website to write positive stories and inform my constituents about the work I am doing here in the town hall or in the ward, while others use them as an offensive weapon.  Anything we post online may be seen by the public and we should careful about what we may post lest we cause offence or bring our office into disrepute. We should treat each other with the same respect we would expect to be treated, not use the online world as another place to abuse our colleagues. In my ward, we have three people from three different parties, However, to date despite our political differences we have come together for the benefit of our constituents and the area, without resorting to in-fighting. I know these words will probably fall on deaf ears but I really hope that in future we will deal with each other with more respect and follow the principles befitting a councillor, because by doing so we will not only enhance our standing in the community as individuals but also the way that politics and politicians are viewed by the public.

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