June 25, 2013

Minutes from this evening’s Town Centre Community Partnership Forum

This evening I attended half of a meeting at the local council offices. A friend, who is very passionate about local politics, likes to video these meetings, and he has been getting some resistance from the establishment who are, understandably, worried that it’ll be easier for them to be held to account if the evidence is out there on the internet. Plus, they quite like the current arrangement where only a dozen people are party to their shenanigans – it makes it easier to cover up.

So my friend asked me to come along tonight to give a bit of support. The whole thing was as soul-destroying as I thought it would be.

Most of the time is taken up with various slick middle-aged dudes bragging about how brilliant all these new things that they are doing are going to be. They brag and brag and brag and brag for twenty minutes, and then open up the floor for five minutes of questions at the end. A number of pensioners’ hands go up. They point out that there’s been no consultation on the things that are going on, and raise some concerns. Slick middle-aged dudes then say:

1. There’s been some consultation. Maybe not enough. But it’s moot, because it’s too late to back out now.
2. But you can still be involved! We’re inviting members of the public to decide what colour of brick to use for the new pavements! Yay!
3. We also had the same concerns as you, but we talked about it at a previous meeting, and all agreed that it’s fiiiiine, so don’t worry.
4. We’re short for time this evening so let’s move right along.

The great thing is that the video of this meeting will be available online, so I can post it and prove to you that I’m really not exaggerating.

The downside is that this meeting was scheduled to be 1h45m long, and when I left after about 1h15m it was already running 20m over, so I expect that the final video will be well over 2 hours long. Most of this is the well-dressed middle-aged dudes telling us about how great everything is. Who, in their right mind, would watch that?

As one of the nicely-groomed middle-aged dudes pointed out, we voted for all of these councillors.

I recently read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. It’s written, and set, about a hundred years ago, when socialism is just starting to become a thing. It’s heavily political, and very critical of both the wealthy elite who run things, and the working classes who buy into the myth that this is the way that it must always be. The workers have their right to vote, and they defend it passionately, while closing their minds to the truth that it really makes no difference. The wealthy capitalists leverage their positions on the council to line their own pockets. Competition between them leads to lowered prices, yes, but this is achieved by paying the workers as little as possible, and doing a half-assed job. One of the most saddening things is that Robert Tressell clearly believed that socialism would be England’s saviour, but it took less than a hundred years for Labour to go from feisty underdog to just another panel of slick middle-aged dudes telling us about how great things are.

The harder I try to engage, the more disillusioned I become.


5 thoughts on “Minutes from this evening’s Town Centre Community Partnership Forum

  1. Though it’s worth pointing out that this is not a Labour council we’re talking about. Those slick middle-aged dudes are the landed gentry of Berkshire. Ain’t no fighting them.

  2. My Dad got me to read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists when I was a teen. (Local connection alert: it is set in Hastings. Also, there is a good pub called The Ragged Trousers in Tunbridge Wells which is owned by a friend).

    My Dad is full of contradictions. I’m told that I take after him in that regard. Dad was a trade union shop steward in the 70s. He is (and was) also an enthusiastic Thatcherite. He believes that unions should defend the workers, but that the unions fail to deliver. He voted socialist when he was young, Tory in later life and now allies himself with Farage, like many of his generation.

    But he would still rate Trussell work as one of the best books you can read.

    Personally, I found it too strongly socialist for my tastes. In truth, Trussell was a Marxist, an ideology which didn’t serve the Soviet Union too well. But it’s a worthwhile and thought provoking read – interesting to compare with the writings of H G Wells (more or less contemporary) and Orwell (who came later).

  3. If you had the time & energy your video friend & you (&others) could organise to live Tweet several of these meetings. It would help to provide the oxygen of disinfectant that nurtures accountability. There’s a chap in my area @JasonCobb /onionbagblog. I have some ‘issues’ with his interpretation etc but for example he provided very comprehensive coverage of a public meeting over a big local Tesco/bus stand/flats/swimming pool/ice rink development. “Streatham Hub”. MikeTD met him at GirlOneTrack’s Book launch, so he’s practically family.

    Puffles2010 was tweeting Cambridge City council a few days ago (although Puddles is a prolific RTer so

    Gert on June 25, 2013
  4. Oops fat thumbs!

    Anyway, Puffles2010 may be able to advise on some good examples of ‘citizen journalist’ coverage of local council meetings, forums etc.

    Gert on June 25, 2013
  5. The other great creative work which my father reckons everyone should take time out for is Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin, but I’ve yet to watch that. More Marxist propaganda – there’s a theme developing here.

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