Fringe Box



Opinion: Pssst… Don’t Talk To The Dragon

Published on: 25 Oct, 2015
Updated on: 29 Oct, 2015

Dragon Says 470If you are reading this you are probably already more interested in Guildford’s local politics than most.

That’s good. We should all be interested. As we often have said, the decisions made by our local councils can affect us far more directly, on a day-to-day basis, than many decisions taken at Westminster or by the EU, important though they undoubtedly are.

More fool us if we don’t pay attention to activity at Millmead. It was to encourage such attention and interest that was one of the prime motivations in the creation of The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

Opinion Logo 2You would imagine that our local councillors would want that too, they should want us to be interested, they should want to share their thoughts and ideas, they should want us to give our views. I am sure many, if not most of them, genuinely do. But, it seems, not all.

Just as we had finished gathering information for our story about the Conservative leadership election we were alerted to the latest edict from the local party leadership.

The message went out “Don’t talk to The Dragon”:
Dear All,

Nigel Manning has asked me to send this out as he is unable to get to a computer.
It is clear Martin Giles from The Dragon is after details of our group election.
I am sure the other media is [sic] also interested.
Please do not communicate anything to the press or public as we do not want different messages going out.
Our group elections are meant to be private as is the process.
We will have a clear announcement after the 11th.

Matt Furniss

You might imagine that we had been employing tabloid style tactics in order to glean our information: paid informers, paparazzi photographers, and hacked phones. In fact it was nothing so sensational. Just a few emails, text messages and phone calls.

No one was pestered. No one was forced to say anything. No one was even asked more than once.

But instead of being glad that the story of their leadership election is being covered in such a polite way the party leadership orders the wagons to be circled, as if under attack.

Tory Leadership ElectionAll we wanted to know was – who were the likely candidates?

After what has happened with Stephen Mansbridge’s resignation we should be especially interested to see who might take over the leadership of the council. There are lessons to learn and it would be interesting to know the candidates’ views on that and on Guildford’s future.

We still hope we can bring you that news, we still hope that decent Conservative  members, and most of them are decent, will ignore this nonsense note and have the backbone to engage properly with The Dragon, The Surrey Ad and BBC Surrey who try to cover local politics seriously.

We do not want news of their election to be brought down to us like an infallible message from our betters, nor an election result presented to us as a fait accomplis. Those Downton Abbey days are long gone and thank goodness – but it seems there are still some who need to wake up and take note.

By the way, we did ask Matt Furniss for a comment. Nothing heard. Perhaps he is having to check with himself that he is “on message”? At least, not being involved in the leadership race, we can rely on his objectivity… wait a minute… Ed


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Responses to Opinion: Pssst… Don’t Talk To The Dragon

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 25, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Good point well made.

    Personally surprised the announcement is not on the 5th of November. Also a plot kept hidden.

  2. Tony Edwards Reply

    October 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    That sounds to me like a local Tory party PR strategy retreating into damage limitation mode.

    Doesn’t bode well for the much talked-of openness and transparency to which residents reasonably feel entitled.

  3. Graham Ibbott Reply

    October 25, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I thought political selection was private otherwise why join a political party?

    I think political parties have a right for private internal communication outside of media interest.

    The anti-establishment stance of The Dragon is not good, too negative and biased.

    Clearly Mr Mansbridge was not liked by readers but Conservatives won many seats and that must mean something locally.

  4. George Dokimakis Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Great opinion piece.

    I agree with Mr Ibbott on political selections being a private matter but not when there is a public position in the balance. The leader of the Conservatives will become the Leader of the Executive so this has massive implications for Guildford.

    Considering the disastrous results for GBC’s reputation and plans for the future, it is only natural for everyone else to be interested in it. The stakes are high.

    Could the imposed omerta be there because they do not believe in transparency and honesty to begin with?

    George Dokimakis is an officer of the Guildford Labour Party.

  5. Bernard Parke Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Perhaps it should be remembered that the internal communications regarding candidates for the post of Conservative party leader who is likely to be leader of the council were made known in the public arena by those councillors seeking the office.

    Yes the Conservative party won many seats on the back of a general election, and on its coat-tails paper candidates were elected, for the electorate tends to vote for the party and not the candidate.

    I write as a former chairman of Guildford Conservative Association.

  6. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    There is nothing biased about calling councillors to account.

    There is nothing biased about publishing stories which are clearly in the public interest.

    In what way could the reporting of wrongdoing by councillors, of any stripe, be classed as biased?

  7. Ben Paton Reply

    October 26, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Some of us have suspected for some time that the culture of Guildford BC is to devise policy in secret in the hope that the segment of the public whose interests are affected will either not notice or only notice too late to affect the decision. This is not how public policy should be decided – as some sort of conspiracy against the public.

    If the Guildford Conservatives were selecting a PR agency then they would be entitled to keep their deliberations private. But when choosing the leader of the council they should live up to the proclaimed standards of accountability and transparency.

  8. Sue Doughty Reply

    October 31, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Oh Dragon, you’ve cooked your goose now. Straight praise from Private Eye on your coverage.

    I just wish that there was more openness about what goes on in our council.

  9. Terry Stevenson Reply

    November 3, 2015 at 9:34 am

    So when Mrs T was ousted and the baton was passed to John Major, was there openness and transparency? When Tony Blair called it a day and was superseded by Gordon Brown, was there openness and transparency?

    If you want a president, or an elected major, then I would suggest that you sign a petition. Then any such changes in trajectory can be influenced directly at the ballot box. Otherwise, you simply have to accept the private decision of the main political party, regardless of how the council is governed.

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