Fringe Box



Opinion: We Have the Right To Criticise But Must Do So Constructively

Published on: 21 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 23 Apr, 2020

By Martin Giles

The right to complain about those who govern us and their policies is a litmus test of a country, society or community. Democracy is dead if that does not exist.

But that objections must be used thoughtfully, especially in times of crisis when the need to pull together to fight a common enemy is obvious. Criticism must be constructive, avoiding petty political point-scoring. Two letters from readers today have brought the issue to the fore.

See: No Sign Our MP Is In Touch With Reality and

Whinging About Government Efforts Against Covid-19 is Unhelpful

Striking the right balance is one of the duties of any news journalist and editor.  Those of us at The Dragon take that role seriously, frequently discussing whether we have got it right. Each of you will have your own view on our performance and we will sometimes make mistakes.

Those in power will make mistakes too, we all know that.

Mistakes can be forgiven if they were honest, made with good intentions. And especially when they are acknowledged, owned up to and lessons learned.

Even in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, there is a role for opposition politicians to scrutinise and point out errors. That role is shared by a free press. Bad government policy can often cost lives and, tragically, certainly has in this crisis.

So the issue of personal protection equipment (PPE) is vitally important. The lives of our beloved NHS workers are at risk, some have already been lost. The government obviously wants them to be properly equipped but criticism of the lack is fair and will, hopefully, add to the pressure to speed things up and avoid future mistakes.

Locally, and far down the scale of importance, we have the issue of country car park closures.

Despite clarification from the police and ministers that driving a short distance locally to take exercise is permissible it seems our borough council is refusing to change. The inability to acknowledge mistakes is part of GBC’s culture and a major weakness. They are not alone in this but it is a shame. There are many good people at Millmead doing many things very well.

We are told that even in the lockdown taking exercise is important for our physical health and many of us would not get the same benefit mentally, at least as important, if it was not taken in the beautiful countryside within the borough. For some, that requires a drive of a few miles.

Closing the borough’s country car parks looks petty and illogical. It smacks of diktat, over-zealous officiousness. And it doesn’t work. People simply park near the car parks, perhaps less safely than in them.

But not everyone agrees. Some believe we should not drive to take exercise at all; it is not necessary. They are entitled to their view. The trouble is, that view is not government policy and that policy is now clear.

Why can’t the council change course? Many of us would think more of them, not less.

Finally, this former soldier has had the same ideas as some politicians and petitioners: that NHS staff should get the extra £29 a day military deployment payment and they should be awarded campaign medals. Participation in military campaigns is recognised by such awards. To the recipients, they represent memories of service, of achievement and of sacrifice, especially of comrades.

When this is over, shouldn’t the nation’s thanks be recognised with campaign medals for all NHS staff? They are taking casualties and working at risk, sometimes under great stress. They deserve it.

That would only be a small token but tokens of appreciation can be important and the least we can do.

See also: Does the Council’s Closing of Car Parks Really Reduce Risk of Infection?

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