Thursday, 14 August 2014

Blogger accuses council of North Korean censorship. As Tameside becomes a 'one-party state?

READERS of Northern Voices (NV) will be aware that in previous issues of NV magazine, we have reported on how some local authorities such as Tameside in Greater Manchester, have attempted to censor local news stories on the pretext of promoting ‘community cohesion’.

In 2009 (see NV issue No 10), we reported that Tameside Council were holding regular meetings with local newspaper editors to 'gather information and stop sensationalist reporting which might otherwise start or add to rising tensions.'  The source for this information (also reported in Private Eye 3/10/08), was a document entitled: ‘Guidance for local authorities on community cohesion planning and tension monitoring’ (page 40) produced by the Department of Communities and local Government (DOCLG).  

Although the council denied practicing censorship – 'The council does not gather information with a view to censoring media reports, it has no powers to do this…', DOCLG told us that the information contained in their document had been written and supplied by Tameside Council (see NV issue No 11).
Having been caught with their trousers down, so to speak, one would have thought that the council would have learned a salutary lesson. Yet a local blogger, who uses the name Curmudgeon, recently posted on his blog that Tameside council bosses had decreed that council employees were to be denied access to certain websites.   Curmudgeon says:

“Not to be outdone and in an effort not to deviate one iota from the controlling ways of the young Korean dictator, Tameside Council bosses, have adopted a strict political strategy, strikingly similar to that of Kim Jong-Un, and as a first strike have allegedly decreed that all civil servants working on Tameside Council computers, will be denied the right to access the thoughts of certain ‘political bloggers’ in an effort to subvert and control access to opposing political opinions and block access to legitimate bloggers who frequently engage in the questioning of the Labour dominated council decisions.'

Curmudgeon claims that both his own blog of the same name and the blog ‘Tameside Citizen’ are forbidden to council employees.

Korea’s ‘Supreme Leader’, Kim Jong-Un, is well known for purging ‘factional filth’: he recently had his own uncle executed. But while some might think that comparing Tameside Council with the hermetically sealed society of North Korea is somewhat ridiculous, the analogy might not be that inappropriate.

Last year (April 2013), the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), stated that many Labour dominated councils in the North West, were 'failing the basic test of democracy' because many Labour councils held a ‘super-majority’ of seats. The ERS claimed that councils such as Tameside ran the risk of becoming ‘one-party states’ like North Korea, China or Cuba.

Daren Hughes, director of research at the ERS, told the Manchester Evening News that 'one-party state’ councils could be more likely to be ‘complacent’ and 'hand themselves increases to their allowances and expenses.'

While Tameside to all intents and purposes already resembles a one-party state, the borough is not quite yet in the league of Pyongyang, even though its councillors are as keen as mustard, when it comes to giving themselves increases in their allowances and expenses. Yet as the blogger, Curmudgeon, rightly points out, censorship is always a sign of a weak and frightened government that has something to hide from the rest of us, and secrets to keep.

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