Monday, 22 May 2017

Free Speech & Humbug at Cocka Doodle Moo

by Brian Bamford
SIMON Danczuk earlier today threatened to pull out of a hustings event at a venue in Rochdale should any BuzzFeed reporter attend, following the publication over the weekend by BuzzFeed of a story about his election paperwork.
The hustings event, due to take place on Tuesday at Cocka Doodle Moo in the centre of Rochdale, is to be hosted by a local business networking group called #RochdaleHour.
The organiser of the event Damien Maddock initially withdrew his personal invitation to the #RochdaleHour business lunch, claiming 'his hand had been forced' after Danczuk said he would not attend if any journalist from the BuzzFeed organisation showed up, but reversed his decision after facing a backlash from the other candidates and local media outlets.
Mr Maddock was condemned for this by all the main participants to the event including Andy Kelly the Liberal Democrat, who told BuzzFeed News:  'I don't think it should be up to any one candidate to say which journalists should be at the event, and if the organisers want to let them do so I'm not interested in going' and 'I don't know if that will help me in the long run, but it's the right decision, a principled decision,' he added.
Rochdale Online editor Pauline Journeaux sternly said:  'Rochdale Online was attending but has now taken the decision not to do so in light of the ban on BuzzFeed. A stand has to be taken against this sort of anti-democratic behaviour.'
A Labour Party spokesperson told Rochdale Online'It is deeply concerning for a candidate to be allowed to prevent a well respected, bonafide news organisation from attending.'
Conservative candidate Jane Howard told BuzzFeed News it was 'unfortunate' that Danczuk had been allowed to dictate which media organisations could and could not attend.
She said:  'Any registered media outlet should be able to attend, and I'm disappointed that you're not able to do so.'
Robert Sharp, spokesperson for English PEN, said:  'These reports are very worrying. Political events should be open to all journalists, not just those who file positive stories about a candidate.  It is odd that this should be happening during a general election, when the political parties are surely seeking to broadcast their message to as many people as possible.  Candidates for political office need to reassure voters that they are open to scrutiny. Selectively refusing journalists access to events is not the way to build public trust.'
He added:  'If a politician thinks they have been unfairly treated by one outlet, then a better response would be to invite a greater range of journalists to cover future events.'
These are all noble sentiments by the parties concerned, and it is something Northern Voices would fully support given that we were politely escorted from a book reading by Mrs Karen Danczuk for questioning her then husband Simon too rigorously.
Yet still there is a whiff of hypocrisy about this outbreak of righteous indignation about democracy and free speech by the Rochdale political establishment.
In April 2015, at another husting for the 2015 general election at St Chads, all the parties fell silent as the National Front candidate Kevin Bryan was thrown out of the Parrish Church because the Church leaders felt that the far right party’s presence ‘may increase the likelihood of a breach of the peace’
On that occasion Northern Voices said:   'In doing this the Vicar of Rochdale defied the core ideas of the enlightenment and Voltaire, not to mention everyday democracy, by not giving the National Front an opportunity to present their views at an open forum in the Rochdale Parish Church.'  

In the present case once BuzzFeed News was allowed back into the event, the Rochdale Online editor Pauline Journeaux said she would also send a reporter to cover the hustings, and Andy Kelly said he would also attend the husting 'do', due to take place tomorrow at the Cocka Doodle Moo in the centre of Rochdale, is to be hosted by a local business networking group called #RochdaleHour.
At 7.30pm tonight, Rochdale Online reported:
'The hustings organisers have posted that Simon Danczuk has now confirmed he will be attending - so his initial threat not to do so if a Buzzfeed reporter was allowed to do so was an empty threat clearly intended to put unfair pressure on the event organisers.'

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