Thursday, 24 January 2013

Abuse and insults - any every day story of local government

There is an interesting article in today's Independent by Philip Hensher who last week commented on the Government's assessment for incapacity benefit. He was subsequently shocked by the public reaction which included aggressive abuse and personal threats. He referred to comments by Professor Mary Beard who was also forced to endure disgusting online abuse following an appearance on Question Time. What slightly surprised me was their shock at this behaviour. It is an unfortunate truth that regular and offensive abuse and appalling allegations about improper motivation are a regular occurrence for me as a Council Leader and I am not alone. Particularly on controversial issues such as the airport or the Fair Havens planning application there is a significant minority who feel entitled to fire unpleasant and aggressive accusations at local councillors irrelevant of whether there is any justification or factual basis. I think to a degree it is a product of modern electronic communications. People will knock out an inappropriate e mail or website comment and hit the send button without giving thought as to what they are saying, hiding behind the anonymity which a computer can provide. It is so much harder for comments to be made face to face, on the telephone or with the delay inevitable in writing and sending a letter. I suppose what is even worse is that many of us accept it as an unavoidable and inevitable aspect of public office.

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