Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Leave a comment

Tweetgate: Ipswich Tories try to ban Twitter

If I were still a member of the Conservative Group at Ipswich Borough Council I’d be doing everything I could to raise the profile of the Conservative Party, its councillors and candidates.

Twitterphobe: Cllr Richard Pope
So it was particularly bizarre to see Tory Cllr Richard Pope at last night’s Borough Council meeting try to ban Twitter from future meetings, thereby denying councillors from communicating with Ipswich residents and I suspect also to ban bloggers from reporting council meeting live via Twitter. Another politician I can think of who tries to suppress social media is a certain President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Hardly a bedfellow of the Conservative Party I would have thought?
Dictator: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria
Cllr Pope asked Cllr Martin Cook, who is responsible for IT and democratic services at the Borough, if standing orders could be updated to include the banning of Twitter at council meetings. Whilst Cllr Pope was saying this, a flurry of tweets were being sent by Morning Ipswich Star political editor Paul Geater, Labour backbencher Cllr Alasdair Ross, a reporter from Ipswich Spy and by myself.
Cllr Cook retorted that smartphones were seen as a tool by many people, including disabled people who use specialised software to help them participate in meetings, and Twitter itself is allowed in the House of Commons where it is used by MPs to allow the public better access to debates.
I just can’t understand the Tory Group’s thinking here and for their youngest councillor to stand up to try and ban social media is perverse. All political blogs and the Morning Ipswich Star have ridiculed their attempt to ban Twitter.
The Tory Group is a shadow of its former self when it was the leading party on the Council between 2004 and 2011 with now only 12 councillors to the ruling Labour Group’s 32 councillors. With political tactics like this and being devoid of any policy they better get use to decades in the wilderness. 
Ipswich Borough Council has made it clear they are a fan of social media, with the appointment of a social media officer, and also with the removal of the dead tree press bench. Therefore, I think we can safely say Twitter will be here to stay at future Ipswich Borough Council meetings!


Leave a comment

EXCLUSIVE: Press Gallery scrapped at Ipswich Borough Council

Last week I reported on the important announcement that Ipswich Borough Council are to appoint a social media officer at Grafton House.

This prompted me to ask chief executive Russell Williams why the press gallery at the Town Hall only allows access to traditional print media journalists and the Council’s communications chief. I was also keen to know the process I should follow to gain access to the press gallery as I felt bloggers should be treated equally with the dead tree press.
Well, today the blogosphere in Ipswich has won a victory of sorts. Mr Williams has acted swiftly and this afternoon he informed me the Borough Council have decided to scrap the “press gallery” – actually just one table and two chairs – and move the Morning Ipswich Star’s political editor, Paul Geater, and the Council’s communications chief to the public gallery. So in effect, bloggers and traditional media journalists will now report on Council proceeding together in one place. Very cosy.
In related news, Mr Williams also tells me bloggers and other social media outlets will now receive press releases from the Council along with the print and broadcast media. I am told Ipswich Spy have been waiting months to get on the press release list so this will be most welcome in that parish. Gavin Maclure’s Musings intends to request receipt of future press releases and all bloggers can apply to be placed on the list by following the instructions on the Council’s Press Office webpage.
Despite the new social media officer not yet been appointed with the vacancy open for applications until tomorrow, it seems the Council’s top officer team is taking social media seriously now. Ipswich Borough Council should be applauded for facilitating full and transparent reporting of the Council’s activities – a core tenet of democracy – by ensuring both traditional journalists and bloggers are now treated equally when all 48 councillors meet to represent Ipswich residents at the Town Hall.
I look forward to reporting – alongside new and traditional scribes – at the next full meeting of the Council on 26th September.