Monday, 14 October 2013

And then there were four Tory blogs

This Saturday the once neutral but now obviously Tory Supporting blog, ‘Ipswich Spy’ mentioned myself twice in its ‘Saturday Diary’ column.

The first was a result of my post where I commented about the accusation made by Ipswich spy and a Tory councillor that I had regularly attacked Lord Deben (John Gummer) in order to get at his son, Ben. I indicated that I had only mentioned John Gummer in 4 posts out of over 500. Ipswich Spy did apologise (in a way) for using the word regular:

Spy blogged this: “I would like to retract the accusation that Cllr Ross regularly attacks Ben Gummer MP by using his father, Lord Deben. In fact, as Cllr Ross tells us, he has only done that four times, out of more than 500 posts. In contrast the Daily Mail only smeared someone through their father twice out of more than 500 articles a week.”

Now there is an apology the Mail would be proud of, still trying to link me with the way the Mail attacked Ralph Miliband! My four mentions of John Gummer were not 4 attacks on him, if fact you could hardly call any of them an attack on John or Ben Gummer. Then to say the Mail only attacked Ralph Miliband twice out of 500 articles in a week, trouble is the other 498 articles were probably attacks on other people or made up facts on ‘global warming’ ‘how to catch cancer’ or their latest ‘fact’ telling us how many EU nationals are in the UK working- a fact they got wrong as it included the grandparents, spouses and children of working EU nationals!

So to repeat, I have not regularly attacked John Gummer to get at Ben.

Then I was mentioned again in a comment about a leaked council document, I had foolishly it seems replied to a tweet by Ipswich Spy after they ran a story about the possibility of part closure of some of our sports centres.

My tweet mentioned that the ‘Spy’ story had missed an important fact in why Maidenhall Sports Centre was the main topic of much of the discussion.

When we were in opposition at Ipswich Borough Council (but the largest group) we were not included in any discussion on how the budget was set or what money would be spent on. Since we have regained the Council we have included opposition councilors in discussion on the budget. Asking them to be members of Working Groups covering each portfolio. These groups are set up to work out where savings could be made. With the current state of the economy, there is no secret that savings have to be made and some quite difficult decisions especially after the quite savage cuts to our grants being imposed on us by Pickles and central Government.

Some Working Groups in the past have failed to see opposition councillors turn up but on the Culture and Leisure Group we have not only had opposition councillors attend but also participate in meaningful discussions, that is why it seems very disappointing to me that someone it seems decided it was best to leak the budget document. There were a number of cost saving (and in fact revenue producing) measures discussed at the meeting and all those that went forward from the meeting seemed to have all party support.

Now, I will not go into detail on what budget proposals were put forward but where I do believe ‘Ipswich Spy’ to be correct is that I have no doubt that staff were upset when they read of some of the proposals in Ipswich Spy, But that blame should lie at the door of the person who leaked the document and then again maybe Ipswich Spy should have asked the person for more details before just publishing the list of money saving measures that were in the document and they were just that- topics for discussion not concrete measures to be taken.

Going back to my ‘tweet’, I indicated to Ipswich Spy that they had missed an important fact out from their post which concentrated on the discussions about Maidenhall Sport Centre. As I was at a Charity Event on the time, I did not want to mention something that may not have been public knowledge so on Saturday, I put Stoke High School (location of the sports centre) in google and the answer came straight up!

On October 1st, Stoke High school joined the Ormistion Trust as an academy – this is public knowledge but what it does mean that currently Suffolk County Council are handing over the premises to the Trust and that will include the agreement with IBC about the sports facility, so the line that Ipswich Spy put in their blog is far from accurate: Spy wrote this: “It is run on behalf of Suffolk County Council, who own the site,” A simple bit of research would have shown Spy that this will no longer the case, it will be owned by the Ormiston Trust so this may mean changes in how we operate the centre- so this why Maidenhall was discussed in depth.
Now Ipswich Spy I am sure will reply and ask me a number of questions about what was discussed – he will not get an answer from me, proposals have gone forward and will be looked at again by Officers, managers and councillors of all political groups. Then savings will have to be found from all parts of the Borough operation, these will be laid out in the final budget, again a piece of work that we hope to see all political groups get involved in, then that budget will be put to Full Council.

Just remember this that when Labour took power we found that the Tories (and Lib Dems) were in a very advanced position in their plans to offload both Whitton and Maidenhall sports Centres – we stopped that and have since seen improvements made to all our sports centres- that would not have happened under the last administration – and we get far less money from central government than they got!

So is Ipswich Spy still neutral or just another local Tory blog? There used to be a time where the blog did seem to attempt to be neutral and attack what they thought was wrong and that still occasionally happens but far less than on the past. This week it rightfully attacked those who had jumped on the bandwagon over IBC having to knock two council houses together to house a large family (it seems that Mr Gummer ignored the criticism on Spy has he again today uses the issue to attack Labour over the benefits system) but more often or not the posts (and tweets) seem to be anti Labour- so often that a large percentage of Ipswich Spy posts are now re- blogged on two further Tory blogs- 'A Riverside View' and the new ‘ A Political Overview’ – not sure they would be re-posting so much if Spy had kept to its original aim of being politically neutral.


Ben Redsell said...


Firstly, when readers insisted on identifying the authors of Ipswich Spy, the more left wing authors gave up. The constant badgering over names forced those who have a genuine reason to want to keep their names private to stop blogging. I have been trying to recruit new bloggers to Ipswich Spy ever since, especially those from the left.

Secondly, after Ipswich Borough Council lied to me to kill a story, I am more reticent in believing what I am told, especially by some of those councillors involved in the attempt to deceive.

Thirdly, the Saturday Diary column is, by format, designed to be controversial. As you note above, later in this same column I attacked Tory MP Ben Gummer. I struggle, therefore, to understand why you consider an attack on both sides to be evidence of bias.

Fourthly, whilst I won't ever reveal my sources, I can confirm that the document that you refer to was not leaked to me by any Opposition Councillor, nor have I had discussions with opposition councillors about what it contained before I wrote the article. I did, however, give time to the Borough Council to respond, and the quote from an "IBC Spokesman" was all they were prepared to give, despite having clearly taken advice from your boss, the portfolio holder. If there was a counter argument, such as the one made by you above, maybe a fuller response would have been a better comment to have made.

Fifth, you know as well as I do that I didn't simply publish the list of savings proposals. There are a great number of other proposals I didn't publish, because they would have identified some of those whose jobs you were directly discussing.

Ben Redsell said...

Sixth, without knowing the details of the contract IBC has with SCC, if it is a lease agreement, the assignment of the freehold to Ormiston Trust would be unlikely to make significant changes to the lease agreement. No doubt you, as assistant portfolio holder for Culture & Leisure, know in much greater detail the potential for operational changes. However it remains the fact that Maidenhall is CURRENTLY owned by SCC, regardless of whether it will soon be assigned by them to someone else. And I don't see how the ownership of the freehold of Maidenhall affects whether your considering cuts to services in Northgate, Whitton and Gainsborough.

Seventh, I can do nothing about the reblogging. You'll note that Mr Algar often partially reblogs or selectively quotes - as he also selectively quotes you.

Eighth, I am not the only blogger on Ipswich Spy, despite the fact I do blog more often than anyone else. I presume you are not accusing Sally Wainman of becoming a Tory?

Ninth, you will no doubt note that I still attack what I disagree with, regardless of who is in charge of the policy. For instance I am sure that the Tories in charge of Suffolk County Council were less than happy with my article about the reopening of the Old Cattle Market bus station.

Tenth, when I have come to Labour leadership figures with positive stories, they have completely failed to respond. I could give you a long list of times, but here are just a few. Earlier in the year I broke the story that SCC were paying a bonus of £500 to all staff. I asked Sandy Martin for a quote. No reply - but he then had the gall to claim a week later when the Ipswich Star caught up on it that it was the first he had heard of it. I also requested an interview with a Labour candidate, through the agent, as part of a story about the Tory/Lib Dem Government going to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka. Whilst Cllr John Cook was initially supportive of the idea for the story, again this came to nothing.

Eleventh, are you miscounting Tory blogs? Gavin Maclure, James Spencer, Kevin Algar, and the new Political Overview. That makes Four. If you are alleging that Ipswich Spy has become another one, that would be number five. I would contend that we're not, but still...

In conclusion, I have repeatedly tried to recruit bloggers from the left. Some have agreed, yet have never managed to produce one piece of work. You know full well Ipswich Spy publishes whatever is put forward. Mr Ellesmere has even published Guest Posts. I hardly think a Tory blog would give him that opportunity.

Alasdair Ross said...

4 tory blogs- A Riverside View, Political Overview, Nadia Cenci and (Spy???)

Would say taht Gavin and Bridge Ward News are now so anti Cameron and in Bridge Ward News case anti Gummer, hard to describe as pro the current Tory Party

Ben Redsell said...

So of the eleven reasons I give you that your article is not based in fact or reason, you choose to answer just one? I rest my case councillor.