Friday, 12 December 2014

Discovering local democracy on-line, the Brent Council way

Guest blog by Philip Grant
 
Although Martin has shared his experience of Monday evening’s Brent Council meeting with you in his blog on “The death of Brent Council”, I am writing to share some personal thoughts, and images, of following part of the same meeting on-line.

At 6.50pm that evening I went onto Brent Council's website to watch the Full Council meeting, so that I could see and hear what (if anything) Cllr. Butt had to say about the Employment Appeal Tribunal's decision to reject the Council's appeal in the Rosemarie Clarke case, and hoping that he would finally make a public apology to Rosemarie, on behalf of Brent, for the harm she had suffered at the hands of Cara Davani and other senior Council officers. I was in for a disappointment, as the “Live Streaming” web page showed:



I have never followed social media before, but it seemed that #BrentLive was my only option, so I spent the next half-hour or more watching a column at the right hand side of the screen. The first tweet to appear was from Cllr. Matthew Kelcher (one of the new Labour intake in May 2014), just before the meeting began, to say that he might be making his maiden speech. Thereafter a slow succession of #BrentLive tweets, all apparently from people at the meeting, began to scroll down the column. 

The on screen details said that councillors would ‘be able to reply to tweets’, but it appeared that Cllr. Kelcher had a whole list of tweets ready to issue, each one praising a positive story announced by the successive Cabinet Lead Members who presented their reports to Council. Cllr. Roxanne Mashari even re-tweeted his comment on her positive story! 

One “tweeter” at the meeting commented that although many councillors appeared to be busy on their tablet ‘phones, very few of them seemed to be involved in posting tweets on #BrentLive. An exchange of tweets with another “tweeter” wondered whether they were sending DM’s to each other (perhaps someone will add a comment to let me know what a DM is!). The other replied that they might be playing Candy Crush, which I think is probably a reference to the actions of a Westminster MP, but again I am ignorant of such social media or on-line games terms.
 
Not all “tweeters” were convinced by the views put out on social media by Cllr. Kelcher, especially when it came to the report by the Leader, Cllr. Muhammed Butt. With all of the # and @ references in Matthew Kelcher’s tweets, I got the impression that he must have prepared them in advance, but perhaps he really is a social media whizz-kid (as opposed to my social media dinosaur), and can compose them far more quickly than I can write emails. 

 
Pukkah Punjabi showed that she is not just an anti-Labour “tweeter”, with her comments about the response from the opposition Conservatives. I seem to remember something about a cure for insomnia.


By this time I was finding #BrentLive a bit slow, without the live pictures and sound from the Council Chamber to let me hear exactly what my elected representatives were saying about important issues. Perhaps it would have been better if I had made the effort to be there in person. But then again, perhaps not, if the final tweet I read was a fair reflection of proceedings.

And I never did find out if Cllr. Kelcher made his maiden speech.


Philip Grant

DM equals Direct Message. Tweeters who follow each other can send each other private direct messages.




12 comments:

  1. Strange that - the system suffering a technical issue at that time.

    Never mind should be working at next meeting according to the latest message

    "Please note we are currently doing a system upgrade to live streaming system in order to provide a better service for our next full Council meeting, to be held on 19 January 2015 at 7pm."

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    1. 'However, I'm reliably informed that there was nothing sinister or suspicious in the lack of streaming of the meeting by Brent Live last night. It was off-air to enable important re-branding work to be carried out and will re-launch in the new year as 'Brent Lies'. Reports that the re-branding will include the adoption of the new slogan 'Brent, the Listing Council' have been denied.'

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  2. OMG Brent Labour has invented more titles "Cllr Kelcher is Assistant Lead Member of Employment & Enterprise. Cllr Mashari is the Lead member of Employment & Enterprise.

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    1. Who's likely to get Lead Member for Civic Centre/Private Eye Liaison?
      (Though it's probably not a good idea to put 'liaison', 'member' and that ancient and notorious organ all in the same sentence really).

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  3. Glad to see that you’ve had the mystique of social media shattered, Philip. From a distance it’s easy to get the impression that interesting things must be going on for so many people to be so involved in something for so much of their time. However, the smartness of the technology has no bearing on the degree of smartness or otherwise of the owner nor of the content. Brent councillors’ use of twitter is a good example; if you gave a hundred smartphones to even the most sophisticated flock of sheep you’d still be a fool to expect anything more individual or more profound than the customary mass bleating.

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  4. Glad to see that you’ve had the mystique of social media shattered, Philip. From a distance it’s easy to get the impression that interesting things must be going on for so many people to be so involved in something for so much of their time. Unfortunately, the smartness of the technology has no bearing on the degree of smartness or otherwise of the owner nor of the content. Brent councillors’ use of twitter is a good example; if you gave a hundred smartphones to even the most sophisticated flock of sheep it'd still be surprising if you got anything more individual or more profound than the customary mass bleating.

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  5. As the one-party state strengthens its grip in Brent I think it's time we said thank you to Martin Francis and Pukkah Punjabi for their regular commentary on Brent affairs. They have different styles but both are appreciated and valuable.

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  6. What a dull piece. You do realise that all councillors papers are on their ipad's - which you can mark up.

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    1. What a graceless and unpunctuated comment! You do realise that the first sentence is an exclamation and that the second is lacking an apostrophe in one place and contains an example of 'grocer's apostrophe' in another. Perhaps you could mark it up and re-send it.

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    2. If you think that Councillors were using their iPads to read and annotate council documents ─Ćuring the meeting then you are either touchingly naive or wilfully stupid.

      I suggest you attend a meeting yourself to see the level of debate and why this is is such a far-fetched suggestion.

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