Portsmouth Lib Dems are still reeling from the exposure of their fake “inquiry” into bullying in Portsmouth. Cllr Kath Pinnock had been sent down from Kirklees in Yorkshire with barrel of whitewash and instructions to spread it “liberally”, but today we had a chilling insight into how democracy operates where she comes from:
The full story from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner exposes a shockingly Stalinist attitude to public criticism. It would make even a Portsmouth Lib Dem blush. Or would it?
The Lib Dem council group she came down to comfort after their loss of control in Portsmouth in May have reacted to the barrage of criticism and sceptical questioning from the media by having a crisis meeting earlier in the week.
Lib Dems have identified a glaring lapse in their social media strategy, lagging behind local Conservatives, Labour and even newcomers UKIP in online engagement with the public. Everyone knows (and I certainly respect) their record in getting involved in community politics over the years, at least until they succumbed to overweening arrogance. But they feel that they are being eaten alive online, and had a meeting in their Fratton Rd bunker on Monday night to discuss the issue, surrounded by yellowing pictures of Mike Hancock and other defeated Lib Dem luminaries.
This is why Cllr Lee Hunt has revived his dormant Twitter profile, and immediately embarked on a series of gibberish tweets (@leehunt06 if you wish to follow Pompey’s own panto villain). I suspect we will see other Lib Dems upping their activity rate and joining Twitter over the coming days and weeks.
It is also probably why Portsmouth Lib Dem Chairman Simon Dodd was so keen to take to the medium and praise the outcome of the Pinnock whitewash.
Independent review confirms no bullying in Portsmouth Liberal Democrat party and council group
— Simon Dodd (@SJDodd13) July 1, 2014
I’m not sure who was delivering the Twitter training, but they missed out the bit of the lecture which advises “Don’t tweet easily-debunked nonsense”.
A final element of this brilliant Lib Dem wheeze is to do something about the torrent of criticism they have been getting in the “Comments” underneath stories on The News website. I have long had reservations about the lack of moderation there, which often has unfortunate results. But at the same time, a good deal of what is said there can be classed as “harsh but true”, or reflects the sceptical and anti-authoritarian ethos of our great city. In other words, if you screw up, take the flak and get on with it.
That is not the Lib Dem way, though, as they have been used to being able to shape the media agenda through being in power in Portsmouth. I’m not accusing the media of bias; it’s just “the way it is” that a governing party in local politics is able to push its plans to the media and get a disproportionate amount of publicity. It can be desperately hard for opposition parties to make any headway. Whether it should have been quite so hard for opposition parties to get the media to shine a light on the moral decline of the Lib Dems in power in Portsmouth is a different question, for another time. I suppose in a sense I should be grateful because it creates a gap in the market for bloggers!
Let’s look at one story in particular from The News – this one featuring a transparent attempt by Simon Dodd to prejudice the outcome of the national inquiry into his party. If you go through far enough, you’ll see my scornful comment:
It repeats the argument I’ve made in my last couple of blog posts, nothing new. There are a total of 40 comments on the story, nearly all of which are equally scornful. I wasn’t upset at the 56 “thumbs down” from readers, though it seemed a bit odd that if 56 people disapproved not one reader actually wanted to post a comment in support of Dodd and his nonsense. There are two comments out of forty that say more-or-less “all parties are the same”, but the other thirty-eight are all critical in some way.
Reading some of the other comments, it seems something rather unusual has been going on as regular posters notice an unusually large number of “thumbs downs” on critical posts:
The Lib Dem wheeze unravelled rather quickly – the final leg of their brilliant plan is to deploy a crack team to hit off-message comments on The News website with a deluge of “thumbs down” from sock-puppet accounts. We saw exactly the same thing from Portpin’s PR people during the battle to take over Portsmouth FC, and it was every bit as laughable.
PuttingPompeyFirst wonders where the Lib Dem councillors are, and it is interesting that some formerly very active posters have disappeared. Factsnotspin and SimonK have vanished – both of these were Lib Dem councillors masquerading as real people. Factsnotspin might like to post under his real name now he’s been kicked out by the electorate. How about it, Jason Fazackerley?
But the most telling comment on that “no bullying” story is this one:
I’d assume from the initials that this is former Lib Dem councillor John Ireland, who sat for Central Southsea between 2008 and 2012. Lib Dem bullying isn’t new, and it isn’t directed solely at women. There is, as Eleanor Scott said when she resigned, “something rotten in the state of Liberal Democracy”. Their social media strategy is pretty rotten, too.