That STRANGEWAY ‘Sexist’ Photoon – the Back-Story
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD; an opinion piece examining the true motivations behind the latest storm in the ERYC tea-cup.
The Photoon, based on a photograph taken by Andy STRANGEWAY at the Cabinet Meeting, depicted ERYC Chief Exec Caroline LACEY seated alongside Deputy Leader Councillor Jonathan OWEN [Con.]. A speech-bubble emanating from Councillor OWEN bore the text “Pssst! Don’t look now but Strangeway is taking photos. And by the way, did you know you’re flashing your legs”.
The first key phrase in the above paragraph is this:
- “based on a photograph taken by Andy STRANGEWAY at the Cabinet Meeting”.
The second is:
- “Strangeway is taking photos”.
Why are these phrases significant?
Readers may remember that I (and others) campaigned for years, finally with success, to persuade my local Whitby Town Council (WTC) to film its meetings and make them accessible to the public on the Council’s website. Some Councillors were fiercely opposed to being placed on the record in this way. Council Minutes are far from verbatim (and often far from a true record).
Whitby Town Council (WTC) now archives videos of meetings, here.
The campaign was successfully extended to Scarborough Borough Council (SBC), who now ‘live-stream’ web-cast their Council and Cabinet meetings, archiving them on the web-site for public access, here.
This is commendable. True, it has captured some disgraceful lapses (inappropriate outbursts and downright lies), though a stiff dose of public pillory has tended to herd Councillors slowly in the general direction of acceptable behaviour.
But East Riding of Yorkshire Council has lagged behind the trend towards greater transparency in public affairs. ERYC does not ‘live-stream’ web-cast or even record its Council and Cabinet meetings.
In his official Councillor capacity and as a private citizen, Andy STRANGEWAY has been exercising his democratic right (as I have in the past and will no doubt again in the future) to photograph, film, record, ‘live’ Tweet (etc) public meetings for exactly the same reasons that I campaigned for filming at WTC and SBC – for transparency and an exact public record of meetings. This is not subversive and it is not trivial.
It is high time that ERYC ‘live-streamed’ and web-cast its meetings.
To draw attention to his unheard of audacity in taking photographs in Cabinet, Andy STRANGEWAY produced a deliberately border-line ‘naughty’ Photoon. “Naughty”. Not rude. Not smutty. Not obscene. ‘Naughty’. And specifically not “sexist”.
To make clear that the message was not in any way “sexist”, Andy STRANGEWAY published the ‘twin’ to the LACEY-OWEN Photoon, reversing the gender polarity:
In my view, to suggest that either version is “sexist” is utterly fatuous; every seaside kiosk sells postcards so risqué as to make the LACEY Photoons resemble the vicarage garden party. It is a bit of fun – nothing more than that. Only the most over-zealous, politically correct prude could make any more of it than that.
But it did the trick.
(Incidentally, a ‘straw poll’ on the Hull Daily Mail website, shows 66% (two thirds, nearly) of readers who voted also discount Councillor PARNABY’s “sexist” claim. That is the verdict of the Court of Public Opinion – the people’s democracy).
Not that that matters, because the really significant aspect is this: Councillor PARNABY has taken the bait. And, in my view, he has once again abused his position for personal and political gain in the process. He has forgotten the Law of Holes.
He was not so fast to react to my Open Letter to him (26/06/16), berating his failure to secure an apology from his Tory colleague Councillor DOMINIC PEACOCK, whose deeply offensive remarks about murdered Labour MP Jo COX were in another league altogether than the LACEY “legs” prank. He was not under such pressure then. Now, there are a lot of people ‘gunning’ for him, metaphorically speaking.
In his desperate anxiety to discredit and deter Andy STRANGEWAY, Peter ROBINSON, Willie FLANNIGAN and others waiting in the wings, from disclosing more of the shady side of Stanhope Street, Councillor PARNABY has committed a monumental error.
He has run off at the mouth over a bit of a lark – a mere bagatelle. But he has remained silent on each of the major issues Andy STRANGEWAY has raised.
Let me remind readers that:
- Councillor PARNABY and eleven of his ranking Officers face grave legal proceedings in a matter of alleged Misfeasance in Public Office in regard to Planning procedure irregularities (the Lakeminster development).
- Mr Peter ROBINSON has been pursuing his non-declaration case against Councillor PARNABY in the most public fashion. (And I have seen documentation concerning other Planning Decisions, presently under close scrutiny).
- The £14million (plus costs) settlement in relation to a diabolical Children’s Safeguarding failure is now reportedly only one of a string of hush-hush litigation disasters suffered by ERYC under Councillor PARNABY’s 20-year Leadership.
- ERYC is vehemently refusing to provide Andy STRANGEWAY with details of numerous Employment Tribunal defeats and NDAs (non-disclosure agreements – or “gagging orders”) over the last six years.
And, most recently, neither Councillor PARNABY nor Mrs LACEY has responded to urgent requests – and this smacks of another Children’s Safeguarding disaster – for a public announcement regarding a series of in-house Children’s Safeguarding incidents at Driffield Swimming Pool, administered by the Council.
So while the rest of us continue to investigate the darker recesses of the PARNABY decades, the Leader himself can only obsess over a ‘naughty’ postcard of Mrs LACEY’s knees. And, for his trouble, he has attracted a swarm of unwelcome media attention. He is in the spotlight now.
One might say, “Mission Accomplished”.
And to show that it was nothing personal, Andy has apologised to Caroline, face to face, for any discomfort she may have felt, and he has withdrawn the ‘offending’ Photoon – and, with it, the rug from under Councillor PARNABY’s feet of clay.
The bottom line is [Ed: Dare you say “bottom” in this company?) that what Councillor Andy STRANGEWAY [Ind.] has done is to have publically embraced the single most important precept laid down in Lord NOLAN’s Seventh Principle of Public Life – Leadership:
“. . . be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs”.
The vast majority of Councillors lay low and ‘play the game’. By obeying the Whip, they allow themselves to be led – sometimes far from the straight and narrow.
STRANGEWAY will challenge all the way.