In a rather transparent attempt to further manipulate public perceptions, Medway council's Labour group arranged what they have termed 'an alternative council meeting', under the even more pretentious official name 'The People's Forum'– which was held at the Corn Exchange in Rochester yesterday evening.
As soon as I became aware of this wheeze, about a week ago, I sussed out what it was really all about, and prepared some predictions. I was going to publish them here, then decided it was better not to forewarn the Labour folk that I was well and truly on to them (and no doubt, by extension, others were too) so left it to unfold in its own way. I stocked up on popcorn and awaited the fun...
I had been tempted to put in an appearance myself, but decided against that as well – and, looking back a day after the event, I believe that both those decisions were the right ones. No-one can attempt to claim that I tried to 'influence' or 'subvert' the event in any way: that rug was pulled from under those who might have liked to try that one on!
.Fortunately, there was tweeting going on from within the meeting throughout, most notably by Rd Jennings, who tends to be (on the whole) fairly sharp, and generally spots what os really going on. His tweets are very telling; and the string of them can be read starting here and working forward along his timeline. It is very educational...
Exactly as I expected, it was an attempt to get local voters away from the courtesies of an actual council meeting, so that they could play their political games unimpeded – and, of course, as it was Labour, that was the one and only true purpose of the event, though they will of course claim otherwise. Years of experience has show a hundred percent correlation, though, as simply following how they handle these events and what they claim afterward gives away, every time.
The bottom line was to be (as always) to make Medway Labour look 'good' and 'in touch with residents', unlike 'the wicked Tories'. Plus ça change...
Equally as I predicted, the meeting was stuffed with labour councillors and local party members – and, I suspect, a number of Labour's out-of-area members/activists whom local observers would not have recognised, but who had given away in public places (e.g. Twitter) their intention to be there. The Labour group leaderhas claimed that the majority weren't Labour people. Although this is what one expects to be said, for all anyone knows it is possible.
There is probably no way to find out how many genuine local residents without a Labour affiliation were there: probably not very many in reality, despite that claim, if previous public events by the party locally are any indication (I have been to a fair few of those!) The local media dutifully attended this one, which was of course a vital part of the exercise.
There were two issues to be discussed, and Ed spotted exactly how each was presented in a way that (if you read his tweets in full) was designed expressly for that purpose.
I have to say that I find this sort of thing mildly entertaining: not only is it an attempt to 'cheat' by bypassing rules of conduct at council meetings (and the Labour lot already tried that at the last meeting, much to my non-surprise), but it was selective, one-sided, and with little time for actual debate – just nine minutes for the second item.
That second item, the plans for Rochester Airport's future, had the interesting (and unwanted by Labour) ingredient of my own writings on the topic being briefly quoted. Awkward; and definitely not fitting into Labour's narrative!
The point being raised was that the fears being put about by the scaremongers were ill-founded, as evidenced by the numerous other small airports in Britain that had already done what is now being proposed for Rochester Airport, without trouble and with a reduction in noise – counter to the scare messages.
I shall go into no more detail than that, as it could easily become tedious and make this post over-long. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of what has followed the event is that, rather than their usual trumpeting of their wheezes, claiming this, that and the other, they have in fact been very quiet about it. Apart from a couple of predictably gung-ho tweets, nothing material has appeared in the public realm – or if it has we haven't been pointed to it – a good day later.
My strong suspicion is that they are struggling to find a way to dress it up as any kind of success – which is obviously what they are seeking to do. The impression I have gained from a few sources is that it was something of a damp squib in reality – which at least is consistent with other events run by Medway Labour. For example, one well-publicised event, conveniently located close to shops and on the weekend, attracted fewer members of the public than the exhibitors and presenters.
I was there, so can personally attest to this...
Will people be fooled? I suppose it will depend to a fair extent on how the local newspaper writes up what happened. I don't think they will be gushing with praise for the initiative, though I could be wrong: there are angles they can use as an excuse for builfing this up a long way beyond what it really warrants.
Fortunately, as local election results have shown over the past decade and a half, the public mood had consistently swung more and more toward the Conservatives, and nearly always against Labour. Most people around here who have fully functioning brains have them well sussed-out and aren't falling for any of their nonsense, no matter how cleverly it is dreessed up or how craftily tailored to give the outcome they want (as distinct from that which is true).
Coming as it does some fifteen months before the next all-out local council elections here in Medway, it is likely to have a fairly modest effect for a short while, and that will then fade away, long before polling day. All remains well...
Addendum: It occurred to me, while re-reading it, that those less familiar with my writings might have thought I had actually wished for this meeting to be poorly attended by the public. In fact, for reasons that will probably be obvious to just about any half-decent or better psychologist, my preference is for the exact opposite. I want the public to be drawn into this sort of deception – at least for now.
It is the best way to learn truths, being immersed in the untruths, rather than having avoided them and never learning through personal experience and embarrassment when one realises what has been done to oneself, and just how easily the victims slipped into the pattern so skilfully prepared for them. It is a lesson well worth learning; and will (after it has bitten, and bitten hard!) make my job a lot easier in years to come.