Saturday, May 02, 2009

Better late than never eh?

I made a posting on Wednesday about why the Evening Gazette, this areas most read newspaper, had not even mentioned the massive fact that an MP from a different constituency was intervening in the affairs of a local authority in another MP's constituency? As if by magic the following day, on page 10, down a thin column at the side of the page, was the story. my mum always used to say "Better late than never".

So nearly a week after the story was first featured on Radio Cleveland, and nearly two weeks after invitations for the Commons screening were sent to senior members of the Gazettes staff, a thin column appears down the side of page ten of the newspaper.

When you take into consideration the magnitude of this story, if this wasn't so serious it would be laughable.

Oh no doubt there will be reasons as to why the Evening Gazette have done this? As there will have been reasons why the council being found to have been unlawful in the High Court in December 07 ( another massive story ) didn't make the front page and reasons why the truth that came out in the magistrates court about this scheme in March 07 about the lack of leisure facilities didn't even make the paper at all, despite the Gazette having a reporter in attendance throughout. But based on these past experiences and after talking to a very well known investigative reporter, it certainly looks as if the Evening Gazette, in the words of the investigative reporter, took the decision to support this scheme no matter what, a long time ago.

I did not know, until this reporter told me this, that decisions were taken by newspapers as to what they were and weren't, going to support at the very inception of such schemes. If this is the case, then it explains perfectly why massive stories that should be shouted from the rooftops about this councils shocking behaviour, are kept in the relative obscurity of pages towards the back of the paper and not splashed all over the front pages. At this point I am remembering the words of Colin Moore the ex Chief Executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. Words that prompted George Dunning who was leader of the opposition at the time, to call for Mr Moores investigation.

Mr Moore told the head of Tees Valley Regeneration in a letter that the council withdrawing their financial support for TVR, should be made in a short line, in a long sentence, in a twenty page document, so as not to alert the attention of the public. In other words, we have to make it public so do it in a way so that the public don't pick up on it.

Yesterday, whilst I was out leafletting in Lakes Estate, I was speaking with a friend of mine. She had no idea that an MP from a different constituency was intervening into the Coatham situation because it is so bad. This is exactly what the council and it looks as though the Gazette aswell, want. The day after the story had been featured in the Evening Gazette and still, members of the public who buy the paper, did not know anything about it?

Take away the issue of possible bias or whatever the real agenda is, is it right that people in this area are seemingly spoon fed only the things that those in authority want people to know and in a way that they may not even pick up on? As a contrast to this, I remember a meeting we had in 2006. The independent group had agreed to come and speak out against the Coatham Scheme. Because of this, the council sent their press officer and ex Gazette employee Paul Daniel, to the meeting.

He was asked politely to leave, but un-politely, told the elderly gentleman that asked him, to get lost. At this, I went to thr front of the room and told the packed meeting who he was. Several elderly people started telling him to get out and they slow hand clapped him. He got up and walked out of a side door which led into a yard. The audience erupted with laughter. He then left through the correct door. It was akin to a Morecambe and Wise Sketch. The meeting continued and the independents spoke out against this scheme. But the only thing that made the Gazette FRONT PAGE, was the head line "what this man said to turn an orderly meeting into chaos" and showed a picture of me.

On pages two and three, there was a full, double page spread, which told the non-story about how poor Mr Daniels was treated terribly by me and the other protestors. You would have thought, by reading the article, that we were some rampaging horde led by me a Ghengis Khan type of Character when in truth, the audience comprised mainly senior citizens and was good natured throughout. Even when Mr Daniels was slow handclapped out there was no threat towards him which was made out in the article. There was no chaos. There was no rabble.

There was hardly any mention of what the independent councillors had said against the scheme either.

Now I ask you, what is more important in the scheme of things to the people of this area? Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council being found to have been unlawful in the High Court, it coming out in a magistrates court that there aren't going to be the leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme that the council have been misleading people into thinking that they are going to get, that an MP from a different constituency is intervening in a local authority in another MP's constituency because the scheme is so bad, or the councils press officer being slow hand clapped and laughed at by some OAP's?

I know which ones I think are most important. Yet the three that should have been headline stories are barely touched upon and put towards the back of the paper whilst the trivial story makes the headlines? This just about sums it all up doesn't it? These are facts.

When I look at the facts further, the Northern Echo printed the story about the outside MP's intervention way back on page 20 odd. Northeast news, Tyne Tees news, TFM and the Stockton and Darlington times, have made no mention of this massive story whatsoever? Have they all made a decision to back the Coatham scheme no matter what too?

As I have just written the line "Have they all made the decision to back the Coatham Scheme too", the words of the Gazettes political editor Sandy Mckenzie from his article of 2006 or 7, are still ringing in my ears. On one particular Saturday, he had written a piece about some proposed development on Stockton Racecourse I think and said that it would be following in the successful steps of The North Shore development, Middlehaven and the Coatham Enclosure Scheme.

The success of the Coatham Enclosure Scheme? It was a ridiculous statement to make, when not a brick had been laid, it was surrounded by controversy and it was steaming headlong towards being described on local radio by Vera Baird QC MP as a "disaster" and you have to wonder why an experienced journalist like Sandy McKenzie, the Evening Gazettes political editor, made such a nonsensical statement promoting the Coatham Scheme?

However, now that the scheme has been already found in the High Court to have been unlawful, the SFO have stated that information that we have provided them with about the scheme pertains to corruption and an MP from a neighbouring constituency is intervening over this issue, Mr McKenzies statement, in light of the fact that Evening Gazette hasn't made any great play of any of the things which are damning the Coatham scheme, isn't ridiculous to me anymore.

It's frightening.

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