Friday, June 15, 2012

Martha Payne wins Liberal Heroine of the Day

Liberal Heroine of the Day must go to Martha Payne, the nine-year-old blogger who has defeated Argyll & Bute Council. Though to be honest the council's collapse today was a bizarre act of self-immolation and had nothing to do with any action by the indefatigable school dinner reviewer,

Caron Lindsay will give you the background to today's events. Essentially, the council (not the school or headteacher, note) had banned Martha from taking photographs

This morning saw an outcry in the media and on Twitter, to which the council felt obliged to respond. That where its problems really began.

The full statement, remarkably, runs to some 600 words. Stephen's Liberal Journal has the whole thing, but the first two sentences will do:
Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs. The Council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils however this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing.
Already we have an ignorant misuse of 'refute', an appeal for our approval for not criticising a nine-year-old child and a laughable claims that she is causing "distress and harm".

A few hours later the council caved in. You can find its second statement in the same post by Stephen.

This new statement was made under the name of the councillor's leader Cllr Roddy McCuish. It began well enough:
There is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst I am leader.
But soon collapsed into farce:
We need to find a united way forward so I am going to bring together our catering staff, the pupils, councillors and council officials - to ensure that the council continues to provide healthy, nutrious  (sic.) and attractive school meals. That "School Meals Summit" will take place later this summer.
If this is the reaction to a nine-year-old writing broadly favourable reviews of her school dinners, God knows what McCuish would do in the face of a real crisis.

The attention that Martha had received even before today ought to have been PR gold for the council. Instead its philosophy seems to be that no one must say anything bad it ever. That is not a PR strategy: it is close to a psychological disorder.

In view of that, it is not such a surprise to find this report from earlier this year on BBC News:
A council employee in Argyll and Bute has been suspended while an investigation is under way into so-called "social media spying". 
It comes after communications chief Jo Smith reportedly told a conference she set up fake social media accounts to monitor what was being said about the council.
Why the taxpayers of rural Scotland should continue to fund any of this nonsense, I cannot begin to see.

On a happier note, I liked this tweet:

You could say the same thing about the otherwise excellent Boxmoor County Primary, where you needed a letter from your parents if you didn't want custard with your pudding.

I am over 50, live in Market Harborough and own a tweed jacket, so I am allowed to think that children should be climbing trees or in bed rather than blogging if I want to. Nevertheless, I have no hesitation in giving Martha Payne this blog's prestigious Liberal Heroine of the Day award.

Finally, Caron's recent meme - see Eight years in eight posts - reminded me of the case of Chris Whitehead, who went to school in a skirt as a protest against not being allowed to wear shorts. A bit of Googling shows that he too has won, and was shortlisted for Liberty's young person of the year award in the process.

So maybe there is hope after all.

1 comment:

dog training gold coast said...

Congratulations to Martha Payne. She's a brave child. Even though she's a kid, she made an impact to the world. She helped in making a change for the world to be a better place.