Published: 18:58, 16 April 2021
| Updated: 11:18, 20 April 2021
Party political broadcasts have become increasingly sophisticated over recent years, a trend that began with what was - at the time - a groundbreaking video profiling the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock.
The proliferation of social media platforms has moved things on even more and parties have become ever more adept at finding ways of getting their audience engaged.
Kent Conservatives tentatively dipped their collective toes into this fast-moving online environment
>>with a short election video extolling the virtues of how they were managing the county council.
You couldn’t call it slick - plenty of other words spring to mind - and it lacked a certain energy.
It featured a cast of some of the party’s big hitters at County Hall who should probably stick to politics rather than the footlights. Or as the old joke goes - “they should be on the stage - the last stage out of town.”
It certainly wasn’t a big budget production and maybe that was deliberate: with the coffers at County Hall depleted, what would voters think if they were to blow thousands on a party political video?
The video itself seemed to lack direction. Maybe it was aiming for a kind of gritty authenticity, appropriate to the current political environment.
It opened with a cameo from Cllr Mike Hill, who said the council “would work with communities and voluntary groups to rebuild” but there was no time to say why, how or who.
There was a contribution by deputy leader Peter Oakford emphasising the sound financial management of the authority in Conservative hands before concluding with leader Roger Gough emerging from a wood to urge us all to vote for the party.
Perhaps we are being too harsh. At least they were willing to have a go, even if the result was not exactly an unqualified success. And it has the virtue of brevity at just 44 seconds.
As to whether it will win over voters? We rather doubt it.
What kind of global threat would we face if the details of the environmental impact of the government’s lorry park at Sevington were to be put into the public domain?
We can’t tell you because the Environment Agency has, in its wisdom, determined that it would not be in the public interest to disclose any documents relating to its views on the Inland Border Facility off the M20 at Ashford.
Its response to a Freedom of Information request made by KentOnline sets out a range of different exemptions it has invoked to withhold documents that relate to the potential environmental impact of the 66-acre site.
These include the contention that disclosure “would adversely affect the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information to protect a legitimate economic interest.”
Yes, the organisation that is supposed to be the public watchdog on environmental issues has determined that commercial sensitivity around the interests of private contractors trumps our right to know.
Even more shocking is that the EA considers public participation irrelevant: “Disclosure of these details would not contribute to sustainable development, nor to public health and safety; in fact we consider that the opposite is true, in that making technical detail available to the world at large would risk damage to the environment, and possibly a threat to human life and to property.”
What is meant by a threat to human life is not explained but the lorry park is in use 24/7 by hauliers and is managed by staff employed by HRMC who, on the basis of this response are doing so in circumstances that might be deemed dangerous.
This case underlines one of the flaws in Special Development Orders; namely that the normal planning process would require public consultation and involve the agency setting out its views. Under SDOs, no such lawful regulations exist, meaning the public has no automatic right to see responses.
One rule for them...
Will the lobbying scandal have any meaningful impact on the forthcoming local elections? It is doubtful - had there been a general election, there could have been.
That is not to say voters won’t be ignoring the growing scandal. It fits into the toxic political narrative that there is one rule for the public and one for politicians - or in this case, ex-politicians.
As the MPs expenses scandal demonstrated, the public has a healthy scepticism on the explanation - or excuses - made by politicians of all stripes when confronted over this kind of issue. Namely, the contention that they have complied with the rules.
Still, Labour is making the most of the Conservative discomfort and the phrase “Tory sleaze” is cropping up in every interview.