Friday, 22 April 2011

Canvey Island: England’s Bastion Of Gullibility

Echo health warningFOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, I have been questioning how a scheming bunch of political activists – with no agenda other than to be constantly elected as local councillors and thus benefit from the generous allowance system – can actually form a political party; promote all its members as ‘independents;’ and then set about its task of hoodwinking the public to vote for them based solely upon a platform of continuously misrepresenting the facts.

For the past two years, I have also been asking why the other local political parties, and, in particular, the local press, have allowed them to get away with it.

Disturbingly, the answer to the first question is simple: here, in Canvey Island, the majority of its voters trust what they are told. They trust the local press, and their local representatives, to tell them the truth – so, when an upstart, freelance photojournalist, of whom they have never heard, starts a local Blog accusing those trusted sources of lying, and misrepresenting themselves, many become upset. Particularly when life-long islanders are the main subject of its accusations.

Canvey Island is isolated from the mainland – and its thought processes are isolated too. Islanders are encouraged to believe that they can insulate themselves from those modern-day forces of liberalism, crime, and aberrant social behaviour by voting for an ‘independent’ party committed to their community values – and the propaganda disseminated by the activists, blaming any event or statement that contradicts that belief system on ‘mainland incursions,’ continues to justify those beliefs.

Islanders have been led to believe that they can insulate themselves from mainland society and thus avoid all its problems of financial corruption; lying politicians; and personal greed. And, in an attempt to recreate that idyllic community that Canvey Island once used to be: they vote in their thousands – for the one political party that precisely represents those three particular abhorrences.

Canvey Islanders will not admit that one of their own, home-grown, citizens could ever share any of those despised mainland qualities; and, despite all contrary evidence, the majority of islanders continue to believe what they want to believe.

Islanders have been sold a pig-in-a-poke. But few are willing to recognise it.

What makes Canvey Island’s case so sad is the failure of the other local political parties, and the local press, to ever challenge the constant stream of misrepresentations and downright lies that emanate from the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP). The local Labour Party remained silent, because the vast majority of the CIIP were former Labour Councillors and members. Similarly, the local Conservative Party made no objections: because it was their former MP, Bob Spink, whom was closely concerned in the CIIP’s formation. And it was Bob Spink, together with the CIIP leader, Dave Blackwell, whom were responsible for establishing Canvey Island’s Parish Council (hastily re-designated as a ‘Town Council’ to add to its kudos) in an effort to persuade islanders that the CIIP had achieved its first objective in separating the island from the mainland.

Both main political parties have been complicit in the CIIP’s rise to local power – and the losers have been Labour. Now they hold no seats whatsoever throughout Castle Point.

As to the Conservatives, they too have lost. Last year, apart from a single seat, they were swept from the island by the Canvey Island Independence Party.

What goes around, comes around.

As a journalist, it matters to me not one jot as to which party wins an election campaign. But it is of the highest Public Interest when politicians win seats from a platform that is specifically designed to misrepresent the facts and deny the truth to the public.

But perhaps of even greater Public Interest is when a local newspaper, in this case the Echo – from Newsquest’s stable – constantly gives weight to one minority political party’s misrepresentations and downright lies.

What is a local newspaper if it fails to accurately reflect the facts in a political debate to ensure the truth is made available to its readers?

The local Echo has been conspicuously adept, during the last two years, at dismally failing its readers and successfully ensuring Canvey Island’s political divisions by providing column after column of verbatim quotes from the CIIP that have been specifically designed to mislead voters.

And the Echo has not once questioned the facts behind those political statements.

The vast majority of politicians ‘lie.’ It is a fact that we all grow to recognise as soon as we come into personal contact with the breed. But there are, thankfully, still those (albeit very few) whom, despite the environment in which they are forced to work, still cling to those old-fashioned values that produced straight-talking, eloquent advocates, committed to representing the public whom they were elected to serve.

As the Canvey Beat celebrated its second year at the beginning of this month, I found myself reviewing its contents and pondering what I could have written about if the Echo had actually been doing its job. Certainly not local politics, that was for sure.

As these local elections enter their last phase in the run-up to May 5th, it is considerably apt that, what may be the Canvey Beat’s last article before the polls, is a piece reporting Blackwell’s complete misrepresentation of the Government’s Localism Bill in the local Echo – purporting that it will provide new powers for Town Councils, and adding to the CIIP leader’s catalogue of lies.

Bill SharpAnd, as the Canvey Beat withdraws from the affray, it seems to be left to Bill Sharp, one of those decent, straight-talking and truthful politicians I was referring to earlier, to carry Democracy’s flag along with his party colour.

Canvey Island needs many more, like Bill, if the CIIP are to now be driven back into the political obscurity that they so richly deserve…

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