British Politician Tells Local Paper It Can't Quote Him Because He Dislikes Its Readers' Comments

from the didn't-really-think-this-out-at-all,-did-you? dept

Being in the public arena is not for the thin-skinned. Or, at least, that used to be the case, right up until the internet made it possible for thousands to give instant (usually negative) feedback on public figures’ statements, actions, sudden weight gain, etc. True, older, thicker-skinned public figures had it much easier “back in the day,” but today’s political aspirant should know that a.) their life is an open (face)book and b.) the angriest people talk (type) the LOUDEST.

However, rather than develop thicker skin, some politicians have instead made efforts to keep all the bad people away from the paper vellum they call skin. Some try to shield themselves (and the children!) with vague anti-cyberbullying laws. Others push for “real name” requirements. And some (well, maybe just this one), just tell the offending entity that it’s no longer part of the conversation, no matter how ridiculous this “arrangement” actually is.

Christopher Hawtree is a very unusual politician because he dislikes being quoted. The Green councillor, who has just been selected to fight for a parliamentary seat, has told a reporter for his local paper, the Brighton Argus, to stop approaching him after meetings.

So, a local politician who deals with local issues would rather not answer questions from the local paper. One of the correspondents for the offending paper logically asked (via Twitter), “Isn’t that his job?”

Why doesn’t Hawtree want to talk to his district’s paper of record?

Hawtree tweeted in response: “I have a great dislike of the Argus readers’ comments and so prefer to appear in other papers.”

That normally wouldn’t be a problem, but Brighton & Hove’s only paper is the Argus. Hawtree apparently would like to be the sort of public figure that can coast through several successful terms, untroubled by his local paper and mouthy constituents. But if that’s truly the sort of person he wishes to be, he needs to drop the “public figure” part of it.

Not only will he not respond to the paper’s inquiries, but he’s actively steering anyone who will listen towards an alternative “paper of record.”

So, given that the city of Brighton & Hove is served by only one title, what “other papers” does he prefer? The New York Times, evidently, because he urges his followers to sign up for a subscription.

I’m not sure how much longer Hawtree’s planning to “serve” his community, but I would think his constituents will be trimming a few months or years off that total. It’s pretty tough to remain a community leader when you’ve implied that many in the community are “dreadful” and “hateful.” Topping it off by cutting the press out of the loop makes Hawtree look like the sort of person who’d be better off returning to the private sector and becoming a hermit, rather than attempting to bypass all that “unpleasant” communication the real world’s known for.

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Comments on “British Politician Tells Local Paper It Can't Quote Him Because He Dislikes Its Readers' Comments”

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jemface (profile) says:


He may have a point. The Argus is often held up on online forums for having really stupid commentators.

What is public discourse? I don’t think it is found in the racist ramblings of a local newspapers comment section. He has every opportunity to engage with people online through, twitter, facebook et al. Why is he obliged to talk to every outlets of electronic communication, especially if he has found one to be full of trolls and numpties?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Hyperbole

I’m going to ignore you and your paper because of things other people are doing. Not because your being unfair in your coverage, but because I can’t be bothered to ignore loathsome comments left by people.

What is next, him proposing new laws and such but only people who speak nicely about him can comment?

He seems a wee bit self obsessed if he gives a reporter a comment and then has to check on whats posted on the website in the comments section. No one said he had to read the comments but he can’t seem to stop his ego from dragging him there.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

The source article doesn’t state he dislikes being quoted, the journalist’s tweet actually states,

“Amused after @chrishawtree sends me email saying he dislikes he asking him for quotes after meetings. Is that not a job of a local cllr?”

So it seems Tim has followed the Grauniad into the trap of Tabloid truth twisting. He’s not asking not to be quoted, he just doesn’t want to provide quotes to the Argus and wants the reporter to stop ambushing him after meetings.

Now as to his public record I have no idea if he is a good councillor or not, but one thing I can say is a councillors job is NOT feeding quotes to newspapers in order to increase/maintain their PR – it’s to represent his community to the council and government.

I’m sure the Argus are free to quote-mine him from other public speeches, including his Twitter feed, which it seems they do.

Is it a smart move to engage a newspaper this way? Probably not, but I don’t see this as a freedom of speech issue – more of a freedom not to speak issue.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

He attends a public meeting and thinks he’s “being ambushed”…

No, I used that term, based on my own speculation.

All we know for sure is that this reporter consistently asks for quotes and he has emailed the reporter in question and stated that he dislikes the reporter from asking for quotes after meetings.

Seems reasonable to me. I don’t think it helps genuine free speech causes and issues to be conflating them with this kind of incident which is more a case of a politician not wanting to talk to a publication.

It’s not even a freedom of information issue. The reporters just trying to get a quick and easy “quote” he can use rather than to figure out a way of summarizing the meeting himself. There’s nothing being hidden or repressed here.

What if this was David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch? Would you be backing Murdoch and calling it a free-speech issue then?

Q?r Tharkasd?ttir (profile) says:

He damn right?!

Last night, Beppe Grillo, the front figure of the Five-Star Movement that made a killer in the elections that were just held in Italy, has stubbornly remained locked in his house, trying to get a well-deserved rest while hords of journalists were feeling despicated outside his gate. To him, and to me, the vast majority of tv, radio and print are walking deads, slaves to a moribund system.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘be better off returning to the private sector and becoming a hermit’

in fact, getting any sort of ‘proper job’ would be a good alternative.
i am surprised that there has been no comment from the leader of the Green Party over his members remarks. it certainly does the party no good and in a time when almost any politician would be better than those in power at the moment, you would think that lying until elected would have been a better line to take. perhaps UKIP are in the running and will do better. cant do worse, surely?

Anonymous Coward says:

Positive feedback only?

I would like to see what their townhall metings are like, I figure our political systems are similar. I only caught the McCain highlights of his recent meeting in AZ. Granted, they were downright cordial compared to some forum commenters but McCain handled them it seemed without breaking a sweat. I guess once you survive a POW camp, mean people shouting angry things are like water off a duck’s back.

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