The Standard’s Sentinel column takes his weekly look at events in Boston and beyond...
Sentinel likes a good laugh on a Friday. Step up everyone’s favourite ‘blogger’ for his Friday diatribe. This week the keyboard critic sharpens his claws for none other than Sentinel himself. What has irked Mr Doom and Gloom? It’s the suggestion, in last week’s Sentinel column, that the paper will remain neutral when it comes to the Quadrant. The old Boston Sigh says we ought to be brave enough to support one side and stop sitting on the fence. He highlights the fact we have campaigned before on the Post Office and Blue Badge parking tickets and feels we ought to do similar this time. Here’s why we think this is different. On the two issues mentioned we felt an overwhelming sense of injustice for Boston – both here and amongst our readers – and decided to act as a focal point for the opposition felt in the town. Even within those long-running issues we reported balanced news stories alongside our campaign (we are not arrogant enough to believe everyone will agree with us!) while being honest about our position. When it comes to the Quadrant it is clear that there is a big debate. On the one hand there’s the need for a new home for Boston United and the possible significant investment in jobs and houses that it is said to bring, while on the other there are fears that it is in the wrong location and may create problems - whether they be traffic-related or through flood risk. There are other arguments of course but, put simply, it’s not a black and white issue. We respect and understand the views of those for and against the Quadrant. Our genuine and honest view is that this is an important plan that has valid and relevant points on both sides. As a newspaper we should aim to cater for all our readers and offer up coverage that reflects both sides. Mr Sigh reckons this is the ‘easy life’ yet in reality that’s nonsense. Balance is difficult to maintain in coverage and often leaves you open to criticism from both sides that you are biased. That keeps you on your toes but isn’t a bad thing. An ‘easy life’ might really be to sit in your bedroom, not bother going to any meetings, ‘pick a side’, pop the blinkers on and slag off the other side. We’ll leave that to someone else. We openly admit we don’t get everything right but we believe that our job is to inform the readers and let them make up their own mind. Feel free to shout us down if you disagree with or dislike our coverage but rest assured we haven’t taken an easy way out.
*Laughably the same ‘blogger’ accuses us of not sticking with our neutral stance by having the temerity to publish a letter from a reader. Heaven forbid anyone should dare have an opinion on a news item - let alone one that differs from the ‘bias’ of the Boston Sigh. Are S Darby of Fishtoft’s views not fit to print because he differs from those of the anti-Quadrant crew? Of course not. The paper will happily publish letters for, against or neutral on the Quadrant or any other development. The ‘blogger’ purports to know his newspaper onions from his time in journalism so should know that letters published within publications do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editor. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Still, in other news, it’s apparently a conspiracy that the council is positive about itself within its own publications. Mr Sigh’s bedroom really is full of negativity isn’t it? Sentinel reckons he should get outside, soak up some sun and smile once in a while.
*Having said all of that, Sentinel does still welcome the missives of his fellow Friday blogger. It would be an extremely dull world if we all agreed. It’s enjoyable to see a fortright opinion - just don’t expect Sentinel not to defend himself. Sentinel is also looking forward to the return of Carol Taylor’s blog for the same reason. The more the merrier.
*The reason why Sentinel loves a good blog is that freedom of speech is something to cherish and celebrate. That’s why the latest guidance from the National Association of Local Councils issued to parish councils is laughable. Here’s some of the points:
All journalists must contact the council clerk and may not contact councillors directly.
Any contact by councillors with journalists requires the council’s prior written consent.
Councillors cannot in their official capacity provide verbal or written statements to the media without the written consent of the council.
Councillors are not permitted to use the title ‘councillor’ if giving comments in a private capacity.
Sentinel is happy to say that this utter garbage will be completely ignored by anyone here. Parish councillors should be happy to represent their residents and - as human beings - are allowed and entitled to an opinion. All this will do is encourage councils to become talking shops that act for their own purposes not for the public. Luckily many of our councils do not fall foul of that. We’ve got some good people who tirelessly serve their parishes. Let’s hope they see this silly advice for what it is.
*It’s often said that, in Boston’s council meetings, the true-blues vote en bloc against the ‘others’ in the room with an ‘us v them’ attitude. Those looking for evidence might turn to Tuesday’s full council meeting when, while debating allowing people the freedom to speak at the Quadrant (yes, that again) special meeting in August, Coun Richard Austin suggested amending the rules to allow the two main campaign groups get a guaranteed chance to have their say. This was immediately shot down by leader Peter Bedford, who said he didn’t see why this was necessary because committee chair Mary Wright would have delegated powers to extend the number of speakers, if it was felt necessary. The vote took place and, you’ve guessed it, it was the blues v the others. This means that Sue Bell and the not-so-snappily named WQAGs and the Glen Chapman’s BUSA band of brothers need to get their applications in as soon as possible (speakers will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis) otherwise they are relying on the graces of Mary, Queen of Boston, to grant them a chance to speak. As Coun Austin summed up ‘the council must be seen to be fair’ - would it have done any harm to set in stone the right for both chances to have a say? At the end of the planning process no-one wants a sour taste to be left by people having a case for saying they were sidelined.
*Hats off to the Giles Academy for an amazing bit of footage from their ‘iPhone in space’ project. The fact the phone still now works mean they are probably owed some advertising revenue from Apple head office. It got us thinking though - how come the clever clogs crew at Giles can get a video from their phone in space yet some of us here can’t get a signal in Sibsey? Shame on you mobile phone networks! In all seriousness though it’s a cracking project and a real credit to the school. Sentinel was no scientist at school but surely the pupils there can’t fail to be inspired by such an idea? Let’s hope that the deserved national attention they have got will spur them on even further.
*Sentinel notes that solicitors elsewhere have this week spoken out about the negative impact of closing courts elsewhere in the county. Interestingly they raise an important point about Boston. Yes, our court remains and in that sense we are one of the lucky few. But - and this is the experience of the Standard’s reporters too – our court is becoming increasingly ‘clogged up’ with cases from far and wide. Boston cases are often shunted off into the lesser court room and you hear of confusion caused by people - and indeed interpreters - turning up at the wrong time. Sentinel can’t help thinking the whole process makes it harder for ‘justice to be done and seen to be done’. You’d hope that the money spent on the court in Boston recently should secure its future - but there must also be a better way of running the service for the better of everyone in the area. Spalding, for example, has a lovely old court room right at the heart of the town. It’s a travesty to let that go.
*MP Mark Simmonds is on Twitter. Again. Mark has been criticised in some quarters for the lack of Boston updates in his Twitter timeline (@markjsimmonds). He has explained this in the past by stressing that his account is, essentially, part of his role at the Foreign Office. While he tried to put more Boston updates into his output at first he’s now taken the decision to launch a second account (@marksimmondsmp) for political and constituency business. And within his first few tweets Mark re-tweeted this from our paper “Heartthrob from @Hollyoaks set to appear at Boston’s @AssemblyRoom”. Has Mark been rumbled as a secret soap fan?
*Two cases of mistaken identity made us chuckle at The Standard this week. Firstly, we had an answerphone message left for ‘Stephen Fry’. We assumed that was for our editor Stephen Stray who, while obviously ‘quite interesting’ in his own right, bears little resemblance to General Melchett from Blackadder and is slightly behind Fry when it comes to Twitter followers. Let’s hope she wasn’t disappointed. Then, we also saw deputy editor Andrew Brookes asked ‘hang on, you’re not related to that Rebekah Brooks are you?’. Sentinel can safely report that he isn’t...