BILL HEANEY’S NOTEBOOK COLUMN

BILL HEANEY’S NOTEBOOK COLUMN

Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnston should join the West Dunbartonshire branch of the SNP.  Or look for a seat on the Council at 16 Church Street.  They share a similar outlook on Freedom of the Press and much else.

Bullingdon Bully Boy Johnston has come in for criticism after taking a phone off an ITV reporter when he tried to show him a picture of a four-year-old with suspected pneumonia who was forced to lie on a pile of coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital.

The prime minister was being interviewed by the ITV News political correspondent, Joe Pike.

At the end of the interview, Mr Johnson said: “I’m sorry to have taken your phone. There you go.” Cheeky, or just plain ignorant?

Johnston has also banned the Daily Mirror – a Labour supporting newspaper – from his campaign bus, which usually carries lies along the side in very large letters.

In a Q&A on Monday afternoon, Mr Johnson was asked twice about the phone incident, and on both occasions refused to directly address what was being asked.

Much like West Dunbartonshire Council and the local branch of the SNP, including their elected members, who refuse to comment on anything to The Democrat.

Labour’s Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Refusing to even look at an image of a child suffering because of Conservative cuts to the NHS is a new low for Boris Johnson. It’s clear he could not care less.”

However, his Labour colleagues in West Dunbartonshire, apart from Jackie Baillie MSP, have refused to take up the ban and boycott of The Democrat with either the Council or the SNP.

They took umbrage when I wrote that the new Burgh Hall, which cost an astonishing £17 million and counting to refurbish, was not fit for purpose.

That there was not sufficient room for the public to attend meetings and were locked out.

And, if they were lucky (or unlucky enough) to get into meetings, the audio system was so poor that no one could hear what was going on.

There was also the problem that the public could not see sufficiently from the public gallery to identify who was saying the words they could not hear. Ridiculous.

West Dunbartonshire is a basket case local authority. Few would dispute that after all that has gone on there is the past few years.

I was surrounded by at least four senior officials that day who asked me to leave. They said it was inappropriate for me to raise the matter.

They must be the highest paid bouncers in the country.

The Chief Executive was extremely unhappy that I told one of these £100,000 a year goons who surrounded me to bugger off. Quietly.

Later, when a media officer, asked me to leave the council chamber, I told her if she wanted that to happen she would have to call the police to arrest me.

She backed off.

They really need to grow up these councillors and officials. The Provost was the appropriate person for me to raise these matters with since he is supposed to take charge of the Council meetings.

I wasn’t interrupting anything when I spoke with him. It was during a tea break and not, as alleged, in the middle of a meeting..

I’ll be kind to him and just say the Provost hasn’t a clue about procedure, and that when he was offered lessons by the Chief Executive on how to conduct matters, properly he turned them down.

I have been covering local government, national government and European government for the past half century almost, and I have never come across such a shambles as West Dunbartonshire Council. They couldn’t run a bath.”

And such is there obsession with secrecy, that it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if they were to suddenly switch their meetings to another hall across the road in Church Street.

Don’t ask me which one. That really is a secret and, unlike the Council,  its members are quite within their rights to keep it that way.

bORIS 8

Boris Johnston who snatched the telephone after looking at photograph of a four-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia. 

Politicians have stepped up their campaign against press freedom. Unsurprisingly, the charge is being led by the Tories with not a little help from their friends in the SNP, who have banned and boycotted The Dumbarton Democrat.

The latest episode of this came this morning when Adam Bolton, the political editor of Sky News, revealed that Conservative Central Office had been on the telephone threatening him to withdraw co-operation from the channel.

Bolton’s crime was to have said live on air that Boris Johnston appeared to be “tired and emotional” which is a well used euphemism for having drink taken, but has, so far as I know,  not been considered defamatory in the past.

Much in the same way as “economical with the truth” is not considered actionable.

The political editor has now, surprisingly, apologised generously for his remarks and asked the Tories, who probably relish taking sanctions against him and Sky, to change their mind on withdrawing candidates from interviews that have already been arranged.

I note that some newspapers have been putting forward their own manifesto for Thursday’s election. It’s just a wish list really, since newspapers have no real power in politics, although some foolishly think they do.

The Notebook Manifesto includes:

More funding for social care and bringing the elderly back into the community.

Increased pensions in line with other European countries.

Children – a spotlight shone on the actuality of what is happening in relation to remand homes and other places of detention and ‘care’.

Prison reform to include no women in jail except for those dealt with by solemn procedure for the most serious crimes.

Car tax review and insurance increases to cut the number of cars on the road.

Nurse bursaries extended to all healthcare professional staff – doctors, physios, radiographers  …

Free public transport to destinations within a certain radius of your home address. Taxi fares review to ensure a fair deal for customers.

Council tax, food prices, social housing and private rentals,  asylum seekers, immigration and a review of the Public Bodies Admission to Meetings Act.

Some of these are, of course, devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

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