When journalism and politics fail

I’ve been a bit busy for the last couple of days with work, but while I have, a blistering post seems to have slipped under the radar from the best blogger in Walsall, The Plastic Hippo. Walsall folk will be aware (unless they’ve been living under a rock) that the Children’s Services department of Walsall Council has had a tatering from Ofsted, branding the department as ‘inadequate’,  leading to resignations, recriminations, and a whole shower of bullshit from Walsall’s political class.

The Express & Star consequently suffered journalistic incontinence all round after finding out that the replacement head of department is costing ‘£1000 a day’, including a fat commission for a recruitment agency. Sadly, in all the backslapping over its investigative journalism triumph (well, they had to get one right eventually, by the law of averages) and the tawdry finger pointing from the opposition, it’s taken the leading light of Walsall’s online community to actually do some investigation into the quality of the head of department’s replacement – which makes grim reading.

So, to get this straight; the local press stopped looking at the issue once they’d scored the magic cost figure, and the opposition Labour group would rather nitpick, fingerpoint and continue their bickering with independents. Meanwhile, it takes an amateur blogger recently back off his holidays to ask the really important questions.

Welcome back to the Walsall Council reality distortion field. If you care about Walsall, please read this.

If you read nothing else this week, please, just read this. Blistering. Click on the screen shot to visit the Hippo’s blog and read the original.

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13 Responses to When journalism and politics fail

  1. Flattery will get you nowhere, Roberto. I would like to point out, though, that it was that there Hapdaniel who first uncovered the unexplained resignation of our new saviour from Medway. I wonder if the local dead tree press or our woeful opposition will question the recruitment process or the terms of the contract. It might be best to not hold your breath.

  2. The Realist says:

    I have already offered some observations on this matter on various blogs, so will not repeat my remarks here. However, three things occur to me.

    First is the appalling absence of any questioning of OFSTED, its methods, purpose, leadership and product. The Hippo himself seems to be content (with much support from me) to hammer Wilsher, his cohorts and predessors and rightly so.

    Except when it comes to their findings on Walsall. These should be taken as Gospel, apparently.

    Secondly, I can fully understand the current disillusion of the Walsall blogging cognoscenti with local politics and politicians. Let’s face it, a return of the Shires/Bird regime and a Labour Party riven by splits, plots and disloyalty is hardly topical. However, this is where we are.

    It is not difficult to square this ennui with the torpor that appears to have afflicted the local electorate. If democracy, even in its Walsall form, is to survive, perhaps us bloggers need to do a little bit more on the ground. Otherwise, local activism will be reduced to the few who are adept on the Net.

    Thirdly, despite the originally well-intentioned Freedom Of Information Act, it is almost impossible for ordinary citizens to access any meaningful material. Most Council Committee meetings are held ‘in camera’, minutes are merely a device for recording decisions already taken and not discussions. Commercial confidentiality has become the default setting for most FOA requests. The Councils press corps deals with any fall-out via the Excess and Sw——a

    If there is one campaign that you should take on, it is 365 days of trawling for information. If you don’t do it, trust me, someone else will.

    The Realist

  3. Hello Realist.

    Odd that the comments you make here strike a different tone and point than the ones you make on the post it promotes. I suggest if you have issues with the Hippo’s assertions, take them up with him, rather than agreeing with him on his own blog and running his approach down here.

    Smacks of chicanery. Which I’m sure isn’t your way. However, I am mindful of your position which seems somewhat opaque.

    I’ll continue to take on the campaigns I choose, depending on my point of view, cheers. I note you use the term ‘us bloggers’ – I don’t see a link to yours around, which is sad as I’d quite like to read it. There’s some credo there about freedom of information, which I can’t quite put my finger on.

    I suggest that if you see a gap for a campaign – and you clearly do – you go ahead and start it. I’m sure that all local bloggers and online types will join with me in promoting your aims if they turn out to be as fine as you assert.

    Just doing stuff of your own account is usually better than enjoining others to fire bullets on your behalf.

    All the best

    Bob

  4. The Realist says:

    Bob

    No chicanery intended. Nor was there any attempt at sarcasm or criticism of you, your genuinely terrific site, its campaigns and its contributors.

    Hippo responded to your blog, so I did likewise. I had thought that this was the general idea.

    For information, my position is clear. Like you, I read, see and hear many things. Like you, I will, continue to question views that appear to be contradictory and confused. If this is OK with you, I will continue to read and respond to your blogs and responses.

    Apologies for somehow not observing the usual protocols.

    The Realist

  5. Hello Realist

    You are, of course, welcome to comment or respond, so I’m at a bit of a loss there. I actually challenged you on your apparently different views in separate places, and the fact that you seemed to be imploring me to start some sort of campaign. Found it all rather baffling, to be honest.

    Oh, and I questioned where your blog resided, as you referred to yourself as a blogger.

    I note that in all the verbiage, you didn’t actually answer my points.

    There are no ‘usual protocols’, but I will continue to be observant and challenge anything I feel deserves questioning.

    If you haven’t got a blog, go to wordpress.com and start one. You seem to have lots of stuff to say, which deserves a platform.

    Anyone is welcome to comment here.

    Cheers

    Bob

  6. The Realist says:

    Bob

    Response unusual. Sarcasm unexpected. Read exchanges. Presume irritated. Take pill. Chill.

    Campaign underway. Advice patronising. Location irrelevant. Will update.

    ‘Verbiage’? – Really?

    The Realist

  7. The Realist says:

    Cripes – sarcasm now standard. Laugh out loud. Exchange of humour. No change. Share with pals.

    Disappointing outcome.

    The Realist

  8. My dear “Realist”, you should really start your own blog. If someone like me who mourns the loss of parchment and a quill can embrace this new fangled media then someone of your intellect can embrace it as well. You write well, join us, we will welcome you.

  9. gabriel says:

    I’m slightly confused by the original post and the comment-firefight which followed.

    From what I can gather, “Ofsted inspectors found [Walsall Council’s Safeguarding Children Service] failing in a number of key areas including being too slow to assess children thought to be at risk and being too slow to take children known to be in harmful situations into council care…”

    Somebody got the push, and somebody else has been appointed. Albeit at a higher cost?

    (i’m strangely reminded of the old joke, incidentally, about the guy who asks his wife “Would you make love to the milkman for £50?”

    “No!”

    “Would you make love to the mailman for £50 000?”

    “Erm…”

    “Well, now we know WHAT you are, we’re just haggling over price…”)

    Surely, the real concern here is the failure of the service “to the children in their care.”

    The rest – including this post and all the other sound-and-fury from everywhere else – is just haggling over the “cost” of those childrens’ futures…

    • No, again, I find your response puzzling.

      The whole point of plugging The Hippo’s post was that he highlighted an aspect of the issue that has not been touched anywhere else as far as I can tell – the interesting history of the new member of staff. I find it quite troubling and would like to know more. If the service is to recover, we need the very best candidate to do that. Like the Hippo, I’m sceptical.

      Labour seem very ambivalent about the whole thing and have fixated on the ‘no more money from central government’ issue, which, whilst being a good point, seems surely to be a smokescreen for the fact that they chaired the scrutiny committee overseeing this fiasco in the last 12 months.

      Personally, I find the politics surrounding this issue – the bickering, public attacks etc – to be a fair representation of why most folk in Walsall think we’re stuffed politically. All bicker and no solutions.

      There’s also the issue over cost. Why are we paying an agency anything at all? The wage bill is important, because money laid out in high wages here is taken from the overall budget which could be better employed fixing the service. The money laid out is scandalous, frankly.

      The ‘firefight’ (I think you need to get out more if that resembled a fight to you) was irrelevant, and seemed to be triggered by me questioning the inconsistency of Realist’s position between his comment here and on the original post. Move along, nothing to see there – two bald men tussling over a comb.

      The whole point about the Hippo’s remarkable post was that it wasn’t the usual sound and fury. It made interesting, new points about the candidate concerned. The one thing that resonated from the original post – as it does with every Hippo polemic – is the care over the kids, the service, and the social state that should be serving the kids.

      Cheers

      Bob

  10. The Realist says:

    Bob

    I was simply trying to point out that OFSTED, it’s opinions, leadership and the aftermath of its inspections has always been fair game for the Hippo and others. Except, it seems, when it comes close to home.

    In these circumstances, you and the genius behind the Hippo, (which is by a country mile the best blog of its type on the Net), simply reverts to full-on acceptance of the judgements of an organisation that has previously and rightly been hammered.

    The Council, (I mean all political parties), has messed up big-time over a period of almost 20 years. This is partly because there has been an unquestioning acceptance of the views of outfits such as OFSTED, HACA, AWM and any number of other unaccountable inspection and investment
    quangos.

    Inevitably, this leads to quick fixes, costly solutions. Yet another recruitment drive, followed by another clear-out of second tier senior management will follow.

    I really do understand your last point, perhaps more than you will ever understand, but the simple expression of an opinion is no substitute for action.

    Carpe deum

    The Realist

    ps for information, I am not bald and do not use a comb

  11. Pingback: There’s a bustle in your hedgerow | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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