Tag Archives: Abolish Brixham Council

The campaign continues

This week, I have mostly been writing tweets. Facebook posts too. I have been working on how to convey my message as clearly and succinctly as possible to support and promote the #StandUp4Brixham campaign – and generally it’s working pretty well.

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There’s been lots of work on the ground as well – since my leaflets were completed last Wednesday  afternoon my iPhone estimates I’ve covered about 30km going door to door with Arthur in the sling. There was a meeting last Tuesday evening that Arthur also had to come to, and on Saturday we had a hustings event to talk to members of the public. It’s been nerve-wracking getting out there and speaking up, but I’ve enjoyed it too.

The social media side of things is an attempt to engage with people who might not normally be interested in local politics. The campaign has a growing Facebook page and twitter account with nearly 200 local followers between them. I’ve appreciated the support of local businesses with more established accounts sharing and retweeting my posts. And one of my tweets attracted the attention of my local MP and ended up in the paper. So far so good as far as profile-raising goes.

But there has, perhaps predictably, been a less pleasant side to putting myself out there.

It started with the comments at the end of articles on the local paper’s website, where amongst other things I was labelled a ‘rather sad individual who spends all of her waking hours gratuitously criticising [the leader of the Abolish Brixham Council group]’. Other commenters leapt to my defence, but it was a strange feeling to be insulted and accused of something I haven’t done by a total stranger.

Twitter has been even more intimidating. There are four accounts that have repeatedly targeted me through replies to my tweets, with exchanges like this one:

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(BRATS, incidentally, is a group of local residents who campaigned against a Tesco development in the town centre. I have had no involvement with them despite numerous suggestions to the contrary.)

The tweet which sparked all this off  – and more besides – was a link to a letter which had been published on a local news website. I really wasn’t expecting it to be so controversial.

There’s a lot that is strange about the accounts in question – the similarity between their names and the lack of followers for example. Were these exchanges happening on my personal account then I would not hesitate to block and report them. But I’m not sure exactly how I’m supposed to respond in my current role as council candidate – I am obviously very keen to engage with interested Brixham residents, but I have to admit that these communications are beginning to make me feel uncomfortable.

I realise as well though that, on the grand scale of things, there’s not really anything desperately offensive going on here. Twitter does seem to be a place where some people hide behind a mask of anonymity to behave in a way that they never would face to face.

So I will soldier on, draw on my years of experience working with challenging teenagers, and try not to take it too personally. One of the things it is clear could be improved about our local council is the quality of its communications and its transparency in working with people in its community. And I refuse to be intimidated out of my attempts to do just that.

 

Muddled Manuscript

Standing up for my community

With the London Book Fair this week the latest draft of my novel is, I imagine, languishing somewhere near the bottom of my agent’s to do list. Which is fine by me – having been so deeply embroiled in the edit since the beginning of this year I’m happy to allow my brain to wander elsewhere.

It has been dancing around the edges of my next project, one which I’m really excited about but can’t quite face throwing myself into when I don’t know where I’m at with the current one. It has also enjoyed a bit of a break, getting lost in other peoples’ novels with the gentle sound of waves lapping against a Cretan beach. But it is now time for some action – and what better than the adventure of standing as a candidate in my local town council elections?

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I love my town. Brixham has been my home for the past four years, the culmination of a lifelong dream to live by the sea. It is a vibrant, creative, complex and inspiring place to live, and the more people I get to know here the more happy I am that this is where we ended up.

There is a huge swathe of positivity at the moment, lots of people keen to make the most of the town with independent shops and new restaurants opening up and a real buzz from locals and tourists alike. But beneath this there is something more sinister simmering – a spat between longstanding members of the town council that threatens to undermine the sense of community and the growth that Brixham has enjoyed in the past few years.

A group has been set up with the sole purpose of abolishing Brixham Council. They claim it is a waste of money, that it doesn’t get anything done. But my experience of living in this town says different. I don’t believe that we can rely on Torbay Council to stand up for Brixham. We are smaller than Paignton and Torquay, and very different in character. Historically there have been issues with withheld funding and a lack of understanding of the needs of our town. I believe we need our own voice.

It is against this background that I have decided to stand with a group of independents as a candidate in the upcoming council elections. And with that decision has come a new type of writing for me – my election campaign leaflet.

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It is hard to convey on a single side of A5 everything that I would like to achieve for Brixham, let alone knowing how to present myself in a way that will persuade people I have never met that I am worth voting for. I am not an expert in local politics. I have had a keen interest for years in what it is that makes a community great, but I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of exactly what has gone on in the Brixham Council chambers that has led to such disgruntlement.

What I do know is that people find it tough to engage with democracy, and with every layer of that democracy that is stripped away they will find it even tougher. I would love the opportunity to speak up for the people of Brixham, to give them a voice within the town council and further afield, and to work to grow and celebrate everything that is great about our town.

So I may be a little preoccupied between now and May 7th. No doubt there will be updates here, and if you’re interested you can follow the Stand Up For Brixham election campaign on Twitter too. Wish me luck!

 

Writing Bubble