Sunday, October 23, 2011

Richard Howitt ejected from Basildon Council site at Dale Farm

Richard Howitt was ejected from the Basildon Council site at Dale Farm on Wednesday 19th October. The key facts are:
  • The general area in question was a site controlled and operated by Basildon Borough Council. 
  • Access to the site was, and is, strictly controlled because of the general requirement for proper insurance and the real risk that the site would be targeted by violent protesters. 
  • All visitors have to go through an accreditation process, which includes the issue of safety gear. This typically takes a day, so apply on the Wednesday, and access granted on Thursday etc. 
  • The site includes a media area, arranged for their convenience but also to prevent journalists getting in the way of heavy machinery etc. 
  • Subject to obvious practical considerations, journalists do not and did not confine themselves to the Council's media area. Interviews and reports were made from many other locations in and around Dale Farm. 
  • Richard Howitt had asked to come onto the Council site and was accredited for Thursday 20th. There is an email trail to his office confirming this. He was not accredited for Wednesday 19th. 
  • Mr. Howitt came on site in a media vehicle, with gate security mistakenly assuming he was a media staffer. He then proceeded to the Council's media area and presented himself for interviews and so on. 
  • The operational command structure decided that Mr. Howitt should be removed from the Council site. That means exactly what it says; the Dale Farm clearance being run under the standard Gold/Silver/Bronze model that is used for large scale operations. It was not a decision for Councillors, though I am fully support it and I would have made the same call had it been up to me. 
  • Mr. Howitt was duly removed from the Council site. 
Facts aside, the question is was it right to remove Richard Howitt from the Council site? On the basis of the simple application of the rules that have applied to everyone else, including at least one other MEP, then the answer is surely yes. About the last thing that was needed in the middle of a clearance operation that had already turned violent was someone wandering around in a business suit with no safety gear, insurance and where the party in question could not be relied on to obey instructions.

There is also the matter of the astonishing bad faith displayed by Mr. Howitt in sneaking onto the Council site when he was officially due the next day.

Hang on though, what about free speech? Well, what was stopping Mr. Howitt exercising his rights somewhere else? There were plenty of journalists not on the Council site, why didn't he go and talk to them? I note that his ejection from the Council site did not not put an end to his media activities on that day.

What was he even doing there?


Anonymous said...

For people who have lived in Crays Hill for many years – 32 in my case – the past week has been of great significance.
Monday’s Judgment by Lord Justice Sullivan in the Court of Appeal, rejecting all of the travellers claims that Basildon Council were acting unlawfully was most welcome but in light of Mr Justice Ouseley’s 3-hour demolition of their case in the High Court the previous week, it was not unexpected .
The strong support of very senior Judges has vindicated the Council and been applauded in our community.

The Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday evening has not been given much of a public airing,so far .
It included an application for retention of change of use to a residential caravan site on Dale Farm. By a majority vote, the application was refused but not before two members (P Rackley and G Williams ) tried first to get the decision deferred and when that failed, both voted in favour of granting planning permission. Neither offered any rationale.
Rackley and Williams seem way out of touch and out of order at a time when the council and it’s officers should be applauded for having the courage of their convictions and the backbone to see it through.

The rest of the week’s events at Dale Farm are well documented but to end the week I took part in a Radio 5 Live broadcast this morning.
I was able to offer a few brief reflections:
10 years ago, the macro issues which culminated at Dale Farm this week,were 1.insufficient sites for travellers generally,2. ineffective legislation to protect the green belt and 3.the Legal Services Commission being too willing to fund cases that had little chance of success.
What has changed ?
Nothing at all under the previous government and so far, just promises of “jam tomorrow” from the Coalition.
As for Mr Howitt………………………..what can anyone say ?

Anonymous said...

cHowitte is an elected rep! he should not have been removed. This is disgraceful. Lets be honest and stop hidding behind the planning laws. The real real reason Howitte was gagged and the real reasons for refusing planning is racism. Rodney Bass has called the Travellers criminals and Horgan has accused then of having a slum culture and stated some are slum landlords. The mask has slipped.

Steve Horgan said...

How was the man gagged? He made numerous media appearance on the same day and after he was removed from a secure site after he had conned his way on.

I said that Dale Farm was a slum. However, I am used to being deliberately misquoted by liars with an agenda, and you can quote me on that Mr. Anonymous. If you are actually interested in travellers then do some research and reply with your opinion of traveller social outcomes and Dale Farm as a suitable place to bring up children. Here's one to get you started, the land was never decontaminated from a previous unauthorised industrial use. Do you think that helped or hurt the health of the children on the site? Or is that not really important?

Security Vacancies said...

The rules are made to fulfill them when broken, the consequences are serious. You can not presume to be a person well and mix with a group of journalists to ignore the rules, risking personal safety.