Thanks to all those who commented on my Greenwich Time musings – and apologies to those who got caught in an over-eager spam filter. As a follow-up, head on over to David Higgerson‘s blog for proof that an arrogant Conservative council can do things just as badly as an arrogant Labour council – and the reason why the councillor who proposed the motion criticising Greenwich Time offered a charity donation if the word “Hammersmith” wasn’t mentioned.
A flagship Tory council this week took a brave new step into a hitherto area of life uninfluenced by the public sector – how taxpayers choose their wine.
Tucked away in the what’s on section of Hammersmith and Fulham council’s fortnightly propaganda round-up, H&F News, is a three-page guide to picking the best wines for the summer, complete with ‘top tipples’ column written by someone from a firm which had also taken out advertising in the supplement.
Up until now, the only time I’d seen councils talking about alcohol was when they’d strayed into public health territory and talked about the dangers of booze. Of course, there’s a big difference between binge drinking and buying a bottle of plonk, as I’m sure the council would point out.
But since when did helping people buy a bottle of wine fall within the remit of the local council? How can publishing three pages, supported by advertising, be anything other than trying to raise income to support the delivery of propaganda through every door in the borough once a fortnight?
There’s more where that came from, too. Of course, Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts admitted at last week’s council meeting that GT’s lifestyle guff – which last week included a review of Prince’s new album – was to help the paper become self-sustaining.
There’s differences between GT and H&F News – the latter is fortnightly, but even more brazen at disguising itself as a real local paper than its south-east London soulmate, and is competing against a livelier local media scene than exists here. But they’re both evidence of local councils trying to get around being properly scrutinised by competing with local media, rather than dealing honestly with it.
As for this week’s Greenwich Time, it gives uncritical coverage to Greenwich borough police centralising its operations at a depot in Warspite Road, Woolwich (or, as GT calls it, “Charlton”), while the council’s environmental policies take a surprising turn when someone goes and roadtests some 4x4s… lucky old Ossie Mustafa, getting to race around in some big motors on our money, eh?
Enchantingly, one car is described in a mis-spelled caption as “fugly”, which older readers will be delighted to hear is short for “fucking ugly”. Got to get down with the kids, eh? “No point talking about 0-60 speeds or emissions as these cars score pretty badly,” Ossie cheers, having just pocketed some cash off a council which is forever banging on about its environmental credentials. Oops.
“Greenwich Council takes a firm stand against air pollution,” it states on its website, although clearly that stance is a little less firm when it comes to encouraging advertising in its propaganda rag.
All of which goes to prove that council-run papers make hypocrites of everyone. Firstly, those politicians who criticise them, but are undermined by people in their own party who are up to the same tricks. And secondly, the council which is happy to sell its (supposed) principles to whore itself out for a bit of advertising.
If anyone’s reading this in other parts of London (Tower Hamlets’ East End Life is another offender, Lambeth Life is yet another) and fancies teaming up to scrutinise these things on a more regular basis, I’d be interested to hear from them. These papers aren’t an indictment of one party or another, but a whole system which has gone badly wrong – and has got so arrogant, it’s confident enough to shove its free wine and big cars in our faces in the belief that it’s untouchable. Hopefully, some day, it’ll be proved wrong.