Croydon politicians should write more, not less

By - Wednesday 5th August, 2015

Jonny Rose responds to calls to silence Tony Newman

The disgruntled outpouring in the comment sections of Councillor Tony Newman’s most recent article made for reading almost as interesting as the piece that spawned it.

Whilst the piece was a little overindulgent in its Tory-bashing – and rightfully called out as such – I took issue with some commenters’ requests that there should be no articles from Croydon’s politicians on the Croydon Citizen at all.

I understand where such sentiments come from: politics – or, more precisely, party politics – often sullies all that is enjoyable in civic life. However, in an age where seismic changes are occurring in Croydon, we need to hear more from our elected representatives, not less.

Croydon politics is largely inscrutable

Despite often finding myself right in the thick of it, Croydon’s politics remains largely inscrutable.

For many, the structures of local government can seem monolithic and impenetrable. The duties and remit of our local councillors are both baffling and nebulous. At a national level, our MPs are simultaneously cast as the cause of all that is wrong with the borough and all that is wrong with the wider world.

To get a grip on it all requires a Herculean ability to wade through a morass of banal email updates by parliamentary assistants, nondescript council magazines and jittery webstreams from Katharine Street chambers.

Historically, we’ve relied on Croydon’s local media to do the thankless task of synthesising it into some kind of cohesive narrative that is easier to understand and scrutinise. Without reliable information, it would be impossible for citizens to use their power effectively at election time, nor would they be aware of the problems and issues that need active consideration beyond voting. The daily flow of news generates a ‘running tally’ of government policies, political events and the actions of political officials on the basis of which citizens make their electoral choices. Or so one would hope.

Local media is interesting, but largely redundant

Last May’s election showed us that Croydon’s media is largely redundant as a vehicle for political opinion-forming, let alone inspiring action.

Crusading editors could be forgiven for thinking that a large number of unique visitors and Facebook shares are the equivalent of Change We Can Believe In™, but a cold dose of psephology shows that daily blogging is no match against the comfortable political inertia of the average Croydon citizen.

That’s not to say that reporting and comment on the machinations of Katharine Street doesn’t have its place – it obviously does. But it will only ever move the needle for the hundreds (possibly only even tens) of socially-maladjusted anoraks who actually care about the intricacies of contract law and Veolia’s supply chain management. That’s if they are even local at all.

Recent events have shown that local media comment and reporting is… Interesting? Sure. Diverting? For a moment, yes. But as a long-tail moral indent on the public consciousness…?

Firsthand comment beats thirdhand reportage

Instances where local politicians have commented firsthand on the Croydon Citizen have always been rewarding and revealing, whether it was councillor Tim Pollard and former Labour PPC Sarah Jones going head-to-head over the sale of the Riesco pottery, or Cabinet Member for Economy & Jobs Toni Letts committing to support Croydon Tech City, in response to Conservative councillor Mario Creatura articulating the local Conservative group’s comparatively laissez-faire attitude.

I loved it when all three of Croydon’s MPs united across three pieces to condemn the EVF presence in Croydon two summers ago, and when Steve Reed outlined a practical commitment to see more co-operatives in Croydon.

Rather than having to discern their motives through the reports of local media these episodes have given all of us an insight into their worldview, their rationale and their character.

We don’t have to agree with what Croydon’s politicians write. Heck – we don’t even have to believe what they write. But hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth will always beat ‘analysis’, ‘opinion’ and undeclared bias from third parties.

A challenge to Croydon’s politicians

Croydon’s people deserve elected representatives that are articulate, intelligent, and open to having their views and actions documented for the public to read and engaged with rather than buried in the annals of Hansard and council PDFs.

Rather than being cowed by a few malcontents, our local councillors, MPs and political wannabes should seize the initiative and start putting pen to paper. I hope that they will continue to use the Croydon Citizen as the platform upon which to do it.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    Banal e-mail updates from parliamentary assistants? Who are you referring to? I have never read anything that was banal.

  • moguloilman

    I’m with you Jonny.

    Councillor Newman’s piece had far too much banal Tory bashing, much like his contributions to Council meetings, but being able to see that is good. He, and others should be encouraged to contribute. Should you feel motivated to comment then feel free. Responses would be even nicer.

  • Anthony Miller

    Interesting that Mr Newman didn’t chose Inside Pravda for such a piece … perhaps he’s banned from there too… or perhaps it might have been seen as undiplomatic given their ongoing feud with Steve Reed and the Blairites.