Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers

Basildon’s Council’s hired spin doctor - on loan from the nastiest of nasty councils, Tory Westminster - complains about the “emotive” tactics of Dale Farm Travellers.

In an interview with PR Week, Basildon council’s head of communications, Cormac Smith, has today claimed there is a “huge amount of misinformation” in the media about the council’s bid to evict the 88 Irish Traveller families from the illegal Dale Farm site in Essex.

Commenting on the tactics of campaigners, Mr Smith reveals the Conservative council’s frustrations with how their PR war is going:

“I’ve got to co-ordinate the council’s comms against a group that are media savvy and very emotive…

“They are fighting on emotional terms. They use women and children to tell their story – you don’t see many men in the coverage.”

There is no mystery to this. Around 100 of the 400 or so travellers living on-site are children. Could that be why they figure prominently in the coverage?

The fact that there are so many women, children and elderly people living at Dale Farm is why the local Catholic Bishop, Thomas McMahon, describes the forthcoming eviction as a “humanitarian” issue.

Mr Smith complains that a leader column in Monday’s Guardian which referred to the travellers’ imminent eviction as ‘ethnic cleansing’ was “extremely unhelpful”.

In contrast, the council’s strategy is to emphasise “legality” and “equality” and that it is being “fair and decent”. However, it surely stretches the definition of decency to snapping point to throw 100 children onto the streets, having made no contingency for their education or welfare.

Mr Smith, it turns out, is an employee of Westminster City Council, which is currently overseeing Basildon’s PR operation. Of course right-wing Westminster is not exactly famed for its generosity when it comes to dealing with vulnerable people…

The council remains infamous for its illegal gerrymandering under disgraced former leader, Dame Shirley Porter, in the 1980s – when poorer council residents were shipped out of flats in marginal wards in order to sell their homes to more affluent (Tory) voters.

Leopards do not change their spots. Earlier this year it was revealed Westminster had threatened to introduce a byelaw banning charity soup runs for homeless people, claiming they caused litter and nuisance. After widespread opposition, the council was forced into a humiliating u-turn. Is this now the standard of PR expertise being sold to Basildon?

Rather than spend money on an expensive spin operation to justify what is beginning to look like a dogmatic plan to forcibly evict the Dale Farm travellers at all costs, Conservative-controlled Basildon council would be better off seeking a way to avoid confrontation and support the moves of the local Catholic and Anglican bishops who are working together to find a less confrontational way of resolving the impasse.

Meanwhile the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has today said the evictions should be halted until there is somewhere appropriate for the Dale Farm travellers to go. The committee says any eviction will “disproportionately affect” the lives of “women, children and older people”:

“The committee urges the state party [Basildon council] to find a peaceful and appropriate solution which fully respects the rights of the families involved.”

Cormac Smith is certainly correct about one thing, however:

“This has the potential to seriously damage the reputation of the council and, if that happens, the people who will suffer first and foremost are the residents.”

They will not only be left with an £8 million policing and clean-up bill but also a hefty invoice for PR services.

50 Responses to “Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers”

  1. CAROLE JONES

    @leftfootfwdPoor baby. Awwww lmao!
    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: http://t.co/xeDo4Hz

  2. Kim Blake

    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: http://t.co/H9eU7Xd reports Kevin Meagher

  3. Tippy RammaDamma

    @leftfootfwdPoor baby. Awwww lmao!
    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: http://t.co/xeDo4Hz

  4. Rebecca Devitt

    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: http://t.co/H9eU7Xd reports Kevin Meagher

  5. Political Planet

    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: Basildon’s Council’s hired spin docto… http://t.co/Y5AwRVr

  6. Arnie Scallaceliop

    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: Basildon’s Council’s hired spin docto… http://t.co/Y5AwRVr

  7. Iain Anderson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers: http://t.co/TWQ4Fgt reports Kevin Meagher

  8. Lynn Hancock

    RT @leftfootfwd: Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers http://t.co/GxqwgnT

  9. Adrian Gillette

    http://t.co/MPxZKCq<<<Basildon Council hire westminster council PR to evict travellers from dale farm

  10. Terry Firmer

    VIA@leftfootfwd:Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers:http://t.co/w6ssJtR <more discrimination #dalefarm

  11. Kelly Rennie

    RT @leftfootfwd: Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers http://t.co/2UUi6oF

  12. Stuart

    Basildon's hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers – Left Foot Forward http://t.co/j1e9TwY

  13. Nutsville

    Westminster Council overseeing Basildon’s PR opps to evict Travelers http://t.co/H4OmMWP Experts in social cleansing why not try ethnic

  14. Dan Hurlbut

    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/p9AUcTF

  15. Paul

    Westminster Council overseeing Basildon’s PR opps to evict Travelers http://t.co/H4OmMWP Experts in social cleansing why not try ethnic

  16. johnny walker

    it is a sad state for all parties but the law must be upheld the law was against them from the start it was calculated from day one .LEAVE NOW

  17. DavidG

    Shades of things to come for Westminster residents caught up in the Housing Benefit caps? Their PR machine trying out what works and what doesn’t before they have to use it at home?

  18. Political Dynamite

    Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/p9AUcTF

  19. Arnie Scallaceliop

    Westminster Council overseeing Basildon’s PR opps to evict Travelers http://t.co/H4OmMWP Experts in social cleansing why not try ethnic

  20. Michael O'Shea

    RT @leftfootfwd: #Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of #Travellers http://t.co/2yO6kND

  21. Chris

    This situation has been in negotiation for ten years without resolution – there has to come a point where the law is upheld. Or because travellers are a vulnerable group, should they be exempt from planning law?

  22. Mr. Sensible

    This one has shambles written all over it…

  23. Paul Dimoldenberg

    Westminster Council overseeing Basildon’s PR opps to evict Travelers http://t.co/H4OmMWP Experts in social cleansing why not try ethnic

  24. Pimlicat

    Westminster Council overseeing Basildon’s PR opps to evict Travelers http://t.co/H4OmMWP Experts in social cleansing why not try ethnic

  25. harmony

    Why are they called “travellers” if they never move? Why do we all have to follow the rules and they dont? We didnt put these kids in that situation, their parents did by living the way they do. Surely its a hazard of their way of life.

  26. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers http://t.co/mijFxRB

  27. Mike Homfray

    So for all those blathering on about the law – where do you suggest they go? Or would liquidation suit you more?

  28. Kokoda

    Isn’t there a point where persecution ends and these stateless people are helped to live in mainstream society?

  29. Lewis King

    Mike, all those blethering about the law have a point. Surely if can’t just build a house on the land is choose. However I’m not clear the law precludes a more compassionate approach to the problem. I’m not sure why planning permission has been refused for 10 years. Assuming there are good reasons, and being supportive of alternative lifestyles, the council could presumably work with the residents to identify and suitable alternative site for them. (Perhaps they have been trying this during the 10 years, mind you.)

  30. Lucy Ashton

    @LouiseBaldock If you haven't seen this already, excellent read http://t.co/Y5BSBo0 reports Kevin Meagher @leftfootfwd

  31. neblap

    Mike I suggest that they go somewhere it is legal for them to build a home. They ignored the planning laws, laws which as far as I know apply to everybody. Just because they are a minority does not give them the right to ignore the law, no more than it would give me the right, or would it be OK for me to build what I want where I want with no regard to local planning laws?

  32. SimonB

    They knew it was green belt land and they flouted planning law. However, councils have a duty to provide for travellers and gypsies. If they have failed to do so then there should be legal recourse, but taking the piss and abusing planning law isn’t the way ahead. It only increases resentment against gypsies and travelllers for a start.

  33. Louise Baldock

    If you haven't seen this already, excellent read http://t.co/U0B7Peb reports Kevin Meagher @leftfootfwd #DaleFarm

  34. Martin Rathfelder

    If you haven't seen this already, excellent read http://t.co/U0B7Peb reports Kevin Meagher @leftfootfwd #DaleFarm

  35. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘blathering on about the law’

    What an interesting thing to say.

    It may be inconvenient for the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Kevin Meagher, but we do have a legal system and planning laws. It is vital that they are upheld and that all men (and women and children, etc, (for the PC brigade)) are equal before the law.

    Certainly, the impression I have got from hearing the travellers’ complaints on the news is that they believe that laws should not apply to them in the same way. Absolute nonsense.

    It’s also a delicious irony that the same people will stridently assert their legal rights and demand that the law is upheld when it works in their favour. As soon as they fall foul of it, it’s a different situation entirely, of course.

    We must all keep ‘blathering’ on about the law, even if some people don’t like it.

  36. Leon Wolfson

    @5 – Irish Travellers, Pavee in their own language, are an ethnic group. Please do some research before you insert your foot into your mouth like that, thanks.

    @8 – 90% of planning request permissions by both Pavee and Roma are rejected. Many councils reject them on a blanket basis. Basildon council staff have been caught using racist terms about this eviction.

    @11 – Never mind the facts, move the gyp’s on! Good old Tory policy! Never mind that those same rules are being torn up by the Tories…

  37. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘Never mind the facts’

    Quite the opposite of what I was saying, actually. We certainly do need to pay attention to the facts. These travellers have been, and still are, breaking the law. Eviction is the legally prescribed consequence.

  38. Leon Wolfson

    No, not necessarily. There are a lot of potential consequences. The one which is prescribed in this situation regardless of the facts is only because they’re Pavee. Again, Basildon council employees routinely use racist terms.

    Thanks for defending them, though.

  39. Kevin

    The bottom line with this case – as with others – is that local councils are simply shirking their responsibilities when it comes to providing adequate pitches. There are an estimated 300,000 Gypsies and Irish Travellers in the country. 80% are said to live on legal plots (according to DCLG). That presumably leaves 60,000 uncatered for. Until that gap is bridged there will be many futher cases like Dale Hall.

    Yes, uphold planning law, but this is not a case of a millionaire pulling a fast one on a barn conversion. This is 100 children and their families who have promised to move off the site if there is somewhere else for them all to go. Rather than beligerence we should be seeing more compassion and imagination in coming to a better result.

    And just to echo Leon’s point above, Irish Travellers (in this case) are a seperate ethnic grouping, recognised now by successive governments and should have their needs catered for by statutory agencies. This clearly doesn’t happen nationally (not just to pick on Basildon/ Essex CC). Ethnic monitoring is notoriously patchy and is evidence of public bodies not obey ing the law either.

    Also worth pointing out that a group of Jewish leaders toured the site today in solidarity. Check out what Rabbi Janet Burden had to say here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/04/dale-farm-travellers-jewish-backing?CMP=twt_fd

  40. gerry oates

    Trawl through media blogs and you will find lots of comments which are themselves breaking the law
    viz race relations Act while at the same time telling the travellers that they must obey the law to the letter.Rabbi Janet Burden(whom the Lord reward)reminded us of dark days gone by when minorities were used as scapegoats.

  41. Leon Wolfson

    Yes, no shit gerry.

    It’s amazing what crawls out the woodwork at the least opportunity.

  42. Patrick

    People seem to be terribly prejudiced against this community of Irish Travellers. I’d be interested to see statistics to indicate whether the police have more trouble from the Dale Farm travellers than they do from the mainstream residents of Basildon.

    Irish Travellers are a recognised ethnic group, with hundreds of years’ heritage, and were once popularly called ‘tinkers’. I wonder if the council would pursue similar action if the site was occupied by a community of Jewish people, or Asian families, for instance. There would be public outcry, I’m sure.

  43. John Lord (@plantlord)

    As as Irishman I resent the emotive term, “racism” that is thrown around by the left. Travellers are Irish and have the same racial makeup as the rest of the Irish (almost indistinguishably from the English). The Left by imputing racial difference where none exists, are in the same boat as Adolf Hitler and Co. What next: calipers to measure Traveller skulls to show they are racially distinct from English ones? Talk about playing the race card!

  44. arry

    Hey Patrick,
    Why are you trying to invent a situation.When was the last time you saw Jews and Asians illegally occupying premises.The Jews owned all their properties in Germany in the 1930’s. there was never any denial of that, but Hitler didn’t like them.

  45. Donna

    @20. These gypsies own their properties too. If the council had originally fulfilled it’s responsibility to the ppl of Dale Farm none of this would have happened. Where are these ppl supposed to go when councils refuse to provide ethnically suitable sites for them. I think the council should be hauled over the coals for causing this fiasco, it is blatent mismangement o their part.

  46. Patrick

    @John Lord. I am not a leftie, more right of centre politically. It was not politicians who classified the Irish Travellers as a recognised ethnic group under the Race Relations Act 1976, it was established by the judges in the cases CRE v. Dutton 1989 and O’Leary and others v. Punch Retail 2000.
    In any case, these people have not exactly committed the crime of the century, all they’ve done is infringe a planning regulation. That, in my opinion, does not justify sending a pack of paid thugs to evict them, with all the upset it will inflict upon their children and old people. It’s like taking a sledge hammer to crack a walnut. All they have to do is to offer them another site with planning permission for residential occupation and those occupying the part of the site without consent will leave voluntarily. At the moment they have nowhere to go and neither are they allowed to travel, i.e. stopping by the roadside.

  47. End of the road for Dale Farm? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Borough Council and its outsourced spin machine have handled the whole episode with a bureaucratic bumptiousness that would not disgrace a Carry On […]

  48. GVB

    These travellers continually complain that Councils are not providing anywhere for them to live. My local council did not “provide” anywhere for me to live. I went to work and sold most of my belongings to get the deposit for my first house. In the Dale Farm situation the council has offered them housing but they have refused it. Moving swiftly on (sorry about the pun)their constant complaints about planning being refused is nonsense. Buy suitable ground (not cheap greenbelt land) FOR A PROPER PRICE then you will find planning permission much more likely to be granted. And finally, when you camp somewhere leave it neat and tidy when you depart and your image may improve a little.

  49. Stephe Meloy

    RT @leftfootfwd: Basildon’s hired spin doctor complains at “emotive” tactics of Travellers http://t.co/2P7qPMIi

  50. Stephe Meloy

    "This has the potential to seriously damage the reputation of the council" Cormac Smith Head of PR for @BasildonCouncil http://t.co/uoRBYKMQ

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