Peter Golds: Silencing criticism is scandalous

By Jon Massey on June 25, 2014 11:41 AM |

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COMMENT

By Peter Golds

Way back in 1908, Parliament legislated to ensure that the press were permitted to attend meetings of local authorities. In February 1960 came the Public Bodies (Admission Of Press) Bill. This was unusual in that it was introduced by a backbench MP in a maiden speech.

As the member said in her opening remarks: "I know that the constituency of Finchley would not wish me to do other than come straight to the point."

Coming to the point became a hallmark of Mrs Thatcher, the member concerned, for the next 30 years.

During this maiden speech, Mrs Thatcher said: "Publicity is the greatest and most effective check against any arbitrary action."

We are rightly proud of the freedom of the press to report on and criticise, elected and public bodies in this country.

Sadly under the current administration, the symbolic press table was removed from the Tower Hamlets Council chamber in 2011, making the work of journalists more difficult.

Scandalously, at the annual council meeting, a council officer had a well-known journalist frogmarched from the council chamber.

The day before writing this, the Chinese Prime Minister answered unscripted questions at a press conference in London.

Yet a short distance down the road in east London is an administration that avoids questions from the press, except under controlled circumstances.

■ Peter Golds is Conservative councillor for Island Gardens.