Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Ann Barnes still has questions to answer

Kent's newly appointed Youth Police & Crime Commissioner, Paris Brown, has done the honorable thing and resigned today, after it was announced that Kent Police were investigating tweets and social media posts which could have been of a racist or homophobic nature.

This ties in exactly with a post I put up on Sunday, in which I wrote, 

"Sorry Mrs Barnes, if I stood in Chatham High Street and used the same words as used by Paris Brown on her twitter feed, I would be arrested. And rightfully so.

Whilst I believe Miss Brown is a sad reflection of modern youth culture, I do not buy-in to the mealy-mouthed apologists who have said, "she was young at the time." Any teenager knows that using such offensive remarks is wrong. Furthermore, her Tweet in which she used the N word, was posted within the last three months, not when she was 13 or 14, as Mrs Barnes repeatedly suggested in weekend interviews.

Miss Brown, however, is also a victim in this sorry tale. 

Her personal life has been dragged through the media spotlight, she has been forced to appear on television, in the papers and on radio attempting to stave-off what almost all observers considered the inevitable outcome.  Many of her age would have crumbled under such pressure and ran-away, to her credit she stood her ground, apologised and did her best to make it right. She clearly has guts. She will have taken a knock, but I suspect will recover and come back stronger.

The real culprit in this sorry saga is Ann Barnes and her team:
  • It was Ann Barnes' idea to appoint a Youth Commissioner. 
  • It was Ann Barnes who stated, at the Chatham hustings, that she would do so, and pay the cost out of her £85,000 pa salary. 
  • It was Ann Barnes who finally interviewed and appointed Paris Brown.
  • It was Ann Barnes team who failed to carry out due diligence and allowed this to happen.
  • And it was Ann Barnes who desperately clung on to Miss Brown, supporting, defending and encouraging her, and in doing so put Paris Brown through days of hell and anguish.
The spotlight must now surely turn on her two highly paid and personally appointed consultants, both of whom were responsible for running her election campaign and now are being paid £6,000 per month each by Kent taxpayer's to advise her how to avoid such debacles as this.  What role did they play and why did they allow this to happen?

Ann Barnes has maintained that she is not a party politician, some believed her. However, Peter Carroll, her campaign guru, is far from independent having been a three time Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate.  Peter Carroll is now one of her highly paid consultants  The other is Howard Cox (who just happens to be Peter Carroll's business partner) who is also paid £6,000 per month to advise Mrs Barnes.  On his LinkedIn profile, Mr Cox describes himself as an 'online communications specialist'. Surely either Mr Carroll or Mr Cox had the political or technical skills to perform a simple background check on Paris Brown. If not, just what are Kent taxpayers getting for their money? 

On Sunday I contacted Ann Barnes and her office with 10 questions I feel they need to answer.  Yesterday, having not received even a basic acknowledgement, I printed them off and sent them as a Freedom of Information request by recorded delivery.

Here they are again: CLICK HERE

Ann Barnes and her team may hope the sacrifice of Paris Brown will stop those questions being asked, but I believe to help her avoid further demeaning her public office, we need honest and full answers.  

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