This has sat in draft for over a month, but whatever, publish and be damned, and I think it better out there. Even though it is a bit meh

There is no other reading of a situation where someone stands inside your personal space, jabbing a finger worryingly close to your face and snarls ‘You better be careful’. This is a pure threat. Pure intimidation. Pure and simple.

People worry about ‘political engagement’ and the ‘voters being put off’. So while I laughed this ‘threat’ off (turns out there is more, and who knows, even a law suit over an identity-politics joke I made years ago as well), my thought process these days is different from when I was a somewhat wilder youth.

What if it was said to someone else? Someone trying to get involved in politics, but came up against neanderthal attitudes? I mean, there has even been a resignation from the Parish Council in the last year, and while I can’t confirm it, seems to be around if not bullying, then an abrasive and unsupportive atmosphere. Now, I would have not-quite scoffed at that, but been a bit surprised. But after a finger in my face and a stupidly ugly threat, I can see it.

Oh, right, how did it get here? Many threads, so I’ll try and weave them together.

Years ago, I started (for some unknown reason) attending our local Parish Council meetings (we are South Cambs, not City, forever looked-down upon, but hey-ho). And I loved them. I still describe them as either awesomely tedious or tediously awesome. The lowest tier of government discussing what little powers they have. And forever having to tell parishioners that no, they can’t do X, as that isn’t their remit. They still get blamed anyhow, but that is how it goes.

At some point, I also decided to video the proceedings, but that comes later.

Way back then (and this is how long ago it was), I was also a member in the local Facebook group. Obviously not using my real name, whatever a real name even means. I think it was around the time of the elections, and the whole current councillors were standing. Only to be elected unopposed, as there were (and still are) more vacancies than people standing. No one wants the job, better to snipe from the side. (Yes yes, I do this, but I don’t want to join the council. It would drive me insane. And you have to give over a level of information on the application form I’m not comfortable with.)

There was some thread on this (other people probably can get this more correct than me, I’m doing it from memory. Luckily enough the snarling councillor printed them out and brandished them at a full council meeting at one point.) on the village Facebook group, and a few of my quips were about ‘entitled middle-class privileged males’ dominating the chamber. Which is hardly news, given we are in South Cambs, and it is a Parish Council. There were (again, from memory, without going to check as I’m typing here and don’t want to stop) about 12 males and three (or maybe four) females. And the average age of the males were certainly north of 50, if not 60. (One whippersnapper bringing that average way down. Which was great to see, even if he somewhat misguided politically. Ah, but he is still young. Top chap all the same.)

Now, anyone with a modicum of knowledge about modernity, and modern politics, will be aware of this imbalance and the problems it brings. I mean, #NotAllParishCouncillors or something. But it does seem this is the seed of annoyance that lead to the threat. But seeds grow, so let’s move on.

At some point over the next year, I did start to video proceedings, and putting them online. I mean, I love politics, and it would be great if there were more people involved. There are three locals who go regularly, but as in most things, there is general apathy. And as it happens, I get over 100 views per video each month. Which is ace. I know people do watch them. And they have been used as ‘evidence’ in a Parish Council investigation into voting intentions.

Back to the same old, white, male councillor. He really does not like this, and even at one point wanted to get the Parish Council to write to the Minister in charge of the legislation that allowed for the public to record public meetings and get it rescinded. Luckily sanity prevailed there. Grief.

At some other point, I was asked if I’d like a column in our local village magazine to write about Parish Council issues. And I do. It is quite good fun. I’ve written more ‘procedural’ information, rather than a rewording of the minutes. Triggered by events that happen at the meetings I attend.

I’ve gotten good feedback on these, people seem to like them. (Including members of the Parish Council. Although….)

And of course the same old white male councillor takes exception to these as well. Funny, if anything happens and there is exception to something I’ve written (I check both the law and the recordings to make sure I don’t say something out of turn, and the editor does a wonderful job too) there is nowhere to hide. For him or me.

But still, while all that is funny as I am, as the tile says, big enough and ugly enough to take it, what message does it send? That the Parish Council doesn’t want to be scrutinised? (I know the Chair, and Vice-Chair, and get on well with them. I like them. Similarly for a few other Parish Councillors. I like them. In fact, I don’t (or didn’t) have anything against old white male councillor. He just takes exception to me.) That if you want to get involved, you’ll get attacked and denigrated? How off-putting would it be for someone attending first time to if not have that directed at them, but even just to see it?

I pondered putting in an official complaint. It is probably too late now, over a month has passed, but such behaviour is unacceptable. I still think about it. It is funny, but what if it was someone else? He even made sure his back was to everyone else so there was less chance of being overheard or seen. It also took me by surprise, else I’d have said something else. (I was also packing up my video gear, which is a shame as a recording of that would have been golden.) I am not slow of wit or tongue, but as I was humming while taking down my tripod, and this was so very unexpected, I was mostly agog. Did he…really try to intimidate me? (Laughable, it would take better than the likes of him to do that to me.)

Hardly rough-and-tumble of smear and innuendo politicking, but even so. Small village, you just don’t act like that. It will, however, be interesting to see what kind of lawsuit he thinks he can bring.

And how small-minded and petty that would look. “I don’t like what he writes, it hurts my feelings”. I’d say grow up, but he has many decades on me. So I’ll revert to the vernacular of my childhood, and leave with: wind yer neck in, big lad.

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