Wednesday, July 19, 2006

An opportunity to say thank you

In my experience, politicians aren't always very skilled at thanking others. It's a skill that is still greatly valued, and perhaps even more so given the rise of the professional political classes who tend to rise through political parties and into government without trace or interaction with the outside world these days.

As a faceless bureaucrat, I don't expect a great deal of gratitude, especially working for HM Revenue and Customs as I do by day, and as a political administrator by night. That should never become an excuse for becoming thoughtless or callous though.

So I thought I should take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sally Burnell, the Political Assistant to the Liberal Democrat group on Southwark Council, who announced her departure last week to go and work with a worthy and socially valued charity.

As a rookie member of the Council Group (Local Party Chairs are awarded that status in Southwark), and as someone who had never paid much attention to the inner workings of Southwark Council until that point, Sally was a welcome support, and made me feel that I wasn't entirely out of place. Her briefing documents have enabled me to contribute to debates in a meaningful and informed way, to the extent where the Group leadership occasionally seek my views on matters where I might have useful input (not what I would have predicted eighteen months ago).

There have been some less than enjoyable moments for her, the vitriolic and wildly inaccurate attacks from the Darbyshires, for example, and we aren't the easiest bunch of people to work with. But she has maintained a cheery visage throughout, and her talents will be missed. On the other hand, she'll still be about the place and I'm sure that her knowledge and expertise will be called upon from time to time.

So, thank you Sally, it's been a blast...


Sally said...

Gee, another liberal Sally Burnell! I'm Sally Burnell from the US and also a liberal Democrat! Must be something about the name....well, to the other Sally Burnell, it's good to know that the name seems to be associated with progressive ideas! I'd love to meet my UK counterpart who shares not only my name, but my political values as well!

Anonymous said...

I've just come across this blog post via a google search.

I think in the interest of balance you should have mentioned that Sally Burnell sent me vitriolic messages and late night ranting blog comments in the first place (before all this started) and also was involved in setting up not one, but two, spoof blog sites about me and my husband.

All these activities fall under Directgov's definition of cyberbullying. Fake social networking profiles, such as a spoof blogs, are deemed to be a modern form of bullying. As is making nasty comments about photographs of someone, which Sally also did about me. (Indeed one of the spoofs even carried a photo of someone who was not me, but a fat, ugly woman, claiming that it was a photo of me.) Usually such bullying is conducted by teenagers but I guess some adults are just incredibly immature as well.

As for our attacks being "wildly inaccurate". I told the truth then and three years later I still say I am telling the truth. Sally may not have liked the truth but it was indeed the truth.

I have always thought that this whole episode could have been avoided if she had taken these issues up with Paul, not me. That is what more mature women do in such situations.

You can talk about vitriol but I swear I never came across such vitriol or hatefulness in my life as I did during this episode. I must have had a sheltered life before that but I've also had a sheltered life since. In real life, people aren't as brave as to say nasty things about me or perhaps, don't have the revengeful inclination that Sally did, but it seems if you put someone in front of a computer they forget all social restraint and others enjoy jumping on a bandwagon without checking the facts.

I think I mentioned before that everything about me was attracted from my appearance to my weight, from my Oxford degree to my personality, to my marriage to my family, to my intelligence to my dog. It was a classic case of playground bullying just conducted on the internet. I don't see how anyone can blame me for getting angry and nasty about it.

Anyway, my only reason for writing this comment is to ensure that the historic internet displays some form of balance about the episode (even though most posters are Lib Dems who tend to err on the opposite side to the defector whatever the truth was). I think the party needs to encourage people to display more independent and critical thinking and not to just take things on face value.

Mark Valladares said...

Dear Leah,

I do not deny that some very unpleasant things were done.

However, Sally assured me that she was not responsible for the spoof blogs and that statement was confirmed by others. I took her at her word and, whilst that may seem naive, without verifiable evidence to the contrary, I feel that I did the right thing.

I was not, until now, aware of any other attacks by Sally and, without hearing her side of the story, I cannot and should not comment on them, except to note my regret that such messages should be sent by anyone to anyone.

Vitriolic attacks in private are unworthy, vitriolic attacks in public tend to lead to a whole series of unpleasantries, and indeed, that is what came to pass, unfortunately.

I still believe that, based on what I actually witnessed, your response was excessive if understandable. However, everyone appears to have got on with their lives, and perhaps letting things rest is the best option under the circumstances.

Otherwise, I hope that all is well with you and Robin. Still in Singapore?