Full Council Meeting, Tuesday 1 November 2016
As the producer of this site I have tried to accept and publish arguments for all points of view about the forthcoming changes to the Council structure, while trying personally to appear at least vaguely impartial. However, something took place yesterday which has worried me. Free speech and the chance to put opposing arguments were actually rejected by some of the current Christchurch Borough Council.
When I was at college, more years ago than I care to think, the debating group members were asked their opinions on particular topics, before being chosen by the tutor to debate them. We learned a great deal from those debates, because often we were told to argue not for what we believed, but for the opposing point of view. It was extraordinarily effective and persuaded more than a few of us to modify our ideas, or even change them completely. Above all, though it helped us to see the flaws in our own preconceptions.
If any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. … it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
[John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859)
Opinion was indeed compelled to silence at the Council on Tuesday. It was previously reported in The Echo that Councillors Dedman and Jones had put forward a motion for all Councillors to have the opportunity to debate the proposed merger with Bournemouth. This opportunity has been denied, and without discussion even about the denial. It is well-known that the Council Leader, Ray Nottage, is in favour of the merger with Bournemouth. As the comments and articles on this site have shown, there may indeed be good points about it. If there are, then why are all of the Councillors, whom we elected, being denied the opportunity to debate and scrutinise? The two Councillors above are not trying to force through their own points of view, rather to look at all of the possibilities and to question whether the merger is actually the best way forward. It is a pre-meeting, before the Council leaders get together to make their decision.
We in Christchurch are in danger: not for the action but for the process. Christchurch is going to change. It is the biggest decision we will make for many, many years. It must be the right one. It must surely be debated by full Council.