THE NEWSDESK: This isn't about PR, it's about respect
2:57pm Sunday 6th October 2013 in News
THIS picture about sums it all up for me.
The placard asks the same question many of us are asking. Whatever we believed beforehand about the rights and wrongs of whether to keep the mural, how can anyone defend tearing it down in such a callous, offhand manner?
Two days before a scheduled protest.
The irony of the Chartist Mural being torn down two days before people being allowed to give voice to their opinions and exercise their right to free speech is not lost on many of us.
And now, of course, we are still waiting for many of the public's questions to be fully answered. Who ordered the demolition? How can anyone say the mural was so affixed to the wall it could not be saved when eyewitnesses saw it coming off in sheets?
This is now not just about public art, whether it is any good, whether it is old enough to be cared about, whether it is beloved of the people, whether it really would have cost £600,000 to save it, whether its saving would have so delayed the city centre redevelopment that it would have put it in jeopardy.
This is about a disregard for the sort of rights for which the Chartists fought and died and for which the movements's leaders were transported to Australia.
The sort of rights which, one would think, would be dear to the hearts of many in the Labour movement.
Which is why many found it shocking that this act described in various quarters as "a disgrace", "municipal vandalism", and "cultural vandalism", was committed on the watch of a Labour-controlled council.
Newport West MP Paul Flynn was quick to distance himself from that decision, putting out a tweet which said: "Horrified maladroit brutal destruction of Chartist Mural - inconceivable to create a worst PR blunder. MPs had no role in this decision."
Andy why many Labour councillors were also quick to tell their constituents on social media on Thursday that they had not known about the demolition.
One tweet I saw from Cllr Chris Evans, who represents Rogerstone, said : "We are better than this."
And a follow-up tweet said: "For the record, I asked, in June, for a Labour group debate on the future for#chartistmural, my request was not answered.
Cllr Miqdad al-Nuaimi added: "The brutal way in which this work of art, dear to many residents' hearts, has been hit & bulldozed incensed people!"
But, clearly, someone did know about it.
We, the public, need to know who that someone was. Because someone needs to stand up and defend this decision, if they can, and explain whether that decision was or was not linked to the planned protest on Saturday which eventually became a memorial for the mural.
That someone cannot be faceless forever. This isn't going away. It isn't going to blow over in a week or two.
If left in this current situation, this subject is going to fester and start to poison the pond.
It's no use everyone behaving like a load of meerkats on a mound looking every which way but into the eye of the problem.
The details of the report which costed the removal and saving of the mural at £600,000 must be released to the public.
If as the council says this was an issue of public safety, show us an engineer's report which tells us why the mural - but not the wall to which it was attached - had to go on Thursday.
Newport council now needs to justify its position because of the way it handled things last Thursday.
Believing that it does not will cut no ice with the public now.
And it gives ammunition to opposition councillors - many of whom thought that the mural should not be saved at the expense of the planned shopping centre before its destruction, but will happily make capital out of the way the demolition was handled.
Yes, Newport council needs to look at the way it handles its public relations - a lack of response for hours on the day of the demolition did it no good and certainly did not get its message out.
But there is a deeper issue here.
Surely, the best public relations an organisation can have would be to ensure it listens to the people who use its services. And in this case, the people who are its electors.
Shouldn't the people who are directly elected by the public - councillors - be informed about these decisions before they are enacted?
They are the ones who will be facing the public fall-out in surgeries and on doorsteps.
This sorry debacle isn't just about PR. It's about respecting the public.
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