HAVING been away from the office for a few weeks, I have watched the furore over the demolition of Newport's Chartist mural from afar.

(Well, from Caerleon - but you get the gist).

Some weeks ago in this column I explained my stance on the mural - that it was too expensive and potentially damaging to the redevelopment of the city centre to keep in its current location but that it should be replaced by a memorial to the Chartists chosen by the people of Newport.

By and large, I stand by what I said last month.

But Newport city council's appallingly crass handling of the mural demolition made me think long and hard about my opinion.

I find it difficult to imagine a more disastrous piece of public relations - not just for the council but, more importantly, the city as a whole.

The events surrounding the demolition are well recorded and I won't go into the detail again.

But there are still more questions than answers surrounding the demolition and the council's leadership has been exposed as cack-handed and dismissive in the days and weeks that followed the demolition.

The mural was supposedly an 'integral' part of the car park wall to which it was attached. Yet all the video and photographic evidence of its demolition suggests this just was not the case.

The state of the mural or the car park wall or both (who knows?) was apparently so dangerous as to be life-threatening. Yet it was demolished by a couple of blokes bashing hell out of it with the bucket of a digger.

In my view, there is a lack of transparency and accountability at the top of the council that has now reached a stage where it is damaging Newport's reputation in the outside world.

The timing and manner of the mural demolition was just plain stupid. It resulted in damaging publicity across the media, locally and nationally.

Some Labour councillors have been quick to attack the Argus for our coverage of the demolition and the response to it.

It is a classic politicians' response to go on the attack when things are going wrong.

When things go wrong in any organisation - particularly one that serves the public - the person at the top should take responsibility and be the person who responds in public.

This does not seem to be the case with the current leader of the council.

When this newspaper is accused of getting things wrong, I either defend our position or hold my hands up and admit the error. No-one takes the rap but me because I'm the man in charge.

The current leadership of Newport city council appears to want to blame anyone but themselves when they get things wrong. And, by God, they got the demolition of the mural wrong.

When councillors seek to blame the Argus for the bad publicity surrounding the council in recent weeks they are really aiming at the wrong target.

They need to look at the how the bad publicity - on television, radio and in the national Press - was created. And then they need to direct their fire a little closer to home, however uncomfortable that might be.

They should consider some of the events that have followed the demolition of the mural.

Dismissive or non-replies to a series of questions we asked on behalf of the public. Silence from the leader of the council until a Hollywood actor entered the debate. No-one named as the demolition decision-maker because of fears of 'death threats'. Claims the demolition had to take place because the council feared a corporate manslaughter case if the mural stayed in place any longer.

In my view, paranoia seems to surround each and every response to legitimate queries about the timing and manner of the mural demolition.

Many readers will have seen a spoof video on You Tube depicting council leader Bob Bright as Hitler ranting against those opposed to the destruction of the mural.

Perhaps a more fitting comparison would have been with Kenneth Williams as Caesar in the movie Carry On Cleo: "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got in in for me!"