Today the Conservative leader of Cornwall Council took the bizarre step of banning councillors from communicating on the internet during meetings. A few councillors (lamentably none from MK) tweet during meetings, understandably some tweets criticise the regime and these have caught the attention of Cllr Robertson.
I am all in favour of people tweeting from such meetings, it provides an insight into the democratic process. It is interesting for a wide range of people, voters, organisations, political activists and journalists can quickly get the opinions of councillors. Their reactions and thoughts without spin as issues in the chamber are discussed. It also invites users of twitter to challenge the views of councillors and ask for clarification on their views in the chamber or in tweets. The real beauty therefore is that it invites people to witness the democratic process and engage with it, this is a great thing for democracy.
Also the ban is rather pointless, meetings are webcast anyway so people can hear and see proceedings anyway. (That is of course if the Conservatives don't push to alienate people from democracy further by banning those broadcasts as well.) Councillors can't be controlled in such a manner as the twitter/ blogging ban outside of the council, so they can criticise the Tories then anyway. Obviously the more instant communication during meetings is preferable as the majority of people can't watch the webcasts live.
I am appalled by the behaviour of the council on this issue it is a retrograde step for democracy. We already face a situation whereby a handful of select councillors make all the decisions and the full council is given little input on that process. Government across this isle and indeed this continent is opening up and becoming more open and democratic, I dearly hope Cornwall isn't allowed to buck this trend
As a footnote, I actually joined twitter after the Tax Payers Alliance criticised Cornwall Councillors for tweeting in meetings. That was a while ago and I haven't looked back since.