How do we improve the political debate here?

Hey all,

Josh posted an interesting question I think is perhaps best answered by the community of people who want to take part.

In a somewhat heated debate in a separate thread, @Josh_Constable asked:

In response as admin, this forum should already help evidence the fact you are correct. Every edit is stored and viewable by everyone and so should show that Josh never asked this. To me by default the situation sorts itself by you just calling it out as you saw it. I don’t think there’s any specific need for admin intervention here?

I’m interested if anyone thinks differently though? This place is small right now, but would like to work on growing it together.

What I’d really like to aim for on here, and where I need help - is I’d like to work to enable open political discussion between all parties and people with an interest. (I know I know, sounds crazy, right? :slight_smile: ). Hopefully we could work together to improve the local political debate with an aim of encouraging new ideas and educating readers. There is far less noise on here than twitter and facebook and so it should be somewhat easier to get your message across. Discussions or posts here are sharable.

If contributors are smart, here can also be a great read & resource for any future voters! Something sorely missing!

I turn to all forum members with the open question - should we do anything different to improve the discussion here? In my mind there’s a couple of simple things from contributors which would help massively improve the discussion for readers, mainly covered by the FAQ, which I encourage everyone to read. :slight_smile:

If you think we’re missing some advice or recommendation, call it out?

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On reviewing the thread, I see Josh didn’t mention voter suppression, that was Sam and I inadvertently lumped their responses together in my mind.

However, to answer your question re improving political debate.

I think dialling down the vitriol, nastiness and personal attacks would be a good start.

Take the thread you’ve mentioned, people should take a look at my responses and those by Sam (and to a much lesser extend Josh’s).

Mine have been measured and set out to explain my reasons behind what I say, I haven’t resorted to personal attacks such as have been levelled at me.

Have to say I’m surprised that @Sam4eastleigh & @Josh_Constable haven’t contributed to this post.

It’s tricky to know if there’s anything which would help without knowing what forum features are available. That thread did get somewhat heated, and the flagging feature didn’t seem particularly constructive- are there any consequences for misusing flags? Some sort of timeout for the whole thread might have helped cool things off a bit instead? Who knows.

I actually think it’s part of a wider problem where local politicians should be setting a better example, which was the thinking behind an earlier thread…

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The Lib Dems set the standard locally. I remember finishing the general election and my team saying “I can’t believe how vile the Lib Dems have been to you”. That’s obviously continued over the past two years and at times I like to indulge to get their pulses racing.

Credit to Paul H, he clearly placed something in Guido about me during GE19 but he’s always disagreed with me (and I with him) in a constructive manner. Perhaps it’s an age thing?

If there is to be a change, then our local representatives need to drive that behaviour. That will take ownership, integrity, honesty and respect.

Sorry for not replying sooner all, busy week!

I think there’s a lot to be done to improve the culture of political debate in Eastleigh. I have to say without naming names or pointing the finger, there are a few people who categorically will not engage in good faith arguments. There is a tendency to deflect or try to change the subject. It’s the number one bit of feedback I received since this last local elections (from voters/supporters for several parties.)

Everyone on this thread probably saw my comments towards the end of the election about some parties coms strategy and it being the end of me trying to engage those politicians in good faith, something several members of the public, sitting Councillors and party colleagues have urged me to do for some time. It is clear that there are more than a few people willing to resort to dirty political tactics to win power, and largely these efforts seem to bear fruit. I pointed out the “dubious claims” in the thread, as I have in a number over the past year when someone posted something un-true or attempted to twist something into a new political narrative, because they don’t want to engage with the core point.

The reason I asked for admin intervention is because its become clear from previous interactions on this forum and others, those people willing to push a false narrative or twist things are not interested in engaging in genuine discussion. Rather disrupting the discussion of others and sowing confusion/division. I don’t think people should be banned for this, but some sort of warning label perhaps for repeat offenders? I don’t know what the best way is to be honest. I don’t think it should be up to me or the other politicians active on here to decide. I’m just sorry the community needs to step in.

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I quite agree with the first line, however from my perspective you appear guilty of what you are calling other people out on. The remainder of your post attacks individuals and presents yourself as better than them when actually you did the same (albeit, you later edited some posts and removed the personal attack).

I posted this topic to discuss how to improve the debate, yet you’ve used it to accuse individuals (to which of course they are going to defend), and then later pressured them for a pubic response, which appears to try to shame them:

Anyone can respond at any time that is right for them if they want to contribute - I think pressurising individuals is wrong.

At the risk of upsetting both you and Sam, you actually have some strong similarities in your approaches… Please, I implore you both - think before you type. Sort it out and demonstrate that bridges can be built!

Here’s a healthy political challenge for @TParkEastleighN , @Sam4eastleigh , and @Josh_Constable , and @Alexbourne (Sorry Alex, dragged you in to make even the Labour vs Lib Dem balance, but anyone can participate. I’m conscious i can’t tag every political person! :wink: ):

  • Over the next 3 months post at least 3 local related topics/campaigns that the opposition supports and publicly agrees on. We then make a public post with all these campaigns & topics so people can see who is doing what locally.

This should be good for everyone? I’d like to think there is more that unites us than what divides us, but too often we focus on the latter.

I’m not sure closing off the topic with a timeout is a good idea - this limits the debate for newcomers - since anything here ends up available in a google search it could be months before someone reads a particular topic and it would be nice for them to contribute at any time.

Flagging is interesting! In short, this will improve over time. The longer explanation is that automatic action is taken based on the trust level of members flagging a post, the reported users trust level, the reporting users reputation and a few other things. Right now posts can temporarily be hidden based on a trusted member single user report. This is so the community can quickly act on objectionable material together. As the community grows and people get more involved this should balance out. All flags are reviewed by staff members and if a staff member objects to the flagged post, the automated actions are retracted and the reputation of the reporter reduced. This means automatic actions are increasingly less likely to be taken from that reporter in future, so this will improve over time.

Absolutely agree here, its a major problem and why i’d like to do my bit to try to improve it locally too :).

Good points! I agree on the non banning as clearly they are contributing. The warning label is possible on user or topic, however who decides the warning label, and what circumstances trigger the warning label. It risks being a really unfair system so I don’t see how that could be implemented fairly unfortunately.

Right now at least it’s easy to see by reading - the more people that stick to topics and avoid finger pointing and defection as you rightly suggest currently happens, the clearer I feel it will become. :slight_smile:

When I say personal attacks I’m talking about the name calling and use of adjectives such as ‘vile’, ‘lies/liars’, ‘arrogant’. ‘turds’ etc etc.

Basically attacking the person not the position/views expressed.

Note the examples in quote marks above are not all from the voter suppression thread on Eastleigh Online, but across other places on the internet. These are just a few taken from memory, there’s far more out there.

Again, I would say look at the points I’ve made here in this thread, the voter suppression thread and elsewhere on the internet I’m pretty confident that (for the vast majority) I argue my position without resulting to such name calling or negative adjectives. I do not attack individuals in such a toxic way.

Yes, above, I did name those two individuals because from my point of view, they are the worst offenders of such behaviour…and to be fair it mostly just relates to one of the two. That particular person I suspect is also the one who uses (or abuses even) the comment flagging functionality on this forum.

Finally my comment where I tagged them both saying I’m surprised they hadn’t responded, was more designed to alert them to the thread than it was as an attack. Maybe I could have said “XX & YY have you seen this?”.

Oh dear…

This issue starts and ends with the Lib Dems.

As for specifically trying to target me, it’s quite the compliment. :heart:

I’m not familiar with that language used here, if it was and you feel its not right - hit flag, ignore it, or discuss with him directly to try get the wording changed so that the conversation can focus on the topic at hand? We can’t police the internet but we can hope agreements made here can help discussions in other places?

Would coming up with an agreed signed ‘rules of engagement’ (Like the one @jtonline has started)? Something we can together encourage people to adopt / sign up to.

On your accusation against Josh, I must admit I’ve read a lot of Josh’s stuff and he doesn’t usually speak like that so I’m not sure that’s true. Suggest rather than point at problems elsewhere or bigger internet, we focus on discussing real evidence based topics here. (not individuals).

In your response there, you dedicated a whole paragraph to attacking Josh and Sam - this is what I think we could tone down/stop and it may help improve things. One side or the other needs to be big enough to stop doing this for hostilities to start calming down. Who’s it going to be? :slight_smile:

You’re right, your suggested alternative language does sound better. :slight_smile:

The original text I saw made it look like you had asked a different question to the one you were saying you’d asked.

But since you’ve brought this subject up here…it’s interesting that now you’ve been presented with the proper answer from EBC you’ve not corrected the post on Eastleigh Labour site or social media saying EBC has broken the law. As you now know they haven’t.

One instance you’ve found, in contrast I have numerous where you’ve personally attacked me and other LibDems, even called me ‘vile’ or alluding to LibDems all being ‘turds’. How is that useful to political debate?

Wasn’t directed at Josh, I feel Josh is usually even handed and measured in his actions.

As I said my examples weren’t all from this forum, but from elsewhere on the internet, but speaks to the central point of improving political discourse.

Suggest you keep this that discussion in the right topic (EBC break the law on tree felling) or this looks to be finger pointing again. I would avoid personally attacking Sam, even if he was to personally attack. It just escalates and becomes frustrating for the reader.

We’re risking turning this thread into a specific Tanya vs Sam rather than helping with the root cause of how we improve the debate.

Ask the Conservatives (@PaulHolmes88 , @LisaCrosher etc) what would make this environment more welcoming for them.
Also engage the Bishy independents (@Gin_Tidridge , @Lou etc.) more somehow.

Maybe tag them on every initial post asking for responses? Obviously Bishy Independents may only really be focused on Bishy/Fair Oak issues

Right now we’re only really hearing from Labour and the LDs. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, the fact is that we’re not hooking in Eastleigh’s bigger opposition

Threads like the road closures, the tree felling, the accidents on Fair Oak’s roads etc., are just not reaching them, for whatever reason.

We had a good vibe going of all parties during the election. It is sad that vibe did not continue.


Hi Darren,

I can only really speak from my perspective but I would say that anytime a thread evolves into a conversation between two parties rather than a forum and sharing of multiple opinions then it makes me less likely to engage. At that point it is often heated and I don’t want to wade into the middle of it and increase the drama.

If there is a subject that I (or someone who has approached me and asked me to support them) have a constructive opinion on or feel passionately about then I would comment. If someone tags me and asks what I think, I will respond. If there is something I commit to doing then I will ensure it is done.

Right now I am concerned by how few people turn out to vote in Local Elections and I believe the blaming of each other and poor conduct / language of party activists and sitting Cllrs is a factor in turning people off. I too enjoyed the vibe we had going during the run up to the election. It was positive and constructive and a really good way of expressing how we each felt without making it personal. It takes a lot of resilience to be politically active as although it is extremely rewarding to make a difference you can also attract a lot of hate, often it is very unfair and unwarranted. Let’s not add to that and focus on caring about our local areas and the people who live here.

Tagging other people for notification seems to be effective. A code of conduct is a good idea. Also maybe an admin asking parties to take any escalations offline once it has become a two way conversation would be my suggestion.