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Saturday, 12 July 2008

Welsh Assemby sacks blogger

I wonder if the new social media code for civil servants has any effect and or meaning in a devolved authority? His blog is now 'by invitation only'.

Sacked blogger’s taking case to tribunal

Jul 9 2008 by Martin Shipton, Western Mail

AN Assembly Government civil servant who was sacked for running a political blog is taking his case to an Employment Tribunal.

Last night a former AM who himself is a regular blogger said he found the decision to dismiss the civil servant “heavy handed”.

The former Assembly Government employee, whose real name has not been disclosed but who ran a blog called Christopher Glamorganshire, provided what readers saw as a neutral running commentary on last year’s coalition negotiations involving Labour and Plaid Cymru.

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “This issue regards a former Welsh Assembly Government employee who was dismissed for activities related to the Glamorganshire Blog that contravened the Civil Service Code. The case went to the Civil Service Appeals Board, which we won, and it is listed for Employment Tribunal in Cardiff later this year.”

It is understood the elements of the Civil Service Code regarded by the Assembly Government as relevant to the case come under sections headed “integrity” and “rights and responsibilities”.

Under integrity, the relevant clauses read: “You must always act in a way that is professional and that deserves and retains the confidence of all those with whom you have dealings,” and: “You must not misuse your official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties to further your private interests or those of others.”

Under rights and responsibilities, the clause considered to have been broken states: “This Code is part of the contractual relationship between you and your employer. It sets out the high standards of behaviour expected of you which follow from your position in public and national life as a civil servant. You can take pride in living up to these values.”

Last night former Conservative AM Glyn Davies, a regular blogger, said: “The Christopher Glamorganshire blog was on my list of ‘my favourites’. It seemed to me to be written in a sensible and rational manner.

“Clearly, if his contract of employment said he was not allowed to blog, he doesn’t have much of a case.

“But if it is simply a question of supposedly contravening the code, I think sacking him is very harsh and heavy handed.”

He added: “This all smacks of the heavy hand of the state.”

Postscript: Matt Wardman has an extensive report and backgrounder. He says:
The approach is slightly out of kilter in a country where only this week Hazel Blears was talking about giving more leeway for Council Officers to participate in the political process.
He also has a comment from Christopher Glamorgan:

A thousand apologies!

It is very kind of you to notice, but I am afraid that the blog has had to be taken ‘offline’ for the time being. I am still an avid reader of other blogs and am chomping at the bit as I type.

Hopefully normal service will resume very soon ;>D

And the reaction from a leading Welsh political blogger, Miss Wagstaff (whose blog is apparently blocked on Assembly government computers).
This all seems unfair to me, but best of luck to you 'Christopher'. Like any large organisation, the Assembly Government will - without a shadow of doubt - put their whole legal team behind the case, and solicitors are costly, so I fear that you'll need more than fair play, luck, and common sense on your side.
Is there a witchhunt? There's a story here saying that he is the fourth blogger sacked by the Assembly government. And this comment:
I can't remember a post by Christopher that was either reveling or controversial, certainly nothing that would appear to justify his dismissal from public service.
As well as this one:
The Welsh Assembly Government recently allowed a member of staff to resign after being found guilty in court of sexually harrassing a colleague.

The man in question was even allowed to stay in the workplace while an investigation was underway.
This post give a further suggestion of a witchhunt, saying that he was a Conservative. Conservative Welsh MP David Jones weighs in here.

What the new social media code for civil servants does not cover is if civil servants have any right to an opinion and how this tallies with 'freedom of expression' rights. Perhaps that is too big a can of worms to open but since 'civil servants' is sometimes taken to mean all public servants (and not just employees of parliaments or ministers) of which there are millions, perhaps this case should be taken up as a chance to add some more definition here?

Postscript: Are the Mail trawling for another blogging civilserf story? Matt Wardman notes the Christopher Glamorganshire sacking story cut and paste Promotional Tour

Postscript: Ian Cuddy at PSF noticed something I managed to miss (ahem) - that blogcatalog has the first lines archived of Christopher's posts. An example:
"I'm off early as I am the boss even though there is a big "issue" developing. You will stay here and work late as you are not senior enough to enjoy a work-life balance. Also used by senior managers as a way of sounding PC..."
The description Christopher offered of his blog is:
"Wales, the Welsh, politics, humour, general philosophical commentary, and gossip... Oh! and the professional bloggers down the Bay (but spare a thought for the Kingdom that is United for we are joined at the hip and rightly so)"
Ian also discovered his Blogger profile which reads: "Will today be a nine-to-five lunch break interrupted by an hour of work or will something substantial fall on my desk?"

As well as according to Wikipedia (which must be true), Christopher is "currently a philosophy student of the University of Wales, Lampeter" and trying to create a Wikipedia entry for Assembly Members and other Welsh politicians.

Yet more searching uncovers Christopher commenting and linking to his blog on the BBC Wales political blog, a flavour of who he may have pissed off


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