The burdens of public life

PUBLISHED: 11:08 08 February 2007 | UPDATED: 14:59 12 May 2010

BEING in public life – even on a local level – does carry a certain burden. It not quite a question of being purer than pure, but it does mean acting in a responsible manner. And there is nothing more, at times, that we can ask of from such people as our

BEING in public life - even on a local level - does carry a certain burden.

It not quite a question of being purer than pure, but it does mean acting in a responsible manner.

And there is nothing more, at times, that we can ask of from such people as our local councillors.

Therefore, the case last week when Royston's deputy mayor Cllr Chris Barton appeared in court and admitted driving while over the alcohol limit has created wider publicity than may be expected of a person who does not have a public role.

And it's quite right to report such cases.

Indeed, it would be wrong of us as a newspaper to avoid giving space to such a story.

It's not because we have a particular axe to grind with our councillors or that we take some kind of enjoyment out of publicising such misery.

It's because we, too, as a newspaper have a public duty to report such issues.

And, after all, a magistrates' court is a public building and most of what is said during a hearing is in the public domain.

Facts speak for themselves so we do not have to embroider a story, or to suggest that Cllr Barton is a "disgrace" or even quote one other town councillor as describing him as a "criminal".

The public can make up their own minds.

But being in the public eye means that Cllr Barton has to think seriously about his future - which he has probably been doing during the past week.

To drive after consuming alcohol at twice the legal limit was irresponsible and could, as we know, have led to more serious consequences.

It was stupid.

He has let down other members of the town council.

This is not, however, one of those cases of dishonesty or, dare I say, sleaze, as we used to see in the past surrounding certain Members of Parliament when, obviously, the one decision was to resign.

It is a choice for Cllr Barton - and Cllr Barton alone.

But although his actions can be rightly criticised it does seem that there is a concerted effort to have him removed.

His own Tory group realise he has been irresponsible, but it appears it does not particularly want to see him depart from the council.

But he has to consider his position.

To do right he has to quit as chairman of the highways and general purposes committee: a body which does have responsibility for road safety issues.

Especially after Cllr Barton pledged in his election address last May that he wanted to see an improvement in road safety.

Obviously, driving at twice the legal alcohol level does not improve the chances of increasing road safety.

Second, he has to dismiss any ideas that next year he would become mayor after serving for the past eight months as deputy mayor.

That is the price to pay for behaviour which could have had more serious consequences.

If he stands again as a town councillor then his future will be in the hands of the electorate. That could prove to be a question of a vote of confidence rather than supporting a candidate of a particular political party.

We were the weakest link

IT was yet another quiz night at the weekend - and we were there in all our glory.

The trouble was we weren't really covered in glory. Indeed, our performance was quite appalling.

But it was a quiz that seemed to be part University Challenge and part Mastermind.

We just didn't know the length of the M25 or the distance of the longest tunnel on the London Underground.

And as for the location of the Stewart Islands. Well, ask us another?

But we're determined to make amends. We have the Friends of Meridian quiz night on February 24 and the Royston Town Twinning Association's quiz on March 24 to show that we are not really the weakest link.

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