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Despite the expense over Peter John’s tweet, it’s a good thing the council takes allegations seriously

As the most infamous tweeter in political history touches down into London and immediately blasts London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a ‘loser’, Southwark has also been embroiled in its own bitter twitter storm, as council leader Peter John revealed one tweet criticising Dulwich Hamlet Football Club’s landlord, Meadow, has cost the council £13,000.

Although the club and company now appear to be on good terms, the developer is still trading blows with Cllr John,  who has only just been let off the hook after an internal council investigation, prompted by complaints from Meadow’s lawyers, claimed a series of tweets from April last year breached the council’s code of conduct.

Quite what Meadow wanted to get out of the drawn-out process is unclear. Peter John is hardly the only person to have made a stand against the company on social media, or the most vociferous in his comments.

The council has now, after a thorough investigation, spent £13,000 on a process that finally decided the offending tweet ‘could have been worded better’ – not easy, when you’re penning one liners.

Despite the waste, and arguably over-the-top reaction from Meadow, there is some measure of comfort that the council is willing to do the diligent thing and give allegations of breaches in standards their due consideration.

Whether this is the last time a tweet lands Cllr John, or any of his colleagues in trouble, is anyone’s guess. Although the Labour Group’s press operation is tightly controlled, its members appear to have a free rein when it comes to airing their grievances on twitter.

This case is a poor example, but the general argument that debate should be conducted in a respectful manner, and that social media is all too often a toxic space, is a good one.

It’s just that in this instance, given the number of previous redevelopment applications from Meadow for a new stadium and housing rejected in their various iterations, their time certainly could have been put to better use.


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