Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Stockwood hits the headlines – for better or worse

Strange that this Bristol backwater should suddenly attract media mentions across the British Isles. Stranger still that it should happen twice in successive months.
Both stories have what the press loves – the chance to write a story that will produce a titter or a snigger among the readers.
In March, it was the BioBus, usually described as the Poo Bus. I'm sure it's no accident that First introduced it on the Number Two route, gifting an easy line to the journalists and guaranteeing media attention. Apparently the bio-methane fuelled bus is a first for the UK, though the technology is well established.

Long before moving to Bristol over a decade ago, I organised a Green Party trip to see Wessex Water's plant at Avonmouth. What made it special was that while other water companies were still pumping sewage into the sea, or taking it out in barges to be dumped, Wessex already had the foresight to treat it onshore. The biogas provided a renewable fuel, used primarily to generate electricity, while the dried granular byproduct could be used to enrich or remediate soil. It's that biogas that's now being used as a (relatively) clean renewable fuel to carry passengers from Stockwood to Cribbs Causeway (if they have the staying power, and nothing better to do!) and all points in between.
So it's a good news story.... well done First, well done Geneco and Wessex.
This month's Stockwood story has a very much darker side. I don't know how the media got hold of it, though I have my suspicions. In the coming local elections, UKIP's candidate to succeed Jay Jethwa as one of Stockwood's two ward councillors apparently has a 'professional' life as Johnny Rockard (snigger) a maker, promoter, and actor in pornographic videos. Google his name if you must - I did, but a click or two more was enough before I abandoned the enquiry!
Cue lots of press and broadcasting media attention for the candidate, who's the vice-chair of the local party. Cue righteous indignation from UKIP and its supporters, complaining of being picked on by the media. My guess is that all the attention was inevitable, no matter what colour rosette the candidate was wearing.
Apart from the press enjoying the chance to describe in detail the 'plot' of one such video, and a huge burst in public awareness of UKIP's man in Stockwood, just before an election, the story is a bit of a non-event. It won't bring about a multi-million local tourism boom. Most people accept that for better or worse, the sex trade exists and people do work in it and they do meet a demand.
But despite of UKIP's defence of its candidate, making and selling porn is not like more legitimate businesses. It's a very dark sector of the economy, strongly associated with exploitation, with people trafficking, with drugs, violence and even modern slavery. Perhaps the media should have used this story to raise these much more serious aspects of the industry, instead of just treating it as a bit of a joke.  [added 14/04/15] Looks like 'Object' are presenting them with the evidence now.
Meanwhile, for balance, here's a list of the other candidates aspiring join David Morris as Stockwood's councillor for the coming year, until the first 'whole council' election in 2016. Sadly, like the UKIP man, none of them actually live in the ward.
Phil Bishop – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Ian Campion-Smith – LibDem
David McLeod – Labour
Graham Morris – Tory (David's son, I understand. Part of the Tory's inheritance strategy?)
Ellie Vowles – Green. Best of luck, Ellie!

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