Straight Talk

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BEING loyal Lynn News readers it may have escaped your attention that the other newspaper having claim to cover West Norfolk, the Eastern Daily Press, made a rather bold statement the other day.

It came out in favour of building an incinerator at Saddlebow.

Yes, it couched it a little with comments about how the county council should have gone about things a bit differently.

And it mused on whether a Norfolk-wide referendum on the subject might be held (a wholly pointless idea, I’d have thought).

But it came up with that unanswerable argument, “we are where we are”.

It added: “Will we ever know, definitively, what the people of Norfolk think about the incinerator... isn’t the point of electing county councillors that they take the hard decisions for the greater good of the whole county?”

The leader writer is evidently much swayed by the great 18th century Whig MP Edmund Burke, who declared that parliamentarians must be more than just mere delegates of the electorate – their only guide must be their own conscience.

But Burke is most famous for the creed usually paraphrased as “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

I’d stop short of saying the incinerator is evil. But for many people its threat is something that is blighting their lives.

A strongly-wroded letter in the EDP’s pages from Tim East, Lib Dem environment and waste spokesman, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the opinion and accuses it of being “a paper that is in bed with the county council”.

Seeing as how they took little notice of me when I actually worked there, it would be presumptuous of me in the extreme to lecture the EDP on what they should say on any given subject.

And as I tell callers who complain about the EDP (I think they believe that all newspapers are linked somehow), I have enough on my plate with the Lynn News .

But as someone with great respect for the paper, I was saddened by the leader.

The “we are where we are” argument is for those who have lost the argument or are in denial (eg Tony Blair on the occupation of Iraq).

And it always lays you open to accusations of hypocrisy. If, like the EDP, you are strong supporters of the Countryside Alliance and its campaign against the ban on fox hunting, where does it leave you. We Are Where We Are. You can’t pick and choose your reality.

Principals must be stronger than just what the empirical present is.

The main platform on which the Lynn News opposes the incinerator is that it has exposed a democratic deficit. The people of the borough – our readers – voted overwhelmingly to reject the plan. Their voice should be heard.

Burke was right. The majority must not be allowed to impose some sort of dictatorship on society. Representatives must be free to follow their own conscience (a plebiscite on capital punishment would certainly vote for the noose, leaving many die-hard democrats most uncomfortable).

But conversely, the people have a right to stand up for their communities and say No. The minority cannot just be cajoled and ignored by the majority.

We at the Lynn News stand with the people.