The Plastic Hippo

March 5, 2011


Filed under: Media,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 10:52 pm

Jack Bauer is out there, cruising the mean streets of Walsall and, along with the rest of the team at the press office, protecting us from unimaginable threat, terror, destruction, plagues of frogs, boils, hail and locusts and the irritation of over loud chickens.

The decision to stage a 24 hour “tweetathon” to highlight in real time the work of our council was, and is, a noble undertaking and Walsall can be rightly proud of this ground breaking initiative to engage its citizens with new media. Following a similar event by Greater Manchester Police, this inspired idea was to give an insight into the usually ignored but vital tasks the local authority performs on our behalf.

Sadly, the power of the internet in the hands of the press office turned into a loaded shotgun aimed directly at the right foot of Walsall council.

The bold experiment on Twitter with the #walsall24 hash tag intended to offer a day-in-the-life-of snapshot of the inner working and minutia of local government. Instead, as with so many things in control of Walsall council, it turned into an exercise in delusion, obfuscation and misplaced self-congratulation. Walsall, it seems, is a land of milk and honey, with cigarette trees, soda water fountains and lemonade springs; our very own rock candy mountain.

The day started at six am with news that council workers were already up and heroically collecting rubbish. Others were investigating complaints of noisy roosters. Local government at its very best. The day wore on with a barrage of RT`s from various feeds and trolls telling us how wonderful the council is. It would, of course, be a ridiculous assumption to expect the council not to concentrate on the positive and in these dark times, some blue sky thinking is always welcome, but when services being cut were celebrated, the whole exercise descended into Orwellian double-speak. School crossing patrols, pollution control and the Green Spaces Team have been, or are about to be, cut and the distribution of personal alarm pendants to the vulnerable withdrawn. A case of accentuating the negative.

The contributions from the library service, the police and the local history centre were less hysterical and very welcome given that they too are facing cuts. There was, not surprisingly, an eerie silence from the “partners” who provide services to the community through rather profitable outsourcing deals paid for by council tax. The lights were out at Amey, Tarmac was otherwise engaged and Serco was celebrating a £200million profit announcement, the imminent redundancy of 100 staff and the disgraceful realisation that the school transfer computer only allowed 75 per cent of year six pupils their first choice of secondary education.

The long awaited and inevitable confirmation that Walsall illuminations are to go the way of Hosni Mubarak went strangely untweeted and not a single elected councillor bothered to offer any contribution. These omissions in the the day-to-day running of a local authority was justified by the erroneous claim that the stunt was giving just a “cross-section” of council activities. Well, there are now sections of the community who are now very cross indeed.

On the day that BBC journalists were ordered to replace the word “cuts” with the word “savings” and Rupert Murdoch was finally allowed to rule the nation and a Daily Star hack resigned in disgust at being forced to fabricate stories, Walsall council became the first authority in the universe to tell its people what the ruling elite were doing. The day certainly attracted some national publicity in the wider media but dissenting voices, including this humble blog, were ignored, erased and deleted. Hash tag #walsall24 will now be forever associated with hash tag #fail.

The lost opportunity for credible engagement with social media is a tragic consequence of the desperation of the incapable in their addiction to power. After the event, amid the congratulations and tales of exhaustion, human endeavour and heroism, the sad fact is that these people are paid to do a job. The undoubtedly big job they did attracted, according to “official figures”, an audience of 116,273. That is half the population of the borough. A case of spinning the spin.

One wonders if the carers, teachers, police officers, social workers, doctors, nurses, fire crew, paramedics and all the others who keep us going will be able to pat each other on the back for the vital work that they do. At the moment, they are in fear for their livelihoods.

When last seen, Jack Bauer was at the wheel of his Chevy SUV, clamped by traffic enforcement officers on Lichfield Street, his head in his hands and weeping.


  1. I have, I hope, a fairly complete spreadsheet of the #walsall24 tweets.
    The sources for the tweets have been taken from the 2 lists given by Walsall Council of participants. These are available at
    The tweets from sources other than walsall24_n sources have been filtered to only allow those tweets that included the #walsall24 hashtag.
    I have been trying to analyse the various tweets. I’ve been trying to identify tweets that relate to the current tweeter being involved in some activity at the time of the tweet, and also identify tweets about future events (outside the 24 hour timeslot), chatter and tweets that are supportive of council based activities (however tenuous that link may be) without being directly related to the person sending the tweet (advertising or puffs).
    I’ve made a start on this project. Anyone who wants to contribute is welcome. If you want to add categories or make changes it’s up to you.

    Comment by hapdaniel — March 6, 2011 @ 1:28 am | Reply

  2. Excellent…as usual

    Comment by Linda — March 6, 2011 @ 9:50 am | Reply

  3. To be fair, Mike Flower did tweet a bit, so a councillor was involved. But you’re bang on, as usual.

    Nice to know we’re ‘uneducated pork’, for daring to question the maths.

    Best wishes


    Comment by BrownhillsBob — March 7, 2011 @ 9:44 am | Reply

  4. Or was it a subtle double bluff?
    Tweeting the services faced with cuts raised a lot of interest in those services and I think a lot of people have come away thinking differently about the prospect of cuts and how they’ll bite.
    We’ll see in a couple of months’ time, won’t we?

    As an aside, what sort of pillock complains about a cockerel crowing?
    What do you expect a cockerel to do at daybreak?
    This is the sort of damn fool nimby behaviour that’s turning this country into a loony-left leaning, post new-labour slough of despond that makes me go all Ian Payne

    Comment by martin — March 10, 2011 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  5. […] like teenagers boasting of a half-imagined hot date. It’s tawdry, daft and unnecessary. The Plastic Hippo recently summed up his thoughts about #Walsall24, and there’s much to agree with in a thoughtful, well considered […]

    Pingback by Always crashing in the same car « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog — March 12, 2011 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  6. So you are going all Ian Payne are you Martin ? Good for you, couldn’t think of a better way to go…….

    I agree with Plastic Hippo re the illuminations – then again if the people won’t protest about their demise, what is the worth of any democracy ? Same also with the pubs going west left, right and centre, if those who love their local pubs aren’t prepared to protest about their closures, then, well…..

    If we all walk by and accept the status quo, then our so called democratic lors and masters win the day every day it seems !!!

    We should take a leaf out of the Egyptians and Tunisianss book and learn what democracy is all about !!!

    By the way my wife and I loved your spoof diatribe re Richard wattis and me over Xmas break – you should be a BBC comedy writer [seriously] – we were in hysterics all over the show !!!

    Comment by IAN PAYNE — March 21, 2011 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

    • Ian, this attempted reinvention of yourself as some jocular, pub-loving, fun jockey is hilarious.

      Support pubs? It wasn’t more than a few months ago you were slagging off their customers are feckless scum who should kiss your boots. I trust you were finding the Hippo funny at about the same time you were harassing Politics Penguin and demanding I remove a post because you didn’t like it? Revisionist tosh, frankly.

      Since the Egyptians still don’t have a leader of their democratic choosing I’d hold fire on that one, and come our revolution, I wouldn’t like to be in the position of one who spent his life slagging off the peasantry. A pitchfork can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of the underclass. Ask any Romanian.

      Of course, you’d probably be too busy banging your own name into Google to notice. (yes, we all get search logs and ‘Ian Payne, Walsall’ is in mine every other day). It’s quite clear that’s how you found this post.

      Self serving, much?

      It doesn’t matter how much you try and re-invent your approach, you’re still the mewling, whingy guy that apparently bullied a local blogger in a very unpalatable manner. However much you attempt to ingratiate, that will always stick in the craw of many local commentators.

      It’s about time you showed you’d got some balls, set up your own blog and opened it up to the net. It’s free at, so even misunderstood authors can afford it. Hell, even I could, and I’m considerably scummier than yow.

      Get on with it, then…


      Comment by BrownhillsBob — March 21, 2011 @ 8:00 pm | Reply

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