Comments From Send Parents Deleted From Marvin Rees’ Facebook Engagement

  • Comments from Send parents and carers hidden from other Facebook users under social media video
  • Video was of Mayor Marvin Rees talking about engaging with the public by leaflet and social media

The latest political drama to hit Bristol this week began on an unassuming Saturday evening. Parents and carers noticed comments they had made on a Facebook post regarding Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) were being manipulated by the account administrators. The Facebook account belonged to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and the subject of the video was remote engagement during the forthcoming election campaigning period.

Comments made by parents and carers were hidden from the wider public, although many of them were viewable to themselves and some friends giving the impression that the comments were still there to be seen.

By lunchtime on Sunday, just 20 out of 48 comments on the post were publicly viewable. Parents and carers who had cottoned onto the the Send comments being removed made some subsequent posts calling out the action which were left up.

Facebook poster Kay Galpin asked: ‘Why are all the comments about SEND on this page being censored? Parents have a right to ask elected officials and candidates questions.’

Claire Scaife said: ‘And again, because you have hidden this comment too…. seriously? I can’t believe that you Marvin, or whoever is monitoring this page, thinks it is acceptable to delete valid comments in this way. I am really shocked.

‘Marvin, I am concerned that it appears that my earlier comment regarding SEN has been “hidden” so that only my friends/contacts can see it. This appears to have happened to several posts. I cannot see that my comment broke any rules, it was querying the provision for SEN children which seems to be a legitimate question to ask about. I’m frankly shocked that it has been hidden in this way, which gives the impression that you don’t want the general public to know about the SEND crisis. I’d appreciate it if you could reinstate my post (and others) please.’

so we are deciding to focus on having leaflets sent out, social media and other platforms.

Marvin Rees

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In the video to which the comments were made, Marvin Rees talked about why Bristol Labour had decided for ‘public health’ reasons to use post, social media and ‘other platforms’ to engage with residents during the election period.

He say: “So the local elections are coming up and I know that the candidates all across the city are going to be just itching to hit the streets and knock on your doors to talk to you about their offer and to build a relationship with you and hopefully to win your vote.

“But I need to just share that within Bristol Labour, we’ve made a decision not to do that. It’s not because we don’t want to be out talking to you, hearing what’s going on for you and trying to convince you to continue the journey with us as a city leadership.

“It’s because we think that doing so would bring extra risk to the city of spreading Covid. Covid spreads person-to-person through shared contact, droplets and aerosols. By definition, if we are going house-to-house, if we were to be going house-to-house, we would be adding in the possibility of a chain of human connections that could be spreading the virus so we are deciding to focus on having leaflets sent out, social media and other platforms.

“Now, I just want to stress this is not because we don’t want to be talking to you. This is not because our candidates don’t want to be on the doorstep, they are desperate to get out. But this is because we are putting your safety ahead of our election campaign.

“Please stay safe. Take care.”

Bristol Send campaigner, Sally Kent of Bristol Send Justice in response to the deleted posts submitted an urgent question to Full Council on Tuesday 16 March asking: ‘On Saturday 13th March, some of my comments, alongside other parents and carers of children and young people with SEND, were deleted or hidden on a post on the Mayor’s Facebook page.

‘Despite the subject of this post being about engagement with the electorate, when my comments were hidden or deleted, in effect cancelled, my voice was shut down. Who accesses the Mayor’s account on Facebook and is it appropriate for these people to be deleting or hiding inoffensive comments on a Facebook page promoted and monitored by Bristol City Council? Does the council have a policy on this?’

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It was the second time in a week Labour was publicly hit by embarrassment. Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston Jo Sergeant, published a four-page document on Twitter detailing her experiences as a member of the Labour party and local councillor.

In it she commented: ‘Basic norms of democracy and accountability are being ignored by the current leadership. Overall, the result is that it is impossible for Labour councillors to constructively engage with the Mayor and his team, and to hold him to account between elections.’

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