The Chair of the BHT Board, Joan Mortimer, recently asked my whether the views I had expressed in a particular blog post were BHT policy. I said that I thought that it was very unlikely! She asked me if that was a problem. I don’t think it is.
The views I often express on this blog, in television and radio interviews, and in newspapers may or may not enjoy the support of some or all of BHT’s Board members (the twelve people who make BHT’s policy). On most issues it shouldn’t matter.
An organisation like BHT doesn’t nor, in my opinion, should it have a policy on issues such as the legalisation of drugs. These are difficult matters and there is no monopoly on wisdom. Each of us has a view and should be encouraged to share it. That way we might edge forward to a greater truth.
Of course I would never speak out against BHT or its agreed policy.
I appreciate that I am in a privileged position, me being the chief executive of BHT, with its reputation and the resources it lends me to speak out as I do. I am very mindful that with this position comes great responsibility. Therefore I am careful not to offend, no matter how much people might disagree with what I say.
In BHT there is room for dissent. Last year, to the horror of my colleague, Jo Rogers, I wrote about my strong reservations about the Housing First model which politicians and practitioners seem to be overly keen to endorse. The reason why Jo was horrified is that she is involved in a Housing First initiative.
I encouraged her to write a response pointing out where she thought I was wrong and to try to persuade me of the errors of my ways. After some hesitation she wrote a great piece and we were both really encouraged by the response he item received, specifically the fact that we were able to debate openly this important issue. It was seen as an organisational strength, certainly not a weakness.
Jo didn’t convince me, nor me her, but she helped improve my understanding of Housing First.
Much depends on how we debate. Jo was, characteristically, respectful. Far too often people are abusive and insulting when views are expressed that do not conform to their personal fundamentalism. Brighton and Hove prides itself on how tolerant it is. There is a joke that the only thing that is not tolerated in Brighton is wheat!
But for a tolerant city, there is a lot of intolerance around for views that question or are not part of the new orthodoxy.
Finally, before anyone refers to me having called someone on Facebook earlier today a “pinko wishy washy liberal”, I wasn’t being abusive. It was an attempt at humour, and the person on the receiving end was Andrew Higgo who is probably my oldest friend (since we were both 9 years old).
Probably more unforgivable (from his perspective) is me publishing the attached photo of him (on the right) and me (on the left) in pantomime!