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Qercus columnist soldiers on after blog storm

Published: 26th Mar 2008, 20:54:54 | Permalink | Printable

Outcry over website mistake won't deter John Ward

John Ward and a RiscPCRISC OS user John Ward, who this week resigned his seat as a local councillor in Kent following a controversial blog post that called for the sterilisation of parents on benefits, has vowed to continue his RISC OS magazine column. John, who used ROS on a laptop with VirtualRiscPC for all his public Medway Council duties and advocated a 'paperless' approach to work, pens a regular series for Qercus, in which he describes how he uses RISC OS effectively as a councillor.

His latest piece for the magazine even covered the topic of blogging - but after stepping down yesterday amid soaring political pressure to resign, the column will be forced to take a new direction. His councillor blog will cease, however.

John, 58, said today: "I'm not giving up my Qercus column, and indeed I have spoken to its editor about this. We're now trying to come up with a new name for the column, and I shall have to think of either a new slant, or perhaps a reminiscence of what I had done in the past but hadn't included in the column.

"I'll think of something. There are still two or three of my articles 'in stock' at Qercus HQ, so there's some time for this."

The online row erupted after John, a devout Christian and now a former Conservative councillor, published the following on his website: "I think there is an increasingly strong case for compulsory sterilisation of all those who have a second, (or third, or whatever) child while living off state handouts."

The blog post has since been deleted. John, pictured here, later explained he had cut'n'pasted the text from another website to spark debate on his own blog, and after being distracted from his computer, he forgot to make it clear in his post that the comments were not his own personal views. He stressed yesterday he doesn't believe in the aforementioned concept of sterilisation.

This afternoon, John added: "I wish to thank all who have supported me, although, as I think it's now better known, my intent was to stimulate debate on finding a better way than the extreme one I found on the internet and copied into my draft."

Political critics lined up this week to blast John for the blog post, calling for him to stand down, while local trade union leader Brian Kelly added: "John makes a strong case for someone to politically sterilise him."

Qercus editor John Cartmell said this evening: "If John Ward is willing to continue writing about his use of RISC OS then we will be pleased to continue to publish his work. Qercus doesn't select contributions because they reflect the views of the editor nor do we confuse a quotation with a personal opinion."


John Ward's councillor blog
BBC News coverage
Daily Mail coverage
Qercus website

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I always enjoyed John's column so I was really sad to see him on South East News for the wrong reasons....

I hope he will continue to write for Qercus.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 26/3/08 10:11PM
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Of course, he could entirely exonerate himself by citing the URL of the place he copy and pasted from.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 26/3/08 10:22PM
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Regardless of who generated those views, they truly are appalling. It seems an odd starting point for debate if that really was the intention of the reference.

Anyway, it's all very uncertain, and the above aside, I too enjoyed John's column when I subscribed to Qercus and, now that he's distanced himself from the comments, hope that he can continue contributing in some way.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 26/3/08 11:08PM
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IMHO, the comments are a bit harsh but on the right track. Those who can't afford to bring up children should not have them. This is typical a knee-jerk reaction from the politically correct crowd but he seems to have lots of support judging from the comments on some newspaper sites.

At least he's still willing to contribute to the RISC OS scene, which is good news for us.

 is a RISC OS UserFootie on 27/3/08 1:21AM
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What Footie said. Although, I don't agree with John's extreme and impractical proposed solution.

Giving fathers automatic 50% physical custody of their own children would solve a lot of these problems and improve the lives of everyone involved. The child lives with its dad Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and every other Sunday. Both parents work and there is no motive for trapping men by becoming pregnant.

 is a RISC OS Userkillermike on 27/3/08 8:54AM
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It's far too common for politicians of whatever party to be forced to resign because of a misquote.

I enjoy John's column and wish him well for the future.

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 27/3/08 10:38AM
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rjek: Yes. Hoping to give him the benefit of the doubt, I just went through all 15 pages of google results for the search "I think there is an increasingly strong case for compulsory sterilisation" (including in the quotes) and couldn't find a page that wasn't quoting him.

Which doesn't, of course, prove no page exists, but still.

 is a RISC OS Userrichcheng on 27/3/08 11:07AM
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If there are fifteen pages of results for that phrase within quotes it starts to seem like there might be a strong case for that point ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userkillermike on 27/3/08 12:00PM
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"IMHO, the comments are a bit harsh but on the right track. Those who can't afford to bring up children should not have them. This is typical a knee-jerk reaction from the politically correct crowd but he seems to have lots of support judging from the comments on some newspaper sites."

I was just waiting for someone to mention political correctness. :-)

What in his available comments was on the right track? In other words, find me a single thinking person who thinks it a good thing that some people have children who they cannot feasably take of because it is beyond their financial means. Believe it or not, you'll struggle to find such a person even amongst we politically correct types.

The "knee-jerk reaction" was actually a response to such a disgusting "solution" to the problem that practically everyone recognises. The idea that the state could subject someone to a physical procedure against their will is barbaric. It is an example of the worst kind of state intervention.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 27/3/08 3:13PM
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I know this is not a political forum and that was just my opinion but I will reply anyway.

I didn’t say I agreed with sterilisation, I said I agreed with the underlying principal, that people who cannot afford to support children should not have them until they can. Your second statement agrees with this too. Sometimes I feel strongly in agreement with John’s original statement and sometimes I do not. It depends on my mood at the time. Actually putting that comment into practice is a vastly different exercise than simply stating it. People who overtax the benefit system are not going to stop just because they are told to be responsible. How to get these people to do that will always be an issue.

The political correct statement was to the fact that John was pressured to resign over his blog entry which you have also pointed out. I guess I didn’t make that clear. Never the less, unless John has a history of wild statements, I don’t feel the odd comment is enough to force someone to resign.

BTW, I was going to edit my original post after I posted it, but Drobe does not allow edits.

 is a RISC OS UserFootie on 27/3/08 8:22PM
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You're right, this isn't by definition a political forum. But this article is political and the issues it contains are brought to our attention only because of John's links with RISC OS (in a similar way an article was written about me over a year ago which actually had nothing to do with RISC OS). So I feel that we're probably allowed to respond to the topic at hand and I believe Drobe is made a richer experience for the occasional off-topic discussion.

"I didn't say I agreed with sterilisation, I said I agreed with the underlying principal".

Thanks for clarifying your views. I suppose my previous comment was really just a note of caution. An article might say some very reasonable things like "the sky is blue on a clear day" and then go on to say some quite detestable things. The meat of such an article isn't that "the sky is blue" but the detestable things, the things that aren't the status quo. Perhaps you now understand why I found your comments odd?

"The political correct statement was to the fact that John was pressured to resign over his blog entry which you have also pointed out."

I don't think this is political correctness. Looking at John's blog he refers to an "unelected quango called the Standards Board [which] would (based on a recent similar case) disqualify [me] from being a Councillor" had he not chosen to resign himself. It seems like a silly mistake on his part: perhaps councillors of other politcal persuasions quite wanted to see him go down too?

Anyway, let's hope John finds somewhere else to target his talents.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 29/3/08 5:17PM
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