Coulsdon’s one-man motoring campaign could soon find it more difficult to use false identities online to pursue his own vested interests, as our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, reports
Last night, he was spotted at a public meeting in Lambeth, discussing traffic-calming road restrictions at Loughborough Junction, ostensibly on behalf of one of the few organisations still prepared to tolerate him as a member, the Alliance of British Drivers.
But as real Brixton residents and cycling activists attending the meeting turned to Inside Croydon for more information about the man with a great deal to say for himself, it was quickly established without doubt that Peter Morgan, the Adidas-clad resident of Coulsdon in leafy Surrey, was taking his unique, and twisted, brand of campaigning into inner London.
“I asked him where he lived,” one of the genuine Brixton residents said afterwards, “and he said that he was at the meeting to represent a friend. But he couldn’t remember their name or where they lived.”
Which is unusual for Morgan, who when he’s behind his keyboard running his “Sense With Roads” campaign is usually able to call on a host of bogus and borrowed identities to try to make his own particular interests appear to have widespread appeal.
But Morgan’s schizophrenic trolling might be on borrowed time, at least as far as Croydon is concerned, as the legal team at the council appears to have finally woken up to the games Morgan plays, usually at a cost to the taxpayers.
And not before time – Morgan’s been up to his tricks for more than 20 years. It was Morgan who, almost single-handedly, mounted a campaign to block the Croydon tram network.
And it was at another Croydon public inquiry in 1994, when Morgan claimed that motorists were being discriminated against, citing “Human Rights, Sex Discrimination and Equal Opportunities”, that an official inspector dismissed the objector’s remarks as “utter nonsense”.
More recently, Morgan – sometimes with the assistance of senior Tory councillor Phil Thomas – has been using pseudonyms to influence online consultations and garner information to support “Sense With Roads”, including using the What Do They Know website to make Freedom of Information requests.
Someone calling themselves “Mark Black” has shown a great deal of interest in the votes cast in Croydon Council’s public consultation exercise on 20mph limits in the northern part of the borough.
Last month, “Mark Black” even threatened to report Croydon Council to the Information Commissioner’s Office if they didn’t cough up the latest batch of information he was demanding. Until now, the council officials’ response to the barrage of requests – each costing the council an estimated £300 – has been unfailingly helpful.
But there’s been a distinct change in attitude from Jessica Stockton in the borough’s legal department. Stockton has even had the temerity to turn down her querulous questioner’s mind-numbing points of esoteric detail on the grounds that they fell, by turns, outside the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, beyond the protections afforded by the Data Protection Act or was information not held by the council.
The icing on this frosty cake of refusal was her rejoinder that “the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act is to provide you with information which the Council may hold, it’s purpose is not to generate information or explanations which you may wish to receive about matters”. Which comes as close to “fuck off you’re taking the piss” as you’re likely to get in formal correspondence from a local government officer.
Stockton didn’t leave “Mark Black” entirely empty-handed though. She did honour his request for a spreadsheet as “an XLS not XLSX file. The reason was that some can only use XLS files, while all who can use XLSX can use XLS as well. Under anti-disccrimination [sic] principles and making information available to all, the council should comply with this request. Please provide the file in XLS format – with the additional information requested above”.
Now, while “Mark Black’s” style of writing might appear familiar to experienced Morgan-watchers, the format request, for XLS, is very revealing indeed.
Inside Croydon has obtained an email, sent by Peter Morgan on August 6, in which he wrote to “Roger” (presumably his mate, Roger Lawson of the Alliance of British Drivers – Morgan is a regional organiser) about the FoI request supposedly conducted by “Mark Black”.
Notice how, before Morgan calls for “a big mass of objections to stop this 20mph tyranny” – yes, tyranny, no less -he makes a request for XLS files because he says he “cannot work properly with the XLSX version”.
Just like “Mark Black”.
What a coincidence.
Or maybe not.
Using “not XLSX” and “Croydon” as search terms on the What Do They Know search engine finds a lot of very similar requests under a variety of names: Mark Black and Ruthlyn Black, Nyron Johnston, Alan Wright and Kwame Opoku. But none from the ever-curious Morgan.
Take off the “Croydon” filter to leave “not XLSX” as the sole search criterion, and the same names crop up, plus a few others, some of which gave us a few titters at Inside Croydon Towers: Harry Cross (remember Brookside?), Bob Stewart (of Radio Luxembourg fame?), Michael Douglas and James Mason (what is it with this use of Hollywood stars’ names?).
Then there’s Alan Wright (though not, we think, the former Aston Villa defender), who seems very interested in parking charges in hundreds of councils across the land as well as accident records in Coulsdon.
Wright crops up, also, along with Ruthlyn Black (who’s supposed to live in Norbury, with “Mark Black”), in posting annotations to a request for an equalities assessment into the closure of Bradmore Green Library, a building which is a short walk (or knowing him, an even shorter drive) from Peter Morgan’s Coulsdon home.
That particular request was originally made by Janet Stollery, the chair of a Coulsdon residents’ association who earlier this year, when still a member of UKIP, went out of her way to insist on an early staging of a council by-election in Selhurst ward, displaying indecent haste since the funeral had not even been held for the recently deceased councillor, Gerry Ryan. The early staging of the by-election probably cost the people of Croydon around £15,000 which could have been avoided.
Also petitioning the council to stage the Selhurst by-election was none other than… Peter Morgan.
Funny that. Funny peculiar, that is.
FOOTNOTE: Official petitions to the council, because of a higher level of identity information required, tend to be more difficult to “rig” through using false identities than community consultations, or even FoI requests. So Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader will be interested to see the overwhelming amount of public opposition to the 20mph zones as demonstrated in a petition raised by Peter Morgan.
“We note with concern that Croydon Council has decided to actively promote and implement blanket 20mph speed limits across the whole of Croydon,” Morgan stated, inaccurately as it happens, in launching his petition a year ago. There is not and never has been any proposal for a “blanket” speed limit across the borough.
“We believe that the new council blanket 20mph policy is based on ignorance and anti-car prejudice and we call on the council to abandon this policy,” Morgan wrote.
A year on, the petition has now closed. In a borough with a population of more than 350,000, just 57 people signed Peter Morgan’s petition.
Funny that. Funny ha ha, that is.
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