I’ve been busy with blog posts, Alvin and the Chipmunks and children today, so the furore over Diane Abbott’s tweet had kind of passed me by. I knew someone had said something but, frankly, I wasn’t interested enough to look.
I can’t avoid it now, though, being that it’s the top headline on the BBC website. Heavens above, unemployment and poverty are increasing, the House of Lords is about to discuss a big cut in benefits to the sick, the global economy is on the brink of a very large precipice and so on – and we’re talking about an admittedly over generalised tweet from an MP.
Even having read it, I can’t actually get that wound up by it. It’s a bit crass on the surface, but I get where she was going with it. It’s about how power elites use their power and is nothing to do with race, gender or anything else. I certainly don’t think it’s worth the mockrage it’s attracting online.
I rarely disagree with Mark Thompson, but I think his demands for her to apologise or be sacked were unnecessary. I am appalled at the way Ed Miliband has simply demanded an apology without giving Diane a chance to explain what she meant – and I think she would have been able to give a credible explanation backed up by historical fact for what was going through her mind. We have to remember, though, that Miliband’s reaction comes in a week where is authority as leader is being challenged so it’s likely he felt he had to be seen to be “strong”. Sometimes being strong involves backing the people on your own side. I’m not wildly impressed that, rather than giving her the space to explain herself, he sent Chuka Umunna to give her a public dressing down. Remember all the furore about Ken Clarke’s comments on rape last year? I don’t recall Theresa May being sent out to tell him off publicly. He dealt with it himself to the extent that I forgave him.
I’m not wildly chuffed with Nick Clegg for getting in on this act either. It was a waste of his time – but at least he was in the camp of getting her to explain her remarks.
Twitter’s great – and a really good place to share ideas. I feel, used properly, that it can bring politicians closer to ordinary people. Used properly means a normal conversation flow and in any normal conversation flow sometimes things come out in not quite the way we meant them. We need to be a bit more tolerant when people make that sort of mistake. Come on, we all know Diane Abbott. She is no racist bigot. Can we not just remember our experience of her over 20 years or so and not get all hot and bothered about 140 or so characters tweeted in around 30 seconds?
I tend to agree with much of this post from Dorian Lynksey. Lots of food for thought in there – one example being this bit about Twitter:
I don’t want to get into the ridiculous mob mechanics of Twitter outrage, which can be as bad on the left (witness pandagate) as it is on the right, except to note that the “gotcha” strategy is a surefire way to ensure that no politician ever expresses themselves on social media except in the bloodlessly inoffensive style of Ed Milibot’s feed. It seems we desperately want politicians to drop the platitudes and speak openly, except when they do, in which case they need to apologise and resign.
There, that’s my unscheduled mid afternoon rant over.