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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

There should be no online Safe Space for the political class

I suspect it is true that an individual's motivation to stand as an MP is a mixture of a desire to do good and make the world a better place and a desire for personal aggrandisement. The balance between these two drivers will be different for each MP. They are not necessarily contrary, nor incompatible. I have never had any desire to enter Parliament (except to visit its infamous bars) because I have neither the front nor the requisite talent for dissembling and neither a hunger for fame, power or wealth nor a skin like a rhino. I do though have a desire to do good and to make the world a better place, and that is why I write. We all do what we can.

Of one thing I am absolutely certain, and it is that no MP should end their life being butchered in their surgery car park, like the late Jo Cox, and no MP should go in fear of such violence and threat. We must rightly protect our MPs from crazed killers, terrorists, death threats and the vilest intimidation. We must also protect them from vexatious prosecution, civil or criminal, for what they say in Parliament - and for this we have Parliamentary privilege. Thus empowered, thus protected, they can go about their business, which is our business. 

However, every MP now sitting knew fully well that with their ambition would come both restrictions on how they can behave in their personal lives, and political abuse. Not one sitting MP was so naive as to believe they would be immune from vituperation, anger, frustration, contumacy, criticism, argument, dislike and insult. At one time this came only from journalists writing in newspapers and periodicals, and from crowds at public meetings. Now it comes also via social media. Well, that's a challenge, but not novel or different enough to require a new degree of protection for MPs. We can't create a safe space for the political class without also enacting censorship of valid commentary and opinion, however crude, however illiterate. 

Nor can blogs such as this be fora for prolix balanced consideration. One has a reader's attention for perhaps a minute, often less, and must be both succinct and direct, employ hyperbole and emotion, to opine clearly and memorably on any issue. I've tried equivocal posts, perfectly balanced posts, kinder gentler posts and they don't work. People don't read them and they don't attract comments. 

I wrote above that I don't have a hide like a rhino, and that's why I use a pseudonym. This way I can fully preserve free speech here in my little kingdom and anyone may comment just about anything without wounding the real me. MPs have no such padding. We must ensure that their legal protection from criminal intimidation, and their safety from physical violence, is as absolute as we can make it. But we must preserve also our right to call them fatuous, vacuous talentless sheep without the imagination to run a whelk stall, should we so wish.    


wiggiatlarge said...

"But we must preserve also our right to call them fatuous, vacuous talentless sheep without the imagination to run a whelk stall, should we so wish."

Very true, but one can't help but get the feeling that the seemingly non stop drip of legislation banning it seems almost anything eventually that is not complimentary towards MPs under the guise of hate speech is the start of a form of a totalitarian state.
We are not there but it is moving that way, it seems that many areas are being attacked , altered at the same time, we are being softened up by relentless nudges in the "right" direction.
The two tier use and even promotion of the law that goes unchallenged is a good example.

DeeDee99 said...

Insulting someone (MP or not) is very different to threatening violence. It should be perfectly possible to insult MPs via social media and if they don't like it, tough. There are already laws against threatening violence, no new ones are needed.

When it comes to physical violence, or the threat of it, again there are already laws in place and there is no need for a special one specifically for MPs. I would have more respect for the anger our MPs have voiced at the intimidation Rees-Mogg faced if they had reacted the same way when a group of SNP thugs threatened violence against Mr Farage requiring the police to intervene and take him to a place of safety. They didn't: as usual, it is only their own skins they are really concerned about.

I use a pseudonym because I used to be a mid-grade civil servant and my views - particularly on the EU - didn't "chime" with the Civil Service overall.

Stephen J said...

Yes and we must also have a home secretary that will act in a fair and balanced manner when a political rival and his family have been attacked either in pursuit of a given campaign or when out with family and/or friends socially.

The current prime minister and former home secretary refused such help when asked, and as such should be removed from office, as not fit for purpose.


Edward Spalton said...

After the Chilcot report on Tony Blair's dodgy dossier and general lack of frankness about taking us to war in Iraq at the cost of British lives and many more Iraqis', it is obvious. The political class is not bothered about "fake news" or " hate speech" as such but merely to maintain their leading market position in providing it. In this, they have very keen assistants in the mainstream media who are also keen to destroy competition from the Internet. Their position is that they are "quality" journalists of noble, independent disinterestedness. The BBC with its licence to plunder the owner of every television set is the prime example here.

If,between them, they succeed in stifling independent voices, the situation with news will be the same as an American campaigner
for the National Riflemen's Association foresaw with firearms " The only armed criminals will be working for the government".

Dave_G said...

Creating new legislation to deal with issues that already have, existing legislations to cover them is laziness beyond belief and fatuous abuse of the legal system and should be stopped. Trumps rule of 'two rules out for one rule in' (or words to that effect) should be a legal requirement and any ruling that affects freedom of speech should be immediately discarded.

But politicians are often victims of their own making - having secrets that leave them exposed to manipulation/corruption etc - I mean, what on earth drives so many politicians to support the blindingly obviously corrupt EU? (amongst many other issues they currently support without any reasonable common sense?)

If politicians where honest enough to stand down when faced with BLACKMAIL - for their is no other way to describe such workings - they would receive approbation for their honesty and integrity, perhaps forgiveness for their transgressions and, potentially, regain such trust as to make them 'incorruptible' if they report those that tried to 'trespass against them' in the first place.

Politicians need to STEP UP TO THE PLATE and PROVE their worthiness before we bestow them the protections they need.

Try to identify those that deserve such respect and the list those that don't - see which list is longest.

Dave_G said...

^ tut

Oh for the ability to edit posts.... apologies for the obvious errors.

miker22 said...

I see that Anna Soubry after her frankly deranged outburst is now claiming to have received death threats, as did Cathy Newman. You wonder how genuine that all is. Locally a former councillor made some comments on facebook (I think) about his present council and was visited by two police officers, who confirmed he had not done anything illegal - they just wanted "to have a word" about his use of social media.

Anonymous said...

Those over fifty will remember when you could say just about anything you liked and you'd be either dismissed, laughed at, or draw an audience round you. A lot of people died so we could have that freedom, lot of suffering too. I remember it like it was yesterday: you'd go into town with your mum and dad and some (most often) bloke would be there ranting about some injustice or other. No plod would get involved even if they were watching - and I saw them, stood there listening like everyone else. Why? For a start they weren't politicised like they are now and the only thing that got them pushing through the crowd was if the bloke doing the ranting used bad language in front of women and children. Plod was a civvy in uniform.

We were a highly cohered society once: we had rules we all knew to which the young adjusted as they matured. We didn't therefore need thousands of laws to govern us - you can tell a society is failing when the number of laws keeps going up. Guaranteed this will end badly.


Poisonedchalice said...

A very well crafted piece R. In a previous life, you would have been a master with quill and ink. And you are, of course, right.

Anonymous said...

being on the ropes means you have to surrender or take the consequence. way of the world.}

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

They have Parliamentary immunity

That isn't enough for quite a lot of politicians and bureaucrats who don't like being challenged.

Seditious libel was repealed but it was way too useful for those who are incompetent and up to no good - so... they're scratching around for a more nuanced toolkit to stifle dissent.

As usual though the judiciary simply please / pleasure themselves.

Anonymous said...

Steve @ 7 February 2018 at 16:19

I can remember those times. I remember going up to Speakers Corner where you'd hear all sorts of people. Religious nutters, War Veterans, Middle-aged ladies with a bone to pick, and nobody gave a damn unless, as you say they used foul or abusive language. We all knew the rules and most of us abided by them. I was watching this on youtube -
and it almost reduced me to tears - this was London as I remembered in back in the 60's when I was aged between 2 and 12. I look at that and I realise just how much the pollies have utterly and completely fu*cked it all up. I wouldn't recognise London now. The past is a foreign land they say, and so it is.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said 08:53

Steve @ 7 February 2018 at 16:19

'I can remember those times...'

Thanks, in some ways we're a breed apart. We were the first generation to grow up not knowing the fear of hunger and illness. We were grateful because we knew our fathers and grandfathers had secured these things for us with their blood and their toil.