Sunday, November 01, 2009


Name-calling, Invective, Slurs or Smears? And Tory and Labour Liars, Obviously

Heard the one about the Labour MP telling snide porkies about the Liberal Democrats and using homophobic innuendo against the Tories on the radio? Or the Tory candidate so steeped in dirty tricks that she’s called herself a nasty name and blamed it on the Liberal Democrats? I know from back when I used to be a candidate that it can be frustrating when no-one’s talking about you, but I never stooped to making up coverage. So, stand up in the last week Caroline Righton, Conservative Liar in Cornwall and, from The Westminster Hour, Denis MacShane, Labour Liar for Rotherham.

Insults have always been a part of politics – and regular readers will know that I tend to be Mr Grumpy Sweary on here quite often, so I can’t really slag people off for using ‘strong language’. But still… When I was a candidate, I used rather less fruity language, partly because I was talking to a different audience and partly because I wanted to be respectable. But I’ve always taken responsibility for the words I’ve used, even when I’ve said completely the wrong thing – and I’ve only used a mildly rude word once on TV (it was after midnight, I wasn’t a candidate at the time… But my Mum was still horrified). Look, being rude can be fun, whether it’s being sweary or being insulting. It can make a point; it can be pithier than a reasonable argument; perhaps most tellingly, being nasty to your foes can cheer up your supporters. If you’re on the receiving end, the answer should usually be, ‘So what?’: you take it on the chin, and you just look daft if you whine about an ordinary insult – which is clearly why Denis MacShane’s upped the ante, because being rude is one thing, but telling lies about people is very different.

On the down side, even the ‘harmless fun’ sort of insult doesn’t half put people off. Many people find ‘bad language’ jarring – and not just people who don’t use it in everyday situations. If someone in authority swore at me, I’d be offended, even if I’d say the same sort of thing with people I know. Swearing can be much starker out of a familiar context – or even relatively mild language (as smearing lying Tory Caroline Righton clearly knows, by pretending a Liberal Democrat was foul-mouthed). But any insult, pejorative term or just shouting someone down can be off-putting; it doesn’t have to be language you can’t use in Sunday School. It can just be mean, or untrue. It may be satisfying if you’re doing it (boy, can it be satisfying to lay in to some git), but it’s also frequently very counterproductive. Go on – ask people what they think of the baying mob at Prime Minister’s Questions each week.

Caroline Righton – The Tory Who Calls Herself Names To Get Attention

Caroline Righton’s bizarre and pathetic attention-seeking behaviour has been much blogged-about in the last week since the story was broken by the lovely Matt Davies. In short, the just as lovely Stephen Gilbert hopes to become Liberal Democrat MP for the new Cornish seat of St. Austell and Newquay, and decided to go to a local regeneration meeting rather than a radio programme. Conservative candidate Caroline Righton, the attention-seeking behaviour being a bit of a clue here, decided on the press opportunity rather than the getting things done, so Steve reported this difference of views on Twitter, and not in Ms Righton’s favour. The Tory was understandably miffed, and told her supporters as much.

That’s where most political stories would have ended.

Unfortunately, Ms Righton decided this didn’t get her enough attention – so she made something up. And, in the way of bizarre attention-seeking fantasists everywhere, she decided that everyone had to be sorry for her and excoriate Steve because, oh woe, how terrible, she was the ‘victim’. One snag: no ‘victimising’. So she made it up. When she circulated Steve’s Tweet to her supporters, a word reported as “D***h***d!!!” was added to the end of it. ‘Look! That horrid Liberal Democrat said a beastly word about me! How uncouth!’ was the underlying message.

The trouble is, Twitter’s an easy to check public posting place, and the only place the “D***h***d!!!” appears is when Ms Righton republished Steve’s Tweet. And that wasn’t the only lie – she also claimed, explicitly, that she couldn’t read Stephen Gilbert’s Tweets:
“I was sent the comment below by a constituent who is privy to my opposition's Twitter emissions, which I am not. Apparently his asterisk'd comment is highly abusive.”
But surely, Ms Righton, you do have a Twitter account yourself, and Steve is one of only six people you’re following on it? So that was another proven and clumsy lie, wasn’t it?

Lots of politicians lie. Lots of them throw insults. But Ms Righton is the first I can remember hearing about that’s lied about being insulted because she’s so desperate for attention.

A week later, she’s still not apologised for smearing Steve with her own foul mouth – or perhaps I should say foul fingers. Nor has David Cameron, after Steve’s office wrote to him to confront him with the evidence of his candidate’s lying smear. What she has done, though, is got her staff to delete her Wikipedia page – twice – against Wikipedia rules, evidently petrified that this story will appear on it.

She makes things up… She’s desperate to get attention… She says, ‘it wasn’t me, it was him!’… She’s sticks her fingers in her ears and pretends nothing’s happened when she’s caught out… She tries to cover up facts about herself… Come on, Mums and Dads reading, this is familiar behaviour, isn’t it? Astoundingly, according to that Wikipedia entry that Ms Righton was so desperate to censor out of existence, she’s around 52 years old. I know Wikipedia’s not always reliable, so is it possible they’ve misplaced a decimal point?

Top posts to read on Ms Righton’s made-up woes have been recommended by Lib Dem Voice and particularly well-documented by Andrew Reeves (here, here, here and here) and Jeremy Rowe (here, with the rather brilliant comment, “That Righton’s a wrongun,” here and here). Or, if you want to do something positive, why not just get in touch with Steve Gilbert and offer to help, perhaps with a monthly donation like mine? Otherwise this lying fantasist might be elected purely because the Tories have vastly more money to pour in.

Denis MacShane – The Failed Former Minister Who’ll Make Up Any Nasty Horrible Thing

I saw on Lynne Featherstone’s blog earlier that she’s to be on Radio Four’s The Westminster Hour again tonight. Suddenly, I remembered and iPlayered (dash quickly, it’ll be gone soon) last week’s edition. The three political guests were Lib Dem Paul Holmes, Tory Roger Helmer and smug, hectoring, hypocritical, nasty git Denis MacShane.

Yes, that was an insult, but one based on factual observation. The sort of insult I try not to indulge in is nasty smears and lying (yes, I like making things up, but not misrepresenting people: if you see something preposterous on this blog in single quotation marks, ‘like this,’ I’m making it up, usually for comic effect. If you see something preposterous in double marks, “like this,” it’s a proper quotation). Mr MacShane, on the other hand, doesn’t summarise someone’s views in a way that makes them look silly, but just makes nasty, slimy accusations with no basis in fact.

Take last week’s The Westminster Hour. Women MPs are being discussed, and the BBC, with no sense of irony, have asked three male MPs to discuss them. A good political attack point is made by Mr MacShame; if David Cameron says he’ll have one-third women in Cabinet, why are there so few women in his Shadow Cabinet, when he has power to choose them, too? “The Conservative Party remains, I’m afraid, a Bullingdon boys’ own club,” he concludes, bringing in a bit of old-fashioned class hate (ironic, in his voice) and hypocritical faux-regret (watch for more) to finish his evidently pre-prepared ‘answer’. “Denis has been reading the briefing from Labour central office,” observes the Tory. “I used to write it,” Mr MacShameless concedes – then, realising he’s just given himself away, sneers:
“Today, David Cameron could promote women to senior positions in the Shadow Cabinet. He, I’m afraid, only likes boys.”
Roger Helmer was right to call that “an outrageous line”. Yep: caught out as a Labour spin-poisoner, Mr MacShame spits out a smear that translates as ‘they’re all public schoolboys, so they’re all bumming each other, and probably your kids’. Did he really get away with that? Yes he did. If it wasn’t a Labour git saying it in a desperate attempt at class war, but a Tory saying it when caught out, imagine the howls of “Homophobia!” from Labour. Well, I don’t have any reason to believe Mr MacShame’s genuinely homophobic – he’s probably just an opportunistic panderer to the bigot vote. Not better, is it?

Next up, Paul Holmes quotes Jo Swinson’s barnstorming speech a few years ago against all-women shortlists, and talks about Jo heading up a taskforce to help find and encourage people to stand. What does Mr MacSmear toss in from the back?
“Nobody wants to be a woman candidate in the Liberal Democrats. They’re a very anti-women party.”
Has it occurred to him that, on average, women may be even more put off than men by politics full of sneering, jeering arrested schoolboys saying pointless, malicious, lies about each other and screaming like a zoo in the House of Commons? Who would want to be part of all that?

Still, at least Paul got the better of him with a genuine suggestion rather than just the same old ‘Labour did things by rigid, control-freak top-down machinery, so everyone else must too’ – because after a dozen years of control-freakery, we’ve seen how well Labour doing everything by diktat has worked out – in pointing out that, as well as the Lib Dem internal measures to encourage and support candidates from the bottom up, the big changes in women’s representation have taken place in countries which have switched to proportional representation:
“When you’re selecting a panel of candidates rather than one, you don’t go for the safe, white, male stereotype – you go for a broader panel.”
Despite Paul hitting back with positive facts, I can’t believe Mr MacShame will stop. It wasn’t a one-off, you know; last week was just the most egregious example, but I’ve heard him at it again and again, the git. To pick a time when he wasn’t smearing a Lib Dem, did you hear him saying Gary McKinnon’s Asperger Syndrome was a sham (what, he’s a doctor now? Or just a knee-jerk smearing liar)? Mr McKinnon’s mother accused Mr MacShane of “gutter” tactics and “an absolutely awful, cheap shot”. They’re his speciality.

On tonight’s edition, as I said, Lynne Featherstone MP guests for the Liberal Democrats. I hope Mr MacShame is back on, and calls her ‘anti-men’.

And that Lynne pulls his lungs out.

In other news, the Governator has sworn at his Democratic opponents and tried to pretend he didn’t when caught out. Does he follow Caroline Righton on Twitter?

Update: I feel so guilty. I missed out the SNP’s smears. So here you go

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