Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Mud-slinging, muck-spreading and muck-raking

Partisan vitriol and hyperbole is run-of-the-mill stuff in politics, and it's one of the main reasons why our elected officials are generally held in such low esteem.

With the emergence of numerous social media networks the motive to get your voice heard is now combining with the urge to shout ever-louder to get a message across, which in turn encourages others to use all means at their disposal in attempts to get a charge to stick.

So it was almost inevitable that the opportunity provided by a tweeting Reading councillor forced to resign as a lead councillor would 'grow legs'.

In the latest development Cllr Swaine has been suspended from the LibDems pending an internal  investigation. Party activist site LibDemVoice records the news: 'What not to Tweet, part 94'.

But this was itself only ever likely to be used by opponents to pour additional fuel on the fire.

Chair of Reading Greens, Adrian Windisch, comments that he was "surprised that it took the regional party to suspend him, not the local one," although it's probably fair to say he's more familiar with disiplinary procedures in his own party than those in others.

And one Labour election manager uses the occasion to offer some insider 'dirt' under the guise of asking several seemingly reasonable questions.

Tony Jones describes the suspension as a 'penalty' which usually lasts 14 days. Then he jumps in with both feet to attack what he describes as a 'void of leadership' and stir up speculation of a poisonous electoral pact between the coalition partners.

However Jane Griffiths also offers reliable gossip, and she says only one Labour candidate standing in the local elections thinks the original remark was actually racist - by pure coincidence it's the same one Tony Jones is responsible for!

Jane then follows up with biting criticism of the news policy of the local Reading Post newspaper, suggesting the close personal relationship between the editor and members of the local Labour heirarchy indicates a connection where their mutual interests are artificially contriving to keep the story alive and in its' pages, to thereby help the opposition's election bid with a steady flow of new and supposedly-favorable content.

Perhaps so, as the unsigned Reading Post report quotes Labour leader Cllr Jo Lovelock, who argued in Council without any apparent trace of irony to insist the alleged racism in the 103 character tweet "really did go beyond the pale."

She then ramped up the story another notch to demand Cllr Swaine's resignation - using the Ali G joke hasn't inspired so much outrage since the late Queen Mum directed it at the Duke of Edinburgh!

But balance was provided by RBC's Conservative leader Cllr Andrew Cumpsty, who intervened in the spat to accuse Labour of playing partisan games. He said her response looked more like a "slur, hypocrisy and double standards" when placed alongside the multiple occasions when she personally defended acknowledged racist remarks within her party's own ranks.

Labour activist Richard McKenzie lets the cat out of the bag.

He explains that Labour couldn't defeat the coalition over its' budget proposals, so have decided to trump up the allegations and try to link the exaggerated outrage to feelings aroused by official policy.

And in a clear indication of his own lack of imagination and willingness to prejudge the pending investigation, he attempts to hammer home his preferred message by attaching the prefix 'disgraced' to his opponent's name three times in that single post - there's nothing like jumping to conclusions for self-affirmation!
 
Cllr Swaine himself first rose to attention as the publisher of 'scurrillous' satire on the popular and controversial muckspReading site. He has been an avid participator in, and beneficiary of, the social media revolution. But as the circle turned again his confrontational and witty style clearly started to conflict with the duties of the position he'd grown to attain.

So it raises an eybrow that his replacement in the RBC cabinet as Lead Councillor for Environment and Sustainability, Cllr Ricky Duveen, is able to wryly note his expectations of advancement never amounted to taking up such 'an exalted role' as being responsible for waste management and street cleaning (among other things) in the borough.

He says, "its pretty much rubbish from here on in!"


Oranjepan says:
Cllr Duveen will have his work cut out if he takes it into his brief to also clean up the general tone of local political debate...

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