A couple of days ago, I was moved to make a Facebook status comment “So long Danczuk and thanks for all the er… er…” It immediately collected some comments of a similar but stronger nature, and then this…
Which as you can see, gave me pause for thought. What does negative political commentary do? How far are personal attacks valid, and where do they become abusive? And from a pragmatic point of view, what affect do they have? I had been worried about the amount of negative articles and comments about the Labour Party in the press and online – until I saw this, by a Conservative Party member slagging off Theresa May…
And you know what, it didn’t make me any more anti-May, it just made me think the blogger concerned is a vindictive person with an axe to grind. Partly, I think, because the criticisms of her actions and policies are peppered with insults about the way she looks and carries herself but, it did made me realise that we shouldn’t worry too much about those few in the Labour Party who keep firing off tantrums about Jeremy Corbyn, the new membership and the shift to the left they have brought about.
But while all this is going on, my town is getting seriously re-decorated. We’ve had huge problems here due to extensive government cuts to services and year-on-year cuts to local government funding now amounting to around £20m – whilst landlords and property speculators have found our town a prime target for profiteering in the housing market. As a result, people are very angry that our MP, Amber Rudd, has been busy being Home Secretary and shown no inclination to tackle our problems in Westminster. Rather, she has repeatedly voted for policies like the Bedroom Tax that make our plight worse.
Hastings has responded with fly-posting and a prolific graffiti campaign – but what good does
“AMBER RUDD SHAME ON YOU”
do? It’s an outlet for anger, but does nothing to tell non-voters or Tory voters what they need to do or why. This one’s a bit better
“AMBER RUDD? SHAME ON YOU”
Just the addition of the question mark makes it less of a personal attack. Now, it’s criticising Tory voters rather than Rudd herself.
Still not much in the way of a message though. People who have plenty of money, and rely on corporate newspapers or the BBC for news, may not know why so many in Hastings are angry with our MP, and that won’t tell them. Here’s one with an actual message:
Just the addition of the word “evict” tells us why the writer is angry. Being poor and trying to hang onto a home in this town is both difficult and frightening. This message reminds us that, via the ballot box, we could have genuine revenge, and go a long way to solving the problem.
What I’d really like to see though, is more images with a detailed policy statement visible, like this…
It’s daring, it’s funny, and it doesn’t give the council yet more expense in the form of a cleaning up job.
But what about this…
It is true there is a reason for that little tash. At the Tory party conference last year, Rudd’s suggestion that businesses should be required to produce lists of their non-British employees is right out of the fascist handbook. But still, someone who didn’t know she’d said that, or why it was so dangerous, wouldn’t get the point of the tash. Perhaps it doesn’t matter though. Perhaps the idea is to rouse up the angry to go and vote against Rudd. I do worry though, that it might inspire Tories to more effort in her defence – because, to re-iterate David Barry’s point about Mr Danczuk, it is very likely that Rudd is vulnerable. She’s the daughter of a powerful business family who, after various failures in business, got shunted into politics. Her politics are very right-wing which, as US political scientists have noted, can suggest an insecure and defensive person. She told the Financial Times at the start that she found Hastings depressing, and had taken it on only because ‘it’s winnable’ and convenient for London. She knows she’s unpopular here, and must be feeling it. Are we mocking the afflicted? Would we be better to stick to positives about individuals, and debates about policy?
… on the other hand, this is the woman who called fracking the low-carbon option and slapped a tax on solar energy, while her family appeared to be doing very nicely out of fossil-fuel related investments, encouraged sanctions on benefit claimants whilst her investments grew in hedge funds and off-shore investments, the woman who claimed to stand for womens’ rights, and then ignored the WASPI women, promised to pressure our Labour council to stop the cuts and closures forced by Tory policies, whilst winking at similar cuts and closures in Tory councils in our area… chances are, it’s all a game to her, and she knows exactly why we’re all so angry.
But if I had three hands, I’d also offer up Corbyn’s exhortation to a kinder politics. Try this one – warming and happy-making…
And don’t forget to go out and vote for a real, local MP for Hastings and Rye on June 8th, one who really understands our problems, so we won’t need to get so angry next time.