David Wright should apologise quickly so we can move on – but the Tories’ faux indignation is equally unedifying

16th February, 2010 4:25 pm

By Alex Smith / @alexsmith1982

Who’d’ve thought one tweet could cause such a media storm?

When Labour MP David Wright apparently tweeted as part of the “I’veNeverVotedTory” campaign that he would never vote for the Conservatives because they are “scum-sucking pigs”, I’m sure few people expected quite such resultant furore.

Wright Tweet

That tweet has now disappeared, but it is archived by Tweetminster. Hypotheses about whether it’s possible to edit Tweets after they’re sent abound. Wright says that his Twitter account was tampered with, but – irrespective – a couple of days ago, he used similar language:

Wright Tweet

So it’s not a first offence.

There are a couple of lessons for all politicians in this. First, as elected officials, it is not appropriate that you use the type of language that everyday punters can use freely; don’t say anything on Twitter or Facebook that you wouldn’t want to read on the front pages the next day.

And second, it is not always necessary – or welcome – that you jump on every online grassroots campaign that spontaneously develops. As I wrote in Progress magazine last month, leave the negative campaigning to surrogates.

Of course, what David Wright apparently wrote was hugely inappropriate. I was asked on to BBC Radio 5 to defend him; I refused, because his words were misjudged and unduly rude.

But it has to be said that the Tories are gtting unnecessarily worked up about this. It’s not smeargate, and it’s not, as Tory Radio put it, “taking politics to a new low”. Less than twelve months after the expenses scandal, that’s silly hyperbole.

More unedifying still is Eric Pickles’ indignance about the whole thing. He’s written an angrily worded letter, saying that Wright’s words constitute “the sort of offensive behaviour that turns people off voting”. He might well be right, but spinning the story further in the media at every available opportunity – as he has been on Sky News in the last hour – and that constant focus on cheap point scoring are also the types of thing that turn people off politics.

This has already gone on too long. I agree with Will Straw on Left Foot Forward: David Wright should come out from behind his blackberry and apologise as quickly as possible, so we can move on to more pressing matters.



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