Friday, 9 April 2010

The Question of Our Online Past

The removal of Labour's Moray candidate< Stuart MacLennan over comments he made last yearon Twitter whilst a student leads to an interesting dilemma for current and future campaigns. Candidates above a certain age don't have a history on online digital communication from their youth.

Indeed it is possibly candidates around my age who started to use email at University with our tiny allowance on the server that may well be the eldest to possibly have some of our youthful comments retained for posterity on some server or someone's hard drive. Not counting University my online presence goes back for over 13 years, there is a lot of backlog. I've been quite respectful about comments I've made about others, either on my own spaces or in comments on others. But I know many others are not so careful in the language that they use Stuart being one example, but many of my student friends involves in politics of all parties are not always a careful in what they post through Facebook, Twitter or whatever.

It leads to the question are such comments about other parties a new phenomenon or it is merely that the new generation converse in public rather than behind closed doors like their predecessors? The thing is having played chess in the Surbiton club for a while, or the occasion short mat bowls event in a working mans club I've heard the same sort of language used about opponents by Tory grandees and Labour politicians, I'm also not excepting my own party some of the discussions over a pint at a conference hotel can be bawdy as well. The thing is these conversations have always taken place, I suspect even in the Cabinet Room at Downing Street, they just haven't appeared on Twitter.

People use language in different ways, the generations communicate in different ways. Stuart had apologised for those comments made before he was a candidate, that should be enough. But Labour have gone to the extent of sacking him, possibly after he had gained the 10 signatures required to nominate him and will now be seeking a swift installation of a new candidate before close of nominations.

If this really is the first general election of the Internet age the party hierarchies really need to under the 7 ages of the children of the age of the Web. They are going to make many comments in public through social media that in the past were confined to closed doors. But they develop into an age of respectability (possibly) want to get more involved in political life and maybe even stand for election. Very few under 40s do not have a traceable online history, much of that is not the homogenised, controlled outpourings of some of our senior politicians who are trying to keep up rather than stay ahead.

Guess what the future is here.

We have people who have gone on uncontrolled, uncontained, unchecked, online rants in the name of their party, who now are seeking selection for that party. They haven't alwaysbeen careful with the language used and quite possibly may even have been tame compared to others in the discussion. However, if they are contrite and promise to be more careful in the future why should that hold them back?

People are wanting honesty in their politicians. Stuart MacLennan could have easily gone and deleted his Twitter account making is less easy, though not impossible, to find. He didn't and is now paying the price for such honesty not from the electorate but from his own party.


  1. The bloke (whose name I've forgotten already) was just a cardboard cut-out in Moray anyway....easy to sack him. Would have been a different story in a marginal...

  2. Liked your post - Think I'll blog on this too - no time at the moment.

    Lots of food for thought.

    FWIW I think he should stand down/be sacked whatever - I'm a Labour Tweeter and yes I followed him, and I think he followed me.

    I have no recollection of him tweeting inappropriately, but it all looks convincing.

  3. nothern heckler looking at the extent of his comments you are propably right but the underlying trend will affect of lot of young party activists at some point in the future if this trend continues. That I feel is a worrying sign.