Thursday, 1 March 2012

Not every one in a public story is public property

Eric Joyce has made the news again today. I'm not going to be linking to any of the articles and here is the reason why.

The reason he has made the news was that he is accused of an affair with an at the time 17 year-old student at one of the high schools in his constituency. Someone who was working in his constituency office. She also co-chaired the debate at her high school, one of those at which I stepped in as agent because our Lib Dem candidate was working at the time and unable to get time off.

That was where I first met the teenager in question. Like Eric Joyce I was one of her friends on Facebook and mutual followers on Twitter and this is where the reason I am not linking to the story kicks in.

The Tabloid has used Facebook pictures of an intern working in an MPs campaign office and Tweets between the two as evidence of an affair. I think of all the young party activists who appear in campaign shots across all parties across Facebook all the time. Many of our younger members love to bag as many pictures as possible with the big names when they come to campaign, so it is hardly surprising that pictures of a young campaigner with big names appears on Facebook. She was a keen, politically knowledgeable and active teenager.

Like Eric I also asked via Twitter how the result of her exams went when they came through, I do the same for anyone looking forward to exam results on my feed every year, especially those I've met and know. I also wished her a happy birthday when she finally turned 18 after the election, one thing that emerged during the question on votes at 16.

However, there is an accusation that the affair has been going on for the last 2 years. But, the young lady in question has the right to move on without the baggage of such a story being around any current or future relationship she may have. I notice today that her Facebook profile has been taken down, her Twitter account has been protected for some time. Whatever the interest in the story this is someone who is still only 19 that has been plastered across the papers today, this is someone who through the interconnetiveness of social media has maintained friendships with a mixture of political people.

Yet this is someone who feels hounded today by the tabloid press.

While the rich and famous attempt to hide behind super injunctions young people can be preyed on by the press. In this case there are quotes from members of the Falkirk Constituency Labour Party. It is likely that the identity of that nineteen year old was given to the press by one of them in a final attempt to push the resignation or at least deselection of the MP. But in doing so they have made her collateral damage, seemingly without thinking of the consequences that have unravelled today. As someone who knows her reading my twitter stream today has made horrid reading.

As Johann Lamont the leader of the Labour in Scotland says

 "If these reports are true, [Eric Joyce] is a man who has abused his position of power and authority."

He alone has the case to answer to if he found to have abused his position of authority. It is not open season to spread lies, or even just dig scurrilously for any fragment of truth, if there is any, and potentially ruin someone whose live has moved on. It is not right to have slain down a 19 year-old as collateral damage.

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