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Thursday, January 05, 2012


it is as hard to get worked up about dianne abbott’s, labour mp for hackney, ‘white people’ comment as it was to get outraged by aiden burley, tory mp, being in the same room as some friends giving a nazi salute.
regardless of the circumstances – abbot trying to have a nuanced discussion on twitter, burley at a stag do – what both show is that being an mp isn’t a guarantee of common sense or political sense, and that people are likely to do stupid things and in today’s 24-hour constant coverage of everything that anyone remotely known does being instantly newsworthy both become something larger than they are.
we’ll dismiss burley – if only because david cameron took swift action removing him as a parliamentary private secretary and ordering a fuller investigation.
ed miliband, leader of the labour party (in case you had forgotten) very swiftly ordered abbott to apologise. which she did claiming it was taken out of context, though quite how you expect context in 140 characters is something of a mystery to me. (as an aside has ‘out of context’ replaced ‘doing research’ as the get out of jail card of choice?)
the problem with diane abbott’s tweet is her anti-racist stance. her somewhat sweeping generalisation may point to an underlying dislike she has for white people – in general of course as i am sure some of her best friends are … well you get the picture. or it may just highlight how difficult it is to discuss certain topics without falling into verbal traps, after all would there have been a problem if she had said ‘ruling class’ or even ‘british ruling class’ (after all that is who she really meant). perhaps the episode goes to show that on twitter you shouldn’t try for complex ideas.
of course the twitterstorm that followed threw up lots of interesting viewpoints and highlighted that while twitter is useful and fun – it is still not a great gauge of right or wrong, the citizen journalist is often just as wrong or as biased as the media they often decry.
should dianne abbott lose her job? no. does it undermine her when she speaks about racism? just a little bit.

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