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Ramsay Jones: Online vitriol directed at politicians should not ‘come with the territory’

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Sometimes in these Monday Muses I like to shoot the breeze and see where we might end up, like a leaf caught in an autumn wind, twisting and turning to eventually land at a conclusion.

On other occasions I prefer to shoot against prevailing wisdom and ponder what might happen if the winds were to shift.

I try, and for the most part manage, to be fair and consider the issues on their merits. To realise that there are at least two sides to every story. Often more.

I strive to promote or to denigrate the arguments which people make, rather than attack them as individuals.

But this week, my dear regular reader, I’ve had enough.

Welcome to the Monday Moan.

I write this en route to Glasgow to play in a cricket match. I say play, but since my days of being any good with leather and willow are decades gone, generally stand around encouraging others may prove to be a better description. Indeed, the last time I donned my whites was a few years ago when playing for No10 versus the Ministry of Defence.

Ramsay Jones.

I remember it well. For in my rush to be somewhere else after the match I left in my cricket togs and forgot to pick up my suit trousers. Cue a frantic email to colleagues the next morning in the hope that someone had picked them up.

Except I managed to email the entire population of Downing Street. Including the Prime Minister and Samantha Cameron. Cue a chorus of “Ramsay where’s your troosers?” for days following wherever I went.

I digress. This game is for charity. It is being arranged by a good friend of mine in memory of his dead brother. It is to raise money for a cause which brings together teachers and pupils in mainstream education with those with disabilities both here in the UK and in such places as Sierra Leone.

I mention this because it has become the latest example of how, for some sad souls, nothing is off limits when it comes to pouring vitriol at politicians.

One prominent Scottish politico is supporting the event. Who they are is irrelevant. But they took to Twitter last week to back the match and urge support.

 

Within minutes, in fact within seconds, the post was seized by a few dullards to sound off a torrent of political and personal abuse.

They tried to hijack a charitable cause for their own narrow minded vendettas. For them, disabled children mattered not one jot.

And this is not an isolated incident. The timelines of most of our leading politicians are abused in this way.


 “Poised at their keyboards ready to unleash their hatred”


It doesn’t matter what the issue is. Nor the time of day. For these mindless few seem to spend all their waking hours poised at their keyboards ready to unleash their hatred at a moment’s notice. Whatever else they are doing, the alert sounds that politician X or Y has tweeted and they are ready. Cooking dinner? Let it burn. I’ve got some bile to type. Making love? Stop right now. I’ve got this tweet to send. Mind you, I suspect that making love for them still leaves one hand free.

I really pity them. They crave attention yet hide behind assumed names. They want to scream at the world yet have but a handful of followers. They are people who, if they were embroiled in a real debate, would be out of their depth in a puddle.

So does it matter, I hear you ask.

Yes. It does.

Because politicians are people. Being abused on a daily basis is not “just part of the job”. It does not “go with the territory”. They, like us, have feelings. The vast majority of them are ordinary people trying to make a difference. Yes, they are in the public spotlight and yes, they expect criticism. But not like this.

And if those who dare to hold elected office are targeted in this way, then how on Earth can we attract more to do the same? What message are we sending to others who could contribute to our body politic and make a difference to our world, but who take one look at the abuse and say No Thanks?

So here’s my plan.

I will not reply or like or retweet the morons who inhabit cyberspace. I will ignore then and leave them to their own virtual world of vitriol. I will let them wallow in anonymity and instead I will do this.

I will pick a politician from each party and send them the opposite. A simple message of encouragement. To keep making their arguments. To keep debating the issues. To keep on trying to do what we elect then to do. Right or wrong. Right or left. To reassure them that the sad, mad and self righteous few do not speak for us.

And yes, let’s bowl them the occasional googly. See if we can invoke reverse spin and even the odd bouncer. But only to try to catch them out. Not to knock them out.

Because to do otherwise is just not cricket.

So I invite you to join me. It’s Hug a Politician Day.

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