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By Jo Phillips

By Jo Phillips

Muppets and Morons

Jo Phillips questions the calibre of some of the political candidates who are seeking office.

Politicians are held in pretty low public esteem but when the leader of a political party has to warn its candidates against using social media after they’ve had a few drinks, you have to wonder at the calibre of those seeking office in the first place.

Richard Tice was happy enough, at least superficially, for his party Reform to give a new political home to that paragon of thoughtful, considered comment Lee Anderson. That’s the same Anderson, former vice chairman of the Conservative party, who said migrants unhappy at living on the Bibby Stockholm barge could eff off back to France and who claimed London and its mayor Sadiq Khan were controlled by Islamists. Those comments weren’t made on social media after a couple of drinks but in interviews with a national newspaper and on national television.  

Tice is correct in saying that Reform doesn’t have a monopoly on muppets and morons, they are plentiful across the political spectrum. However there is something slightly chilling in his warning which suggests it’s OK to hold views on race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality that could be offensive, but keep them to yourself. In other words, don’t get caught.

Meanwhile, some business groups have taken to providing a code of conduct advising people how to behave at social functions.

Really? After decades of dreadful food, appalling jokes, terrible clothes and diabolical dancing it has to be spelled out that “unwelcome sexual advances” and “sexist, racist, homophobic or other discriminatory jokes” are unacceptable. One organisation told guests that “any boisterous, lewd or offensive behaviour, including sexually explicit or offensive language, materials or conduct” could lead to perpetrators being expelled from events and banned in future. Nothing about facing disciplinary action, denied promotion or bonuses. Again, this seems to ignore the fact that such behaviour should be totally and utterly unacceptable and such measures are more about protecting corporate reputations than changing cultures. As one lawyer put it, ‘They have to be seen to be taking steps so if somebody behaves badly, they can say we took all reasonable steps to try to prevent this happening.’

Elsewhere in the neanderthal world there will be those who decry what used to be called ‘political correctness gone mad’ but is now known as ‘woke’. The chaps that like a bit of ‘harmless banter’ like those in the police who thought it was amusing to call a colleague ‘the rapist’. That colleague was Wayne Couzens who kidnapped and murdered Sarah Everard. David Carrick, a serial rapist also with the Met, got away with years of sexual offences because his colleagues turned a blind eye. We all do it to an extent, it’s particularly tough for younger employees and women to call out their colleagues and in social settings it takes guts to be the party pooper when things become offensive. But it’s going to take a damn sight more than a code of conduct to stop people behaving badly and the Reform party might be better to think carefully about whether potential candidates who can’t be trusted with a mobile phone could actually be trusted with anything serious like someone’s vote.

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