Bullying blogs and flying Blair

How blogs can be used by bullies, online political campaigning and a rational Stephen Pollard...

Iain Dale kicked off the week by hosting the first ever episode of the internet TV programme ‘Blogger TV’ through 18DoughtyStreet.com. Guests included the blogger of Recess Monkey and Labour Home, Alex Hilton, who featured in Monday morning’s MediaGuardian. The programme is well worth a watch as it discusses “bullying” on blogs and explores the suggestion that people are more likely to be insulting to other users online but would never dream of doing this face-to-face.

Described as a “grassroots political guru”, Alex Hilton has recently been hired by Hilary Benn, in the run-up to the election for the deputy leadership of the Labour party. John Kerry gained support in the 2004 US presidential election through MoveOn.org which has lent some ideas to Benn’s new web strategy. Interactivity will be the primary focus on his new site – a more conversational approach to politics. His site will be launched closer to the election.

Dizzy did a little digging after a cabinet office report was released which suggests the Government is spending over £200 per person on IT. This figure would be far higher if you removed children, the elderly and the unemployed from the calculation.

An off-the-cuff remark from Liam Fox was picked up by Guido Fawkes after a press briefing this week. It is alleged Fox made a suggestion that Poland and Hungary should have their NATO memberships suspended because their defence budgets are too small.

At Incoherent Thoughts there is a poignant reminder of the effect of the latest US attacks in Somalia.

It remains unclear whether or not any of the US’s intended targets have been killed in a series of bombings in the troubled African state.

The global politics blog Whirled View has an interesting story on the outsourcing of US foreign policy in relation to this week’s announcement of the new Iraqi petroleum law.

In a fine example of what blogs do best, Stephen Pollard, who has managed to get his hands on an email written by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, picks at Jeremy Bowen’s analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He says: “If this is what passes for high-level analysis at the BBC, is it any wonder its reporting is so poisonous?” But its reporting isn’t poisonous Stephen and many in the blogosphere will no doubt attack your rationale if that's the right word.

In a year when the growth of blogging can only spiral Ellee Seymour looks at how bloggers are using advertising to make a quick buck from their online musings. This will increasingly become the case if British politicians follow the trend of their American colleagues.

And for anyone wanting to know just how much they will contribute to the global carbon footprint in 2007, Mark Lynas tells of a new book which gives you all the tools you need to calculate this. Having said this, cynics may point out that Tony Blair did make it clear this week that he wouldn’t be flying any less this year. Will you?

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.