Labour MP's Twitter row rumbles on

Eric Pickles writes letter to David Wright over "scum-sucking pigs" comment.

Oh dear. The row over David Wright's Twitter outburst goes on. The Labour whip and MP for Telford has been on BBC Radio Shropshire to reiterate his defence -- which is that he didn't write the offensive tweet at all. Paul Waugh quotes him as saying:

I put up on Twitter a message linked to Barack Obama's comment in the presidential race last year about conservative policy, which is: You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. It looks like somebody, a third party, has gone into my account and made it more offensive.

I think it was a legitimate comment and, I mean, Twitter is edgy, and, you know, it provokes debate. It looks on this occasion as if it has caused a serious problem, and we need to go back and look at that.

Who exactly are these people, wandering around, hacking into Twitter accounts to make very small changes that up the offensiveness? You could be next.

It doesn't get better for Wright. (Who, in case you missed the story, tweeted -- or not -- yesterday in response to the "I've never voted Tory . . ." poster with the erudite response: "Because you can put lipstick on a scum-sucking pig, but it's still a scum-sucking pig. And cos they would ruin Britain.")

The Tory chairman, Eric Pickles, has today written an open letter to Wright:

Rather than owning up to your actions you seem to be trying to claim that your "Twitter feed" was hacked into. This explanation is simply not credible:

  • The "Tweet" was made under your name.
  • You have used similar language in the past on Twitter, including describing David Cameron as a "horrible opportunistic scumbag".
  • Immediately after the "Tweet", you posted again to say that you "must've hit a nerve", and then again that Conservatives "do get riled very easily".
  • You then decided to apologise for the "Tweet".
  • Only after all of this did you then claim that your Twitter account had been "tinkered" with.

I would be grateful if you could now stop treating people like fools.

Well, when you put it like that . . .

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.