In defence of Stuart MacLennan
I didn’t ever expect to be writing this. For my 5 years of Edinburgh student politics, Stuart MacLennan was almost always on the other side. Little surpise our other contemporary Harry “Tory Bear” Cole described him as “resonable” on Sky today. Stuart was the top trending topic on Twitter in the UK today. Why? Well, basically because he swore a lot. In public.
Wait, I hear you say: Stuart said some really offensive things! Well, let’s have a look. Three comments keep getting repeated: one about how he called older people “coffin dodgers”, the word “chavs”, and one about how a fairtrade banana didn’t taste any good, and he’d rather have one grown by slaves. On the last, does anyone seriously think he supports slavery? No. Ok, does anyone seriously have a problem with highlighting the existence of the contemporary slave trade through a (admitedly not very funny) joke? No? Ok, then let’s move on.
“Chav” is, I think, an offensive word which perpetuates clasist discrimination. But unfortunately most people my age use it – and I’m willing to bet the Sun journos who wrote the story do too.
That leaves “coffin dodgers”. Right, so, this is a little derogatory too. But it’s hardly a sacking offense. Other than that, he seems pretty much to have called celebrities and politicians various rude words – twat, dick, bastard – and cunt. So was he sacked for saying nasty things about other people? Really? “Labour candidate sacked for dissing Lib Dem leader”? If they did that, most Labour candidates, including several cabinet members, would be gone. Some people find the word ‘cunt’ offensive. Personally, I think the perpetuation of the notion that it is more offensive than words referring to the male genitalia overly sexualises women and so think people should be willing to use it much more. Many feminists I respect disagree, but no one seems to have made the specific complaint about him using the word once or twice, so I really don’t think that’s the point.
So, the objection really seems to be that when he said these various things about people, he used swear words. Well, what the fuck? People – or, rather, papers – always claim that they want politics without the spin. But when they get it, they demand a scalp. They want candidates who are real people, but when they get them, they don’t like what they see. How many Sun journalists don’t swear? How many people in this country don’t swear? How many of us have never said anything stupid that we regret?
If we demand people who run in elections clean up their use of social media, then social media will become sanitised. If we insist that every tweet is carefully considered, then we can consider this the end of politics 3.0. How many candidates have purged old blogs, Facebook posts and tweets today? Soon, twitter will become another channel on which party offices broadcast their message of the day. Then we will all lose out.
Stuart’s tweets make him look like a bit of a tit. But if Labour sacked candidates for that…