The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

When is a social media comment fair game for the political blogosphere?

without comments

In April a UKIP candidate for election in Southend posted on his Facebook that he was a bit pissed off and intended to move back to Cambridge in August. A month later and he won election to Southend Council. He has subsequently deleted the Facebook post but for some reason is is providing a bit of a stir and I feel compelled to defend the candidate.

Like others – I had seen the post before the election. I didn’t feel compelled to blog on it because I didn’t feel it was a story that needed to be written. It isn’t as though I thought he was only a paper candidate so wouldn’t win, as those who spoke to me in the run-up to the elections, I thought UKIP would make significant gains across the borough even if they didn’t campaign hard. The national protest vote was there and coupled with the European elections then it felt as though UKIP were going to have a good day. I just felt as though it wasn’t fair to write a story based solely on a Facebook comment – and more importantly now he is a councillor – I still don’t.

Social media is a strange beast. We all post things that taken out of context can be used against us at a later date. That just seems the way of the world. Now pointing out if someone has racist tendencies or something similar is probably fair game for your political blogger. A UKIP candidate for Westborough certainly tweeted some shall we say ‘interesting’ comments a long time before he was selected as a candidate. I certainly question whether this is fair game but it probably is as it shows a history of a person. I will say though that people trawling through years of someone’s tweets shows quite some desperation. I suppose this is one thing about the lack of Lib Dem social media presence locally – it is harder for us to trip up or have comments misconstrued.

So anyway back to this particular case. A candidate (who was in reality a paper candidate) was pissed off with someone (or a selection of people) and stated that he wanted to move on. That happens but do you know what else happens? Things change. For example it is not exactly a secret that I am looking to move out of Southend. I am in the financial position now where I want to get on the property ladder and the cost of purchasing in Southend doesn’t really add up for me.

I work from home and can move either to a cheaper area of the country or I can move back down south where I have family and friends for a similar amount to what I could afford here. Still though things can change. I may stay in Southend, it is hard to predict the future. Had for example I stood and won election then I would see that as a reason to commit to the area for four years. I suspect the councillor in question may have similar feelings. This happens in every election, a paper candidate suddenly wins from nowhere and they have the choice of whether to get stuck in or whether to quietly quit within a few months. I don’t know this man from Adam but I have seen nothing to suggest that he is going to walk away now that he has been elected and I really question whether bringing up something he said before the situation changed is fair.

We all make decisions in our lives based on the facts we have at our disposal at the time. If nothing changes in my life then when I buy it will not be in Southend. However if something significant changed in my life then maybe Southend will continue being my home, who knows? Cllr. Davies may not share my political values to any significant degree but I don’t think that there should be any traction about a comment he made on Facebook two months ago that doesn’t effect anyone. Now if he did indeed go through with moving to Cambridge then it would be a story and certainly something the other parties could use to show that KIP candidates may not be committed but until that point, I think it should be off limits.

Being involved in the political blogosphere often leads to decisions to be made about what to write and what is fair comment and what isn’t. There is no question of intrusion of privacy here as it was a public comment on his Facebook but it is fair to write about it? I think my PoV is clear. My Facebook is private and set to friends only – and I even filter people out of statuses should I feel that I would prefer they not know what I am thinking. My twitter however is totally public and whenever I think about writing something that could be misconstrued then I sit there and read it and have a good think about it before I post it. I do the same when writing on this here blog.

I think we should just sit back and see what happens with regards to Cllr. Davies. I think it would be smart for him to issue a Press Release or write a letter to the editor of the Echo to clarify his position, certainly if he is planning on sticking it out. That should end any speculation that may build up. Whether he needs to or whether he should feel compelled to is another matter but once the bandwagon has started rolling then it might be wise to put the brakes on it as soon as possible but I do feel for him that his comments have resulted in several blog posts on the matter that seem to attack him on the matter, which I feel is unfair.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 10th, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Politics

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