Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson apologises for ‘insensitive’ tweet

A swift retraction by Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson of this tweet, reacting to the news David Cameron has cancelled his landmark speech on Europe as a result of the hostage crisis in Algeria:

graham watson tweet

Immediately condemned as ‘clearly sick and offensive’ by Nick Clegg’s spokesman, Graham has now issued this apology:

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Breathtaking.

  • I do not see the original posting as offensive as much as a statement of fact. When western governments get involved in other countries we have to expect that our activities will be interpreted by others in ways we did not expect but should have done.

  • Why is it offensive? Surely the point he is making is that by cancelling the speech, Cameron is letting terrorism rule his behaviour rather than carrying on as normal – a common theme in the 80s with regards to Irish terrorism (that it would be a victory for the terrorists if peoples’ everyday behaviour became altered).

    Why is it clearly sick and offensive? Someone please explain.

  • Because you don’t go suggesting that when terrorists make trouble for your political opponent, you are in there applauding the terrorists.

  • “Letting terrorism rule his behaviour”? I’m not a supporter of Mr Cameron, but surely responding to a notable incident involving British citizens is what a Prime Minister is expected to do. Sticking one’s head in the sand and pretending that nothing is happening wouldn’t be a sign of bravery but of stupidity. If Mr Cameron were to say “Algeria? Never heard of the place!” he’d be justly denounced for not caring what happens to Britons abroad. You can’t put the Prime Minister (whatever party he or she belongs to) in the double bind of denouncing him as weak if he seems to care and cold-hearted if he doesn’t.

  • Even IF Graham Watson ( or any other minor LD politician) wanted to make the point that Cameron was responding inappropriately, a simple scoreline leaves rather too much leeway for misinterpretation. He was right to eat humble pie, and should now leave it to others to comment.

  • Martin Pierce 18th Jan '13 - 7:47am

    Why does Graham Watson represent Gibraltar in the European Parliament when Gibraltar isn’t part of the EU?

  • @Martin Pierce, the EU covers the member states and their European territories, therefore including Gibraltar (but not Jersey, which has a different position to that of a colony). It is included in the South-West region of the UK after protests from Gibraltarians, that they were the only EU citizens not represented in the EU parliament.

  • @David, but out of the 60 million UK citizens, on any given day, literally tens of thousands die, many of them abroad, and a smaller number as victims of crime. Why is it particularly important to be “sensitive” to family members of those who are in the newspapers? Isn’t this just about news management, they don’t want the Cameron-as-Churchill pictures getting knocked off the front page if something bad (even worse than now) happens in Algeria?

  • I find it breathtaking that some posters can defend the crass statement by Graham Watson. Anyone who doesn’t find the original statement offensive might consider it’s impact had the deaths taken place in central London…..

  • annie – how would you put the point then? I find it difficult to believe you wouldn’t agree with the guts of Steve’s post above (“the oxygen of publicity” was how Thatcher et al used to refer to it). There’s been far too much kow-towing by Clegg and his spokespeople to tabloid views of politics.

    And in what world are you living, Terry G? Whatever else you may say about Graham, he is not, in European terms “a minor Lib Dem politician” He was for many years leader of the British Lib Dem contingent (ie Clegg’s leader when he was an MEP), and for several, the leader of the entire Liberal group in the European Parliament.

    Actually, your comment here about “the simple scoreline” being very easy to misinterpret, is probably the best comment on here. But isn’t that the systemic problem with Twitter, and in fact with a headline, soundbite – driven approach to politics? It is misleading and simplistic. Have a look at the tabloids (in particular) any day of the week.

  • To clarify, I am not defending the original tweet, I just don’t think there is a good enough reason x other than news management – for delaying the speech.

  • I would be more interested in what Sir Graham’s constituents think. Surely they are the final arbiters in this and not the Liberal Democrat party heirarchy ?

  • Tim13 18th Jan ’13 – 11:45am……annie – how would you put the point then? I find it difficult to believe you wouldn’t agree with the guts of Steve’s post above .

    By all means disagree with Cameron’s stance on Europe. However, to use what is, in fact, a tragedy to score points is offensive.
    I found Cameron’s statement to the Commons to be both “Statesmanlike and Necessary”. There will be other days for his much touted statement on Europe; however, today, I believe he made the correct choice.
    Had the loss of life taken place in central London what would have been your attitude? Condemning him for changing his itinary; I doubt it…..
    Such crass ‘one liners’ are not needed today….It should be enough that Watson has apologised and removed the ‘tweet’.

  • I think this shows the dangers of social networks. Anyone who has any experience of the work done by Graham will know that he is one of the hardest working MEPs in the country and that his apology will be an extremely profound one.

  • Richard Dean 18th Jan '13 - 1:30pm

    We have MEPs who think in this immature way? No wonder this party doesn’t get many votes. And anyway, DC may even have been relieved to not give that speech at this time.

  • Paul in twickenham 21st Jan '13 - 10:31am

    Apparently the pope has taken to tweeting – in latin. Perhaps if people translated their tweets into latin before posting them then they wouldn’t look so foolish.

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