Cleverly disrepects Hughes – where will it end?

If someone publically told you to shut up and called you a “dick” and a “fool”, would you feel that person was treating you with respect?

Most people would say not, and when it comes to standards boards, the rulings tend to agree. Perfectly OK to say someone’s idea is foolish, but not to call them a fool.

So how to explain a blog post by James Cleverly, who sits on the London Assembly as a Conservative?

Titled “Oh do shut up Simon“, Mr Cleverly lays into Simon Hughes who, it’s safe to say, he doesn’t quite see eye to eye with. He says “it doesn’t stop me thinking that Simon Hughes is a dick” and calls him a “fool” on the blog he writes as a London Assembly member.

And yet the Assembly’s code of conduct clearly states “you must treat others with respect”.

Will Mr Cleverly find himself in front of the standards board (or whatever succeeds it)? Time will tell. MPs can get away with it outside the Chamber, but elected councillors and assembly members play a dangerous game when they let fly with the personal insults, and a considered blog post can hardly be excused as a heat-of-the moment outburst.

Update: It’s been brought to my attention that James Cleverly is no stranger to dicks, having referred to James Whale in that way on his blog a year ago.

On this occasion, Cleverly has apologised if any offence was caused and admitted that name calling is a bit childish.

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  • Politician in Talking Like Real Person shocker.

    More contrived outrage at 11.

  • Reading various blogs I know that such slander and defamation would, in traditional media, lead to hefty penalties.Can someone enlighten me regarding the status of blogs and their authors.

  • “Will Mr Cleverly find himself in front of the standards board (or whatever succeeds it)?”

    I hope not. “Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it” as Mr Jefferson put it

  • Chris Keating 19th Aug '10 - 2:40pm

    The sooner we get rid of the Standard Boards the better. The whole arrangement is a futile bureaucracy.

    Cleverly’s comments aren’t what you would expect from a GLA member and he should be ashamed of himself. But that’s a matter for him, his party, the media, and the people who elected him – not a kangaroo court sitting in judgement on elected politicians…

  • “why not just bugger off to Labour”

    Can’t say I disagree with him on that point. James Cleverly accuses Simon Hughes of not knowing how to compromise, but I think Simon Hughes is the only one who can be said to have “compromised”- his convictions are obviously intact, just put on hold because of circumstance. The “we secretly agreed with all of this all along” you get from Clegg, Laws, Huhne, Cable and Alexander is not compromise, Mr Cleverly.

    I would have thought there’d be more outrage from the Lib Dems though, especially on a site that gathered over 300 comments on a post which accused the Labour leadership candidates of indulging in “bilious and unbridled hatred” without anyone being able to cite a single example of such.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '10 - 3:39pm

    I used to know James Cleverley at the time when he and I were working politically in LB Lewisham, and thought him then one of the more decent members of the Conservatives. I even wrote a letter in support of him when the Conservative Party treated him disgracefully in his attempt to be their candidate for the Mayor of London. I felt a good South London bloke like him would be an excellent candidate, and it was completely wrong that the Conservatives threw away their rule-book and started again because he was one of several candidates they judged not suitable for them so instead they denied them all their rights and shipped in a celebrity from Henley.

    My opinion of him has sunk way down now I’ve seen this article. I’m sorry I thought well of the guy, obviously I was mistaken.

  • Patrick Smith 19th Aug '10 - 5:26pm

    Has Mr Cleverley breached GLA elected member standing orders by making this outbust of `disrespectful’ remarks against Simon Hughes?

  • Please see more offensive posting re Simon Hughes on the Spectator website.I have reported it. How illuminating! Still the nasty party.

    charles hercock
    August 19th, 2010 3:21pm Report this comment

    Afraid this shows Milliband minor does not inhabit the real world.Nick Clegg is the only star the Lib Dems have>Whoever heard of woofta Hughes

  • Well, to put a good spin on it, I suppose it means that Simon Hughes is successfully reminding people of the fact that there is more to the LibDems than the coalition agreement. It’s a tough job, and he seems to be doing it with some dexterity. The attacks (indefensible in style as they are) might suggest that he has touched a nerve….

  • Since lib dems believe in free speech Clerverly should certainly not be referred to the Standards Board.
    Surely this is obvious?

  • Surely it is also obvious that “free speech” does not include gratuitous insults to people? This is rudeness, or as the Standards establishment has become used to describing it “Lack of respect”. Now it would be madness to refer every incident of rudeness to the Standards body concerned, but for some it becomes a standard way of behaving, and this is where something needs to be done. Sorry Chris Keating and others who take your views, the country has had enough of politicians out of control. It is insufficient to say the democratic process will sort offenders out, as a) that can be a very slow process, and b) often the misdemeanours are not something most of the electorate either knows about or even might care a great deal about. But it can still be corrupt, hurtful, offensive and an abuse of power. Another forum I belong to had references to a case involving abuse of people – everyone needs protection from this type of thing. It is also arguable that people who regularly indulge in this remove the focus from the business of Council to the actions of councillors and others in public life. This is harmful.

    From comments above, it would seem that James Cleverly is not a habitual offender, but such insulting comments should lead to some sort of warning / yellow card system etc, to put him and others on notice that this is not to be tolerated in the future.

  • And I would suggest, Chris, you consider your words more carefully – “kangaroo court”. As the senior figure in our Agents’ Association I am sure you realise there has been considerable care in appointments and committees and the various panels and boards have been carefully mandated to take care of issues of concern, mainly in local communities. They have proper status, and the decisions over the last 2 – 3 years have been very careful to sort out the purely party political whinges from the genuine complaints!

  • appointments TO committees – sorry for the typo.

  • In answer to the question, “Where will it end?”, my answer is as follows: When councillors fear to speak the truth.

    Should councillors be hauled before the Standards Board for calling Tony Blair a war criminal, or for pointing out that Dr David Kelly was murdered by agents of the United States government? Gagging a councillor, even to the extent of forbidding him/her from being rude, is an emasculation of democracy. I regard it as of paramount importance that councillors should be able to speak freely (see Lord Diplock in Horrocks v Lowe).

  • TIm 13 what an extraordinary thing to say ‘Surely it is also obvious that “free speech” does not include gratuitous insults to people?’
    of course it does. it means you should be able to say what you like as long as it does not incite violence. can you really not see that virtually everything controversial could insults or upset some people.

  • Saying someone is “a dick” is not free speech, it’s an insult. Saying someone has got it wrong – for whatever reason, is the very stuff of politics. Saying that (say) faith schools are not a good idea because of a b or c, is not an insult, it is an opinion on a controversial subject. Surely any “conduct regime” (or whatever we might call it) would be very stupid if it failed to distinguish those. If, frankly, people are so thin-skinned that they consider being told they are wrong an insult (and there are many in politics who are that thin skinned, IMO) then they are stupid and ill advised to remain in politics (is that an insult?).

    I said at the outset that if we tried to police every rude comment, we would be mad! Every one of us makes rude comments sometimes. The interesting thing is that those politicos who are the most thin-skinned often seem to be some of the rudest. You do carry a responsibility when you represent people – not to be humourless – but to show you are prepared to be fair to all, and that rules out personal abuse, as I see it.

  • Fair enough, Im sure we all think some politicians are dicks – the labour u-turners on AV are currently good contenders for the title.

    I can see why hughes annoyed him, i’d be pretty irritated if someone like graham brady insisted on a 1922 veto for all policies.

  • @tim you seem to think insults should be banned. You are clearly to use Cleverly’s phrase ‘a dick’.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 20th Aug '10 - 8:54am

    It’s interesting that one is not even allowed to call another commenter a “silly man” on this site now. How utterly ridiculous.

  • Smcg – James cleverly used this term – I am not sure your use of it is quite so clever!

  • There seem to be several Mikes or mikes on this website. The second Mike should read what Hughes actually said.

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