The building blocks of #metoo

Jared O’Mara is hardly the first MP to have been caught out expressing prejudiced views. It just goes to show that if you are known to have said something dodgy on the internet over a decade ago, it is likely to find its way into the hands of your political enemies.

For Liberal Democrats, though, it’s all a bit galling. O’Mara beat our Nick Clegg in a particularly cruel twist of fate in June’s General Election. His victory meant that Parliament was deprived of the most expert voice on Brexit. Where Nick fought for equality, O’Mara’s views as an adult have been far from civilised.

My first thought was to write a piece saying that he must stand down from the Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament. Thankfully pressure was brought to bear on him and he resigned this evening as our Paul Scriven had demanded. Sadly that committee still has Philip Davies on it. He, you might remember, thinks that he and other men are voiceless and being drowned out by these feminist types.

Guido Fawkes is going out of his way to find Labour people doing and saying awful things these days. Norwich MP Clive Lewis, who beat our Simon Wright in 2015, was found saying something inappropriate at a Labour conference event. It’s no surprise that Guide is after the Labour people. We shouldn’t forget that there are Tories in the House of Commons who can behave in an equally crass manner. Remember Nicholas Soames’ friendly, welcoming gesture to the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. He, and others have form on this sort of inappropriate nonsense.  Of course, we shouldn’t forget that the poster boy of the alt right from across the pond has bragged about sexual harassment.

The problem with language like that coming from O’Mara, Lewis and Soames is that it helps build up the culture that gives so many women cause to say #metoo.  That demeaning and dehumanising language creates a climate in which bad behaviour is tolerated and excused. It’s easy for MPs to apologise in a tweet. Whether they have truly mended their ways or even understand why they are wrong remains to be seen.

Sexism and homophobia are all too common in our society and politics is far from immune. The Liberal Democrats has its fair share of such individuals who feel that they can be as unpleasant as they like cos it’s all about free speech, isn’t it?

It’s important that those of us who want to see a fairer, more inclusive society work together to create it, whatever our political party or lack of one. There’s a certain solidarity amongst women across politics because we all have to put up with broadly the same sexist behaviour.  We all need to challenge the bad behaviour when it happens, wherever it happens in our lives, or if we see someone else on the receiving end.  We need to keep chipping away at the building blocks of the #metoo culture. It’s a big job, but we will get there in the end.

 

 

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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24 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Oct '17 - 1:48am

    Caron

    I cannot believe I find this here posted so late in the evening, or should I say, night , when I came to find anywhere here to express my sadness and anger at the loss of Nick Clegg to parliament in favour of this unbelievable immature and verbal or tweeting serial offender with vulgarity his norm! Well done Caron !

    I do have to say the Clive Lewis one was different in my view. Silly, crass, but I think he was also sending up machismo, and homophobia, the man was , saying it to another man, the expression is used a lot by African Americans and Clive , as an ethnic minority mp with a few drinks in him at a party event , to a man on his knees in a mock game show skit, a bit overblown by the reactors compared with this Sheffield disgrace of an mp. I do think the reaction was justified in that he should know better and yet , I have heard many women on phone ins since, say they too think he was taking the mickey out of male language , perhaps mysogyny itself !Lewis has form as volatile but very intelligent and open minded. He wants alliances with us and greens. The Sheffield unseating of Nick Clegg was a really staunch attempt to oust him.

    Alas Emma Dent Coad in Kensington and Chelsea seems another embarrassment, her comments on Prince Harry and the Queen , and the private life of Prince Phillip, an utter disgrace from an mp.

    Me too, can be felt by some of us who are men, especially if we were once in the Labour party and see this !

  • There is a Liberal response to finding decades old social media posts never intended for public consumption. The thing is I don’t think this is it.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Oct '17 - 8:51am

    Considering my article below – “Just a joke, love” it might seem a bit strange for me to see Paul’s point but I think these things are about imbalances of power not just about saying rude and unbelievably insensitive things.

    Jared O’Mara’s youthful bravado was absurd and offensive but he was not in an influential position. We know that in the recent past it has been possible in the Liberal Democrats for a man of mature years in an influential position to make women feel uncomfortable and yet he is still in the party fold.

  • Caron, the LibDem ‘Glee Club’ seem to sing rather offensive songs …Still they are only in fun so that’s OK…

  • Paul – “social media posts never intended for public consumption.” Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Once you post something online, it’s public. One of the astonishing things here is that he was approved and selected to fight a highly winnable seat and it seems that no-one in the Labour party thought to have a quick look at his internet history.
    Mind you, it’s equally surprising that no-one in the LibDems did so either. This info would have been quite useful in May/June.

  • Richard Easter 24th Oct '17 - 10:32am

    Just as Farron is no bigot, Lewis is no sexist and O’Mara was little more than an overgrown kid at the time and no doubt has different views now. Farage was supposed to have chanted fascist songs at school – guess what even if he did, I don’t care. He was a kid as well. If we do not believe that people mature then what’s the point. How can we say that O’Mara is a sexist thug over his behaviour years ago and needs to be booted out, but recent knife criminals deserve a second chance?

    This culture of taking offence at everything and dredging up what people did when they were young is stifling actual political debate. Calling Corbyn an anti-semite, Farage a nazi, Tim a homophobe, the Greens terrorists or whatever else is not only ridiculous, but pathetic, reducing genuine debates over serious questions over how the country should be run, to idiotic name calling.

    Clinton lost for similar reasons. Insulting Trump (who yes is a loose cannon) still doesn’t help the desperate in society who saw her in bed with the same Wall Street bunch who sent their jobs abroad. If anything it simply reinforces the view that there is an establishment out to get them.

    If Farage, Corbyn, Farron, Lucas, Sturgeon are all extremist bigots, then by definition the bulk of the electorate are.

    I don’t know a single person who has said something morally questionable or offensive at some point in their lives or has not engaged in behaviour which if they were to stand as an MP would be used against them. The same media and voices calling for Farage, Lewis and O’Mara to have their heads on a pike are the same who went in to crush Farron. Be careful of who you side with. The worm turns…

    As for the loss of Clegg’s seat, it doesn’t matter who the Labour candidate was. It could equally have been a Bob Crow, Kate Hoey or Liz Kendall style figure. Clegg was dispatched because the voters felt that his brand of liberal economics had no solutions for their problems, and that Corbyn’s style of economics does. Clegg is simply a figurehead for the Euro / TTIP / tution fees / open borders / privatisation or whatever else voters are sceptial of.

  • Its rare to read an article of yours that I disagree with Caron, but this is one of them.

    All three of the instances you cite appear to me to have been massively overblown. People get outraged about far too many things these days and as a society we’re in danger of becoming utterly humourless, self-censoring and incapable of seeing things in context.

    The downright nasty and right wing Guido Fawkes played a large part in promoting all of these stories and so called progressives play right in to their hands by forcing apologies from the ‘guilty parties’ on behalf of people I’m not sure even really exist for the most part (those who the guilty parties have apparently offended).

    We complain about political elites and bland identikit politicians, but any normal person would have to be completely stupid to get involved with politics.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Oct '17 - 10:49am

    For those of you who are saying that O’Mara’s views were just youthful indiscretion and we should all forgive and forget, there are examples of similar types of behaviour from within the last year and a half or so which have been reported, so he is perhaps not so deserving of your sympathy.

  • Caron, absolutely no-one on this thread has said anyone should forgive or forget, however several have intimated they consider the article is not a liberal response. However, you don’t respond to what has been said, but instead respond to what has not been said. Is there a reason?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Oct '17 - 11:53am

    I think ,youthful indiscretion, private life as adults , both highly acceptable .

    I agree with those who say a joke is a joke and we should either laugh or not depending id it is funny .

    But to tell a joke that is not but to do so too often when nobody’s really laughing , the person themselves becomes a , bit of a joke.

    I detest the humourless , politically correct brigade mentality and tendency. They however are not who I align with in finding the Sheffield mp comments awful. It is the use of language on so many things, women, gays, obesity , there are comments just very infantile at best , downright insulting at worst.

    If he is not like that in general or as a person or politician, so be it.

    W e shall see, and the voters of Sheffield , can decide.

  • Laurence Cox 24th Oct '17 - 12:30pm

    @Ruth Bright
    It is worth watching today’s Daily Politics on iPlayer. Jared O’Mara has just been accused of misogyny in March of this year. Evidence is mounting that he is not a changed man.

  • Caron – they were posts on forum 15 years ago. Less ‘forgive and forget’ for me, more I really don’t care. I’ve yet to see anything particularly earth shattering in whats supposed to be evidence of his recent conduct either.

    I don’t care if he’s actually the biggest **** in the world at this point, I can’t help but feel sympathy for him. Its just a pointless character assassination and those taking part in it don’t seem to have noticed that its been instigated and led by people who should actually be the real target of criticism when it comes to their actual behaviour.

    Having just read through Guido Fawkes coverage of this, the irony of its own comments section appears to be lost on most.

  • Farage was supposed to have chanted fascist songs at school
    Given how sensitive people seem to be getting and turning fly’s into elephants – is the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” a fascist song?

    What many seem to be missing is that these comments from the past are good learning points, because we can point at them and say this is a real-world example of a comment now deemed inappropriate. Young people particularly, will pick this up and call out their parents etc. for using inappropriate language. Now if the comment was made recently (eg. in the last few months) then that would be a different matter.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Oct '17 - 2:10pm

    Dan

    I shall continue to be fair on any of this , so consider we all should.

    We should criticise Nick Clegg for his failures in government as we should commend him for the successes.

    It would be fair to say he lacks political acumen, he does , yes, indeed and often, but should that mean the man also is a target for basically not running a dirty tricks sear campaign , which, dredging up comments, searching for them , would be.

    The comments Caron alludes to are from the new Sheffield mp this year, and are now coming to light, not earlier.

    It appears this character has a character that is awful. Nick Clegg is many things as are most of us.

    A gentleman, is one of them.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Oct '17 - 2:24pm

    Laurence – fair enough I will do that. I am in no way defending O’Mara but we have poor conduct in our own party which we have dealt with inadequately to put it mildly eg comments received by Luciana Berger.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Oct '17 - 5:13pm

    It appears – from various places on the web that Jared O’Mara suffers from cerebral palsy.

    Given the extent to which people with disabilities are subject to harassment one might have thought that by the age of 22 or so he might have learned better than to harass others – for whatever reason.

  • Roland: “Given how sensitive people seem to be getting and turning fly’s into elephants – is the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” a fascist song?”
    Er, seriously?? Yes it is.
    For those who don’t know the song, it is from the musical ‘Cabaret’ which is set in 1930s Germany. This song is one of the most powerful moments in the film, and it’s point is not particularly subtle. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=tomorrow+belongs+to+me&view=detail&mid=DB5F401FB09F5A981169DB5F401FB09F5A981169&FORM=VIRE
    So, yes. It is a fascist song, and anyone who sings it is very deliberately making that reference and sending that message.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Oct ’17 – 5:13pm……….It appears – from various places on the web that Jared O’Mara suffers from cerebral palsy………….Given the extent to which people with disabilities are subject to harassment one might have thought that by the age of 22 or so he might have learned better than to harass others – for whatever reason…….

    Or, just maybe, it might have been a contributory factor in these e-mails? I just love how our offenders should be allowed to apologise and get second chances; where-as….

  • paul barker 24th Oct '17 - 7:03pm

    On a more general point, I think one of the roots of these sorts of attitudes is Politics that starts with anger. There are lots of injustices that should make us angry but once we make that decision to get involved in Public Life personal anger has to be suppressed before it sours into hate. Labour, in particular have a culture of permanent anger, it becomes a badge of honour.
    Incidentally, O,Mara stood as a Labour Candidate just 2 Years after the remarks that are being reported.

  • Caron Lindsay 24th Oct ’17 – 10:49am…………………For those of you who are saying that O’Mara’s views were just youthful indiscretion and we should all forgive and forget, there are examples of similar types of behaviour from within the last year and a half or so which have been reported, so he is perhaps not so deserving of your sympathy………….

    These examples; what are they? The only one I can find is a ‘claim’, which he denies, from an ex-girlfriend about rude remarks about her appearance….
    I remember when claims were made about a prominent member of our party by four women his denial was deemed enough to avoid further action…

  • @TonyH – I only note that in Cabaret, Kanders and Ebbs deliberately gave the fascists the best songs and tunes, to better convey the seductive nature of the movement and make the events portrayed even more chilling.

    My point was that many either at school or University will have been involved in stage productions – myself Cabaret, hence the reference and my query – as whilst not wishing to defend Farage, it is very easy to besmirch people with the words “xyz was supposed to have chanted fascist songs at school/college/university”, whilst totally omitting any context.

  • Ruth Bright 25th Oct '17 - 8:51am

    and (expats) that prominent member of our party is not restricted from roles like questioning the youth parliament…

  • Ruth, I read your ‘ “Just a joke, love’ and, as my wife commuted to London in the 1980’s I remember her tales of ‘inappropriate behavior’, especially on the Underground, very clearly….
    Sadly, the internet can be rather like a crowded train, or a group of ‘lads’, in allowing a kind of anonymity for that same ‘inappropriate behavior’….
    Your, “Jared O’Mara’s youthful bravado was absurd and offensive” is spot on..However, what I’m annoyed at is our ‘Tribalism’ when faced with such matters within our own party….
    There have been a few biblical quotations on LDV recently; Matthew 7:5 comes to mind here…

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