Ignore the outrage over Abbott – but question her judgement
Is it just me, or is everyone putting it on now? The Twitter outrage came from the right today. It's been a while. Usually it's the left. Perhaps they felt left out. Dianne Abbott said "white people love playing 'divide and rule'" on the social media site last night and by this morning it was Lady Chatterley's Lover all over again, with added false equivalence and heavy-handed moralising.
I'm not the right person to have opinions on this stuff. I simply couldn't care less. I don't care when clothing companies make T-shirts that supposedly objectify women. I don't care if people make generalisations about my race or other people's race. I don't care when a female character in a TV series says all men are afraid of commitment. I don't care when Jeremy Clarkson says something repugnant. That's your special ticket right there, your free pass out of an early coronary. Just don't care until someone says something they really mean. Get the balance right between serious thought and incitement to violence on one hand and laziness and cruel jokes on the other.
You can almost track it now, from the initial tweet, to the point where someone writes an article about how this 'row' is muddying the real debate over race/gender/sexuality. Instead I am going to suggest a different angle, which is that rational people restrict themselves to an assessment of political competence.
Unfortunately this lets people like Clarkson off while penalising people like Abbott. We must sometimes accept these injustices in the name of the greater good. Under this assessment Abbott is in big trouble and deserves to be.
By the time you're sat on Twitter writing about 'white people', in any job whatsoever, you'd better be careful what you write next. The best rule is to replace 'white people' with 'black people' and see if you'd be comfortable writing it. If not: stay away. This is not a moral rule, by the way. As I mentioned earlier, I really don't care what they write. This is a rule of political survival. Abbott broke it badly.
She then compounded her political incompetence with a 'context justification' which was so plainly false a child could have spotted it. "Tweet taken out of context," she wrote. "Refers to nature of 19th century European colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters." Given it was written in the present tense and she had plenty of characters left to play with, this just didn't stand up. Finally, and in an early contender for on-screen folly of the year, she started explaining herself to Sky News only to receive a phone call and run away. Political competence points: two out of ten.
The same could be said for Aiden Burley. It took Cameron a week to sack him. It's simply impossible to see why. Partying with a bunch of mad Nazi enthusiasts while chanting racial slogans at Europeans doesn't just fail the 'replace 'white' with 'black'' test. It pretty much is the test. A politician who doesn't think twice when surrounded by people wearing SS uniforms really has to go. That's a zero on the professional standards tests. Zero out of ten.
Ignore the faux outrage. Watch for political competence. You'll often find the same casualties anyway. But you'll spare your health.