Until last week, Stuart Brown was an aspiring candidate for the Island Conservatives at the forthcoming council elections. I was aware of his ambition to represent the good people of Ryde West because, for quite some time, I’d noticed him popping up on various social media, sounding off on local issues, raising his profile.
At the last parliamentary election, he was pictured working closely with his friend Bob Seely MP. The two of them leafleting and canvassing side by side, pounding the pavements. Men of action fighting for every vote! Unfortunately for Mr Brown, getting close to such an eminent and distinguished politician clearly went to his head. He forgot to content himself with the state of Ryde’s pavements and got carried away with some unwise Twitter comments directed at female Labour MPs. When exposed, the end of his council career that had never begun became inevitable.
Theresa May once told Tory members they needed to lose the ‘nasty party’ tag. Some of us knew exactly what she meant but it appears the Island Tories never made much progress on Ms May’s aspiration. Political parties left, right, and centre attract people who believe relentlessly attacking the other side is the way to go – even when, like Mr Brown, they’ve never met them. Such characters love to loathe the opposition because, well, they’re the opposition! Dedicated activists render themselves colour blind, failing to see that to a reasonable person, tribal party-political loyalty makes little sense.
Long before social media William Hague was Tory party leader, and they were in a truly dismal state. Regardless of what the Tories had to say, no-one was listening. They had imploded under John Major, but the party faithful were in denial, spending the first Blair term affronted that New Labour had ‘stolen our policies,’ as if somehow that were an injustice. Party political obsessives never realise that the rest of us just want to see the country (or council) well-run and find the endless tit-for-tat point-scoring irrelevant and irritating. How often have local Tories blamed the Independents for all the Floating Bridge problems? A report has found them innocent – so who’s to blame now?
Normal people don’t care who’s in power, so long as we have good governance, a stable economy, good hospitals, schools, roads, housing, and public services, paid for with reasonable levels of taxation. When it dawns on us that the party in power is incapable of delivering those things, we turn out at election time to remove them, often brutally.
The electorate does this repetitively, always more in hope than experience, for political parties are all pretty much as bad as each other. Politics at all levels attracts those with far too much ego and personal ambition alongside the few who genuinely want to make the world a better place. Tweeting nasty comments is the kiss of death to any aspiring political career yet being horrible online could easily be done anonymously. Social media companies allow fake names and profiles. Party political desperados could hide if they wish, so why don’t they? I presume because they’re really just desperate to impress their leaders. You have to wonder if they seriously believe that Tweeting and Facebook posts achieve anything?
If you dream of political office, play nicely online, because your opponents will spend hours trying to find out anything you’ve ever said on any subject hoping they can use it against you. And if you’re really determined to get elected – stay offline.