What ever happened to free speech; it’s oh so glorious an idea, now bogged down in percieved politness.
As I am very topical, I decided to discuss something that was relevant a few weeks ago, how on top of my game am I? Well, I’d say very, it’s still relevant as it happened this year. As they say, a year is a long time in politics so this basically happened last night.
On the 23rd of May this year (see, basically just happened, right?) during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs for those who love acronymous, LOL!), prime minister David Cameron called the shadow chancellor Ed Balls a “muttering idiot” (see video above) when discussing the economy.
Oh how they laughed! Well, the Conservatives laughed, then Mr. Cameron turned bright red as Commons Speaker John Bercrow grew tired of the jovial behaviour and ordered the prime minister to retract the statement. Well, I’m here to argue: why should he take back what he said?
I know that in parliament it’s considered “unparliamentary” to dishonour another person or to use profanity while the House is in session; the former, in my opinion, being more serious because we can’t have politicians calling each other liars as the whole charade of truth in politics would crumble further. But what’s the issue with having a personal opinion; for example, that someone is an idiot?
Let’s start off with what most people criticise politicians for (other than that they don’t agree with their politics, of course), that they are ‘out of touch’ and ‘not human’ because their appearence, speeches and politics are all tried and tested before going public. But what do actual people have? They have opinions, and to show those opinions may make the public view them differently.
Some may argue that for the prime minister to openly call another politician an idiot is suicide because the press will turn on him to expose idiotic things they have done in past, or use it as evidence that they are falling apart and losing it. I wouldn’t argue this, I’d argue that it shows signs of humanity; that they, like the public, get fustrated and have their own opinions.
However, how can we expect politicians to express their own opinions when the press jumps on television personalities for expressing volatile views; an example would be when Jeremy Clarkson was forced to apologise after calling then prime minster Gordon Brown a “one eyed, Scottish idiot“.
That’s an opinion mixed with facts: Gordon Brown is Scottish, he does only have use of one of his eyes, and in Mr. Clarkson’s opinion, he is an idiot. So where is the issue? The issue is that the press love to jump on someone, especially a celebrity, for saying something unexpected or volatile because a) it sells papers b) can go on for weeks c) sparks debate; which is good for the press.
The downside is that it castrates both media personalities and politicians (even more so I’d say) from having opinions that could mean that the press will jump on them and will do anything to drag the story out with calls for a retractment of the insult, opinions from the public, reactions from the insultee, and input from special interest groups.
This ultimatley means that politicans will stray away from saying anything that could cause an issue for them (apart from as select few, like the gloriously outspoken Boris Johnson) and as a result the public sees them as grey blobs in suits with no opinions of their own, just opinions of that of their party — and this isn’t good when it comes to elections, because no one will have any idea what a candidate is really like. It hurts everyone involved, even the press.
After going bright red and being asked to retract his statement, Mr. Cameron of course did. But those who like to see politicans or any public figure with a genuine opinion or showing genuine fustration got slightly annoyed and bittered that he backed down so easily. What ever happened to free speech; it’s oh so glorious an idea, now bogged down in percieved politness.