Talking Twitter: Very Public Speaking

A friend recently pointed out to me a slightly worrying trend on Twitter: a series of tweets about banning ugly women from certain places/activities.

He accused those posting the tweets of misogyny, and he may well have a point – there was no corresponding trend for things that ugly men should be banned from.

I’m not going to go off on a rant about it. Yet I’m curious as to what sort of mindset caused the trend. Inevitably, there will be a huge amount of “I was only joking” responses, not to mention “I didn’t mean it”.

Pressed further, I suspect the majority of those who tweeted anything along those lines would acknowledge all sorts of broadly academic points, such as the subjectiveness of appearance, the link to self esteem, and how the comments could be construed literally. I also imagine that many would be horrified at the prospect that a friend or someone they know might consider themselves “ugly” and take the remarks personally.

The thing about Twitter is how public it is – every remark made is openly available to anyone unless specifically directed at someone through a DM (Direct Message). Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I don’t think the views expressed are entirely the consequence of people thinking those views are “OK”, but rather a consequence of not knowing enough about how public their remarks are.

When it’s published, it’s available to everyone with internet access, and with caching is almost certainly stored forever. I wonder if a little more caution might dramatically affect what trends.

Playing the Long Game: Political Positioning on the EU

The positioning over the EU debate is, inevitably, very political. The Liberal Democrats have a three line whip against a referendum despite their manifesto commitment, presumably because any referendum would split the coalition badly.

Labour also want to seem united on the matter, keen to avoid a Conservative-style split. Despite a few Labour names (including Keith Vaz and Kate Hoey) making their way onto the motion, they’re broadly against a referendum. But the motion only recommends a referendum – it doesn’t enforce it. Labour have the opportunity to embarrass the government by siding with the backbenchers, but they aren’t taking it, instead opting to accuse the Tories of “squabbling”. My guess is that they’re playing the long game, and don’t want referendum support to be cited in the general election campaigning.

That leaves the Conservatives, who appear to be taking the opposite approach.

There are many reasons why a free vote on the issue might be in Cameron’s favour. Firstly, there’s keeping everyone in the party happy. If MPs are allowed to vote however they want to without any pressure, then they can’t be accused of “squabbling” over an issue. Secondly, it would provide some ammunition to use against others, particularly their coalition partners. Pointing out that the Liberals not only ignored their referendum promise but actively voted against it would be a pretty effective attack during the general election. Finally, it could be portrayed as allowing open debate in a party, safe in the knowledge that with the other parties against the motion it is unlikely to pass.

Yet as I write this a three line whip remains in place is being predicted, despite some speculation it may be retracted. This may be to try and keep the coalition together and to keep the debate at arm’s length until the economy has calmed down, or in the hope that there will be a Conservative majority after the next election. Either way, it seems that whilst Labour have the upper-hand in the long term, there’s still plenty of room for manoeuvring by the government.

N.B. For a list of MPs supporting the motion, ConservativeHome is keeping track of these things

Correction:The three line whip is not in place for the Conservatives, but is “expected”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-politics-15407589