I've just caught up with the 'outrage' about Bob Piper and Ministry of Truth putting an image on their sites which parodies the Tories' 'Sort-it' campaign. I wonder what the Tories who have been upset and outraged by this made of 'Time Trumpet', which was on BBC Two earlier this year, and which featured David Cameron reminiscing about the time he was so desperate for votes that at one point he "went around for a month being black". This is exactly the same joke, told in a slightly different way, and yet attracted not a single complaint.
I met Bob Piper at the Bloggers4Labour meet up at conference, and mentioned that I'd stopped blogging as a councillor because I was self-censoring (it made for a phenomenally boring blog because I had to think about whether any sentence could possibly be taken out of context and used by the Lib Dems), and he told me not to worry about any of that nonsense. I hope he takes his own advice and continues blogging. But all parties will increasingly do this sort of 'attack blogging', trying to stir up outrage about blog posts which can be used against their political opponents - for instance we did it to Jody Dunn in Hartlepool. On one level it is a bit pathetic and just helps with the overall right-wing aim of turning people away from the view that good things can be achieved by politics (and in this particular case trying to undermine genuine anti-racists), but the short term advantage tends to count for more than the longer term negative consequences.
When people complain that politicians don't do enough to speak out freely and independently, though, it's worth remembering that the reason is that they get judged not by the standard of whether their comments should genuinely be criticised, but by whether their opponents think they would be able to make an attack on them stick. This is why people can watch and laugh along with a programme on the BBC, but then claim to be outraged by a Labour councillor retelling the same joke in another form. It won't be long, I reckon, before the next racist Tory gets caught, or the next hypocrite whose personal conduct is at odds with their new back to basics Victorian morality campaign, and I shall enjoy it all the more.
p.s. Tories who are professionally offended should probably not read this