Depending on how easily offended you are by Anti Monarchy jokes today is either the 60th anniversary of the woman in the hats ascension to the throne of the United Kingdom or the 60th Anniversary of the woman in the hats fathers’ death.
You see if you are celebrating the Diamond Jubilee its the former, if you are faking outrage about this blokes anti monarchy joke you might want to point out the latter to pour additional faux outrage upon your faux outrage.
I’m mostly just outraged at the hat – you and I brought that hat. I mean look at it. No one needs a hat that big.
It seems everyone who has every complained that political correctness has gone mad has discovered that not being politically correct about the monarchy when you work for an MP is a crime punishable by being sworn at on twitter. Almost all of these people also seem to read the Daily Mail.
Twitter is a great place to communicate and is a hugely useful social tool – weirdly I know, dozens of Parliamentary researchers are on twitter for that reason. Weirdly, too, they all have their own opinions separate from their bosses and might want to express them as individuals…
As a staffer who works for an MP, tweets, blogs and has held internal party office with a public role I do of course see the fine line where valid comment becomes political headline or twitter storm.
Usually the line is crossed if you do something illegal or embarrassing, like being overtly racist or playing willy banjo in a youtube video. Thankfully I’ve done neither, but you do of course have to keep in mind party and MP dignity when you play around with tweets.
But, bearing self dignity in mind, MPs staff have a right to express their personal opinions. Bag Carriers are not an MPs representative on earth and as long as it is clear you are speaking for yourself where exactly is the problem as long as the comment is within the bounds of the law and public decency?
Now, there is the Paul Waugh school of thought which seems to think that if a staffer says something they must be speaking for or representing their boss. Its a disingenuous train of thought from a hack who obviously got out the wrong side of bed this morning and decided to make a non story out of a half decent joke.
Andy Slaughter MP, too, deserves some vitriol. He said of the matter “The Queen has given great service to our country and these comments are totally unacceptable.” another Labour MP later quipped “apparently daring to criticise the continued subsidy of our already wealthy and unelected head of state is “completely unacceptable” I agree with the nameless Labour MP frankly.
Ultimately, however, I’m disappointed with Matt Zarb. There was no need to apologise and doing so only gave the story legs.
People complain and mock politicians for being bland, faceless drones. We rightly mock Miliband when he answers 5 different questions with a bland statement about those strikes being wrong, or when politicians refuse to answer a question on Newsnight, but we need to ask ourselves why MPs do it. It seems even if you are not an elected representative of the people you can’t have a sense of humour these days.
Matt Zarb told a joke about the royal family scrounging off benefits. It was quite funny, or not, depending on your tastes. It stems from his belief that it is wrong that the taxpayer pays for an unelected head of state. Cowing him into submission, so he and others become the identikit politician’s of tomorrow does no one any good, least of all the terms of our political debate. He should have stood his ground.
I, for one, refuse to be cowed. At some point I’ll say or do something I believe in which someone else will take offence at and I’ll go right ahead and let them them be offended. Its a great perk of being British that the right to free speech outweighs your faux morale outrage.
So yes, Maam, I do not approve of the fact that because of an accident of birth you have ruled over this country for 60 years and enjoy a life of state banquets, helicopters and palaces on a massive taxpayer subsidy binge because you are the unelected head of state to which none of us has consented. Happy Bloody Jubilee.