I don’t often take delight in others misfortune (at least I hope I don’t). But I am pleased to see Labour’s Phil Woolas brought to book. As Immigration minister he championed the Daily Mail cause against aslylum seekers, talking tough and nasty in order to please the bigots. I would be pleased if a Lib Dem were to replace him, but for me it will be justice enough to see the man himself removed.
Having read round the internet on this subject, the case has brought some interesting responses, and by interesting I mean downright strange.
Firstly there is the Daily Mail, whose general readership Woolas liked to play to. You’d expect the usual foaming-at-the mouth commenters to be split as here was a Labour minister who championed their cause. Do they cheer that a Labour MP has been found out as a lying cheat, or complain that he “woz only sayin what we were all thinkin”. No contest, it was the former, with some going as far as to accuse Woolas of being part of some great conspiracy to drop immigration controls flood Britain with foreigners. Thus demonstrating how little influence reality has on the opinions of the typical anti-immigration nutter.
Then there are repeated snide comments about Lib Dem “lies”, and how “they all do it”, and “What’s new after 13 years of Labour spin”. I know the 140 characters of twitter don’t lend themselves to much nuance, but really? Are people over simplifying for the sake of making pithy comments, or do they really not get it?
This was not just someone who told a lie. This is not someone who just picked on things in isolation in order to make someone look bad. This is not someone who expressed an opinion that happened to turn out to be wrong. This is someone who made up stuff about someone else in order to make them look bad, and printed it.
Amongst the commentary there are also some odd ideas about what constitutes a lie, and what is morally equivalent to telling an out and out lie.
There is a difference between telling lies and presenting your case in the most positive light you can.
There is a difference between telling lies and expressing mistaken beliefs. An untruth told in “good faith”, while morally wrong and a crime of incompetence, is not a lie.
There is a difference between telling lies and turning your back on a promise (for whatever reason). Being hopelessly unrealistic about what you can achieve is not dishonesty.
There is a difference between seeing things differently to you, and expressing that opinions, and telling lies. (Europhobes take note.)
There is a difference between telling lies about yourself to make yourself look good, and telling lies about another person in order to make them look bad. While I don’t approve of dishonesty in self promotion, it’s ludicrous to claim it is morally equivalent to defamation.
And no, I don’t believe politicians routinely tell lies about their opponents. They may highlight aspects of their behaviour in a negative way, they may express their opinions about what their opponents attitude amounts to. But they don’t generally just make stuff up.
If you’ve reached this point and are nodding away, then THANK YOU. There are still some sane, rational people out there and hope for the world.
If you thought this was all weasel words and pedantic nonsense, then please please please do grow up.
More on Phil Woolas:
- The rise and fall of Philip James Woolas – Paperback Rioter on the career of Phil Woolas
- A Tribute to Phil Woolas – Enemies of Reason
- Various Posts Nick Thornsby comprehensively documents the aftermath of the case