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Thursday, May 03, 2012 

Louise Mensch goes stray for pay! (Or, seeking attention and then complaining about the downsides of doing so.)

Louise Mensch has it seems been taking lessons in distracting attention away from legitimate criticism from Nadine Dorries. Yesterday Mensch tagged a few, and it should be stressed it is a few, unpleasant tweets from various people and then complained about how horrible it is being bullied on social networking websites. First off, some of them aren't unpleasant or anything approaching bullying, they're funny and intended as ironic: Jared Earle asking whether she'll be doing page 3 considering her support for the Murdochs amuses me, even if it doesn't anyone else. At the other end of the scale there's Vice magazine, doing a passable impression of SugaRape by asking "crusties" on May Day whether they'd have sex with her despite the fact she's a Tory. That's just so witty and outrageous guys! Next you'll be going "stray" for pay and writing about it!

On the whole though, they're just the fairly standard comments that anyone in the public eye and active online can expect to get. It's not nice and no one's pretending it is, but it isn't going to change, regardless of how many times the likes of the Sun print articles about how evil trolls are. And really, Mensch should have a thick enough skin by now not to get upset about being called a cunt. As for the Guardian then weighing in about how terrible this misogyny is, both of those referring to her as a slut are women (and one then said it was a joke just to get her to favourite her tweet). It's not so much about sexism as it is about most people just reaching for the nearest and most obvious insult: portraying it as something more than that often gives too much credit to the person dishing out the abuse. Furthermore, Peter Oborne got it right in his piece for the Telegraph today when he described Mensch as an "attention seeker", which is exactly what she is. Seek attention, as Mensch did on Tuesday by touring round every TV and radio station she could denouncing the report declaring that Rupert Murdoch wasn't fit to run News Corp, and you can't then expect to always have your position critiqued in calm, courteous terms.

One suspects that the real reason Mensch decided to highlight the abuse she was receiving was to take attention away from the fact that the main point she was making on Tuesday, that the "not fit" criticism was put in at the last minute, simply wasn't true. It had in fact first been proposed back at the end of March, when the chair of the committee, John Wittingdale, said it would have to be voted on later as it was clearly controversial and a consensus wouldn't be able to be reached without one. Tom Watson has since claimed that a second letter from James Murdoch to the committee appeared to "uncannily" answer many of the concerns raised by the committee in private conversations. Louise Mensch admits she received a briefing from Fred Michel, the News Corp lobbyist who had a "close" relationship with Jeremy Hunt's special adviser, but that it was declared and she did not discuss the committee's work on the report. Even if nothing was untoward, Mensch declaring that she found James Murdoch a "compelling, convincing and consistent" witness suggests that she's either gullible (unlikely) or exceptionally willing for whatever reason to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The other effect of all this has been to successfully relieve the pressure on David Cameron over his judgement and links to the Murdochs, which was precisely what the Tories aimed to do in the first place by reducing the criticism of both junior and senior. Next week we might just get back to that: Rebekah Brooks is appearing at the Leveson inquiry and she may well reveal the texts exchanged between Cameron and herself. Not even Louise Mensch will able to distract attention away from what they may well contain.

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