Sunday, January 22, 2017

Say what you like about politicians, but their kids should be off limits

I don't care who is the target, and I don't care who does it; attacking someone through their children is out of order.

Any decision which a politician has made while carrying out the functions of a public office is a legitimate target. If you don't agree with a politician's views, it's legitimate to say so. If you think they have failed to declare a conflict of interest which might affect how they do their job, it is fair to mention that too.

Going after someone's family or private life, unless you can clearly show that they have misused their position (putting a family member on the taxpayer-funded payroll for a job they are not actually doing, for instance) is another matter.

And going after the children of political candidates for things which have no relevance to any political stance or decision by their parents is quite simply wrong and unacceptable.

Just in case anyone reading this is putting two and two together and making fourteen, the "story" published today about the offspring of a local politician in West Cumbria was not about a Conservative and the people who published it are not connected with my party either.

We have more than enough totally legitimate arguments to use against our opponents without descending to the level of attacking them through their children.

I'm not going to write any more about the specifics of the "story" which prompted me to write this because those people who have already seen it will know exactly what I'm getting at and I don't want to inspire anyone else to start looking for it.

While the use of "dirty tricks" against adults who have chosen to get involved in politics and particularly candidates for public office is never justified, at least when it is directed against the candidates or office holders themselves it is being deployed against people who have chosen to put themselves in a position where they know they should expect scrutiny of their actions and statements.

The children of candidates and people holding public office have made no such choice. And as a father myself, the idea of trying to use someone's children as weapons against them makes me feel physically sick.

No political campaigner, of whatever party, should ever seek to discredit their political opponent by spreading stories about the son or daughter of those opponents which has nothing to do with the position they hold or are standing for. Any journalist or blogger tempted to publish a story about the offspring of a politician should ask themselves hard questions about whether doing so is really in the public interest. And unless someone is abusing their position, the answer is no.

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