While politicians complain about negative coverage in the press the blogosphere tends to be more strident. If you wish to see politicians given the benefit of the doubt then the Guido Fawkes website is best avoided. Dan Hodges at the Telegraph is a harsh critic – especially of the Labour Party, which he used to be a member of. Iain Dale’s waspish column for this site does not always follow Tony Benn’s instruction that politics is not about personalities.
The Conservative MP for Totnes, Dr Sarah Wollaston, has complained in The Times(£) about those mentioned above as part of a wider concern that bloggers can be “quite aggressive in their approach towards women”. She also refers to the “aggressive blogging community”.
“I haven’t had any women writing critical articles and I do think that’s very interesting. I think there are some very aggressive male bloggers out there and they target women MPs.”
She compared her treatment to that experienced by the Labour MP Stella Creasy from Twitter trolls.
I never believed the allegations against Mr Evans but if Dr Wollaston felt the allegations deserved to be taken seriously then her motives were honourable. She has explained her side of the story. She is not saying that she is challenging the verdict. She is not even saying that it was right to prosecute Mr Evans. She is simply saying that she thought the responsible course was to make the police aware of what she had been told. There doesn’t seem to be any selfish motive for her conduct. As Mr Evans remarked, this has been a story with no winners.
Yet I really can’t see what Dr Wollaston being a woman has got to do with it. Messrs Fawkes, Dale and Hodges did not attack her for being a woman – nor can I see a shred of evidence that had a male MP done the same thing they would not have suffered the same criticisms. Comparison with the threatening and misogynist attacks on Miss Creasy is quite outrageous. Furthermore, bloggers tend to be rugged individualists. They offer individual opinions – which is what makes their political coverage more inspiring than the newspaper lobby correspondents with their group-think and tendency to hunt like a pack. So the “blogging community” is a misnomer.
There has always been a confusion within feminism about whether women are the same as men and should be treated equally or whether women are better – for instance less aggressive.
It so happens I don’t believe Dr Wollaston has done anything wrong in alerting the police to her concerns. But she should defend herself on the merits of her action. She should not seek to close off criticism by throwing around allegations of sexism. To do so makes her the bully.