‘Vile Misogynist Abuse’ Or Harmless Political Skulduggery?

hatchet

Theresa May is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – she does not need defending against George Osborne’s non-existent misogyny by an army of sanctimonious professional offence-takers

Until today’s heinous (but thankfully largely unsuccessful) terror attack on the London Underground, much of this week’s political chatter has been dominated by a lengthy profile of George Osborne in Esquire magazine.

The rather gushing article detailed the various ways in which the former Chancellor of the Exchequer was seeking to leverage (or abuse) his position as editor of the Evening Standard to exact political revenge on former colleagues who had previously crossed his path:

At a little after 6.30, nearly every weekday morning, George Osborne — 46 years old, tall, rich, boyish, tieless — takes the bus from Notting Hill in west London, where he lives, to Kensington High Street, where he works, orders his breakfast to take away from Leon, arrives at the marbled and airy headquarters of the London Evening Standard, takes the lift to the second floor, enters his corner office, and sets about destroying his political enemies.

Following this riveting introduction there follows a lengthy and somewhat depressing account of exactly how Osborne came to land the position of Editor despite having no journalistic background, and the new direction in which he is taking the newspaper.

But this is the passage which stirred particular controversy:

Osborne seems to reserve his choicest weapons for Theresa May, the beleaguered prime minister. On his first day as editor, the front page of the Standard announced “Brussels twists knife on Brexit [as] EU chief mocks PM May with her own ‘Strong and Stable’ leadership slogan”. The attacks on May have become only more intense since then. (One clinical sentence in a Standard editorial from 21 June simply read: “Enough of this nonsense.”) Osborne’s animus against May is complicated in origin — personal, political, ideological, tactical — but purely felt. When I met him at the Standard this past spring, he was polite enough about the prime minister. But according to one staffer at the newspaper, Osborne has told more than one person that he will not rest until she “is chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

To any sane person, this is clearly a political threat, not a serious threat of impending physical violence against the prime minister. But one would not get this impression judging by the outrage from many politicians and journalists, who sought to fold Osborne’s case of sour grapes into a broader narrative about online abuse and violence against women.

Labour’s Chris Bryant was quick off the mark, declaring that Osborne was clearly a misogynist, the Huffington Post reported:

During a debate on barriers for women entering Parliament on Wednesday, Labour’s Chris Bryant said he should apologise.

“It’s that kind of language, which I think is misogynistic in its basis, which should be done away with,” he added.

This, of course, conforming to the Left’s new working definition of misogyny, which can basically be described as “any negative statement about a woman, regardless of whether or not it actually concerns her gender, made by somebody we dislike or wish to discredit”.

Even Tory MP Nadine Dorries got in on the act, ranting to a WhatsApp chat for fellow Conservative MPs:

I’m sorry but Osborne’s vile, and I think sexist language towards the PM has now crossed the line. He’s either going the way of James Chapman, or he’s become a security risk.

Yes, Nadine Dorries is literally positing that George Osborne has either become mentally unbalanced or is flirting with the idea of committing an act of political terrorism. Let that sink in for a few moments.

And is anybody else getting sick of the word “vile” being appended to every object of criticism as the default go-to word of condemnation? Can we not have a little more variety in our self-righteous denunciations, at least? George Orwell would surely have a thing or two to say about our rote, unthinking repetition of the same tedious adjective.

Dorries continues:

He would never say these things of a man. Won’t be happy until she’s chopped into bits in a bag in my freezer. Dead woman walking. Living dead. Wants her immediate execution.

This is the kind of hysterical, overwrought language more commonly adopted by the most unhinged of Social Justice Warriors, who see physical harm in the most innocuous of words, not the language of a sober-minded parliamentarian.

No serious person could possibly believe that George Osborne literally wants to kill and dismember Theresa May, or fantasises about her death. This blog has about as low an opinion of George Osborne as it is possible to hold, and even I do not believe that the ex-Chancellor is a full-on psychopath who daydreams about the violent demise of his enemies.

And in fact Nadine Dorries and most of the other people who came scuttling out of the woodwork to declare their outrage also probably do not believe this of George Osborne. They just know that accusations of sexism or violence against women have enormous power to ruin reputations (as they should when such acts are actually committed), and think nothing of levelling such accusations in retaliation against language or behaviour that they dislike. Playing the sexism or racism card is fair game, in other words, when one’s cause is just – even if the evidence to back it up is not there.

And indeed it then becomes immediately clear why Nadine Dorries is actually upset:

He spent ten years undermining her and trying to squash her. He mounted whips operations against her in the chamber when she was Home Sec. I’ve written to Gavin [Williamson, Tory Chief Whip] and said I think his pass for conference should be removed because we would never allow a punter in who had said any of that, for security reasons. I hope some of you feel strongly enough to do the same.

So this has nothing to do with “security reasons” at all – it is just a convenient opportunity, gifted by Osborne’s crass language, to exact political revenge on an opponent (Dorries has had a fractious relationship with the Tory leadership since having the whip temporarily withdrawn after she skipped the country to participate in a reality TV show).

But of course, being honest about the real reasons for her animus toward the former Chancellor would make Dorries look small-minded and petty, so instead she slaps on the faux-outrage like a suit of armour and wades into battle, declaring that Osborne’s schoolyard threats somehow represent a security threat to the prime minister.

There is a very ugly and unseemly trend among an increasing number of MPs to wallow in their own supposed victimhood. Despite occupying one of the most high-status occupations it is possible to hold, one which opens up endless future career opportunities – to say nothing of conferring the ability to shape the course of the nation – a growing number of MPs seem to see themselves as uniquely oppressed and vulnerable.

This trend has greatly picked up since the ghastly murder of Jo Cox last year, an act which was universally condemned but which seems to have provided some more cynical politicians with an excuse to “turn the leaf” on past expenses scandals and abuses of public trust in order to cast themselves as the fearless public heroes and members of the public as little more than a source of menace and danger.

To be clear: Members of Parliament are public servants and have the absolute right to discharge their duties in the full expectation of safety and security. Any legitimate or even ambiguous threats of violence or vulgar verbal or written abuse is reprehensible. But it does not help the effort to crack down on real trolling and abuse of politicians (such as that received by Diane Abbott) when cynical and calculating people falsely conflate the kind of standard political skulduggery which has always been a part of politics with real racial or sexist abuse.

If anything, the fact that George Osborne has apparently been telling anybody who will listen at Evening Standard HQ that he wants to politically dismember the prime minister is itself proof that he sees Theresa May as much as a worthy opponent to smite as he would any man. Osborne’s colourful and rather gruesome imagery does not reveal a deep-seated loathing of women, but rather is evidence of real parity of esteem – he doesn’t see any reason why Theresa May should be spared from his ranting and plotting any more than a male politician.

A true feminist would surely approve of this acknowledgement of equality and see George Osborne’s posturing as evidence of social progress. In fact, the only people who might not take this stance are cynical political opportunists who like to use accusations of sexism as weapon, and babyish fourth-wave intersectional feminists who see all words as potentially harmful and any political dissent as a threat to their very personhood.

Why? Because their dispiriting, identity politics-soaked worldview is predicated on the notion that women are in fact not equal, that by virtue of their historic and present oppression they are uniquely vulnerable and in need of perpetual protection against the “harms” which may be inflicted by stray words.

There is real violence, misogyny and hatred in this world. Let us be vociferous in condemning any such incidences wherever they appear. But pretending that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer is one meat cleaver purchase away from dismembering the prime minister of the United Kingdom is risible at face value, as is the notion that his petty political vendetta might encourage anybody else to commit physical violence.

On the other hand, with Halloween around the corner this tedious episode has at least provided some inspiration for a few new costumes which will see all of Britain’s snowflakes running for their safe spaces.

 

George Osborne

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