Sunday, 20 September 2015

It is never OK to tweet sick jokes about dead refugees.

This is how it used to go back in the day, there would be a horrific disaster somewhere in the world and within a day or so there would be dozens of 'sick' jokes doing the rounds in the playground.

It wasn't big or clever, but we all did it before we grew up and developed some sensitivity. At best you could say it was a case of testing the boundaries of what is acceptable; at worst it was an object lesson in the crass stupidity of youth.

Richard Broughan, Ukip councillor for Abbey Hulton and Townsend is a bit long in the tooth for the playground, but, sadly it seems, not adult enough to have learnt to engage his brain before he tweets.

That would be why he decided it was acceptable to tweet #IsItOk to ask migrants to chill out following the Austrian refrigerated lorry incident, in reference to the death of a party of refugees on their way to Europe.

This spectacularly unfunny 'joke', he told the Sentinel, wasn't racist it was just his contribution to a debate on the TV comedy programme 'The Last Leg.' He went on to tell the paper the tweet had been 'misinterpreted' and that 'social media can be dangerous because there is no real line between a professional profile and a personal opinion.'

Talk about being wise after the event, Mr Broughan's late discovery of common sense hasn't done him any favours, he's been suspended from the council pending an investigation and may face disciplinary action from his party.

As to whether he's a racist only he can answer, he's certainly guilty of being thoughtless and immature, not to say more than a little dumb. Really can there be anyone in politics who hasn't grasped that in cyberspace everyone can hear you prattling on.

I have only encountered Mr Broughan in person once, it was during the election campaign and I wasn't much impressed by what I saw. It was before one of the candidates debates held at Staffordshire University, he was standing in the foyer having 'lunched well' as the sketch writer's euphemism has it and entertaining some friends with the sort of jokes that would have made Bernard Manning blush.

He came over as an almost amiable buffoon trying to validate himself by having others laugh at more than with him. Quite a sad way to behave, but more likely to be the product of insecurity than prejudice.

His antics do though through an unflattering spotlight once again on the ugly truth hidden behind the 'hail fellow well met' front put up by Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Put the words Ukip, scandal and comments into any search engine you like and a list of sordid incidents will fill the screen, each one usually ending in an apology, an expulsion and a pledge that nothing like this will ever happen again; until next time anyway, and there is always a next time.

The party described by its own leader as a collection of crackpots exhibits an unhealthy suspicion of anything that could be remotely seen as being 'other' to a very narrow vision of what it means to be English coupled with a total lack of sensitivity. As evidenced by the inability of many Ukip supporters to tell the difference between a mortal insult and a bit of 'banter.'

Richard Broughan has probably brought the curtain down on his political career before it has really begun, something over which we need shed no tears since he is the author of his own misfortune in 140 characters or less.

There is a saying that the unfortunate thing about political jokes is that they sometimes get elected, Richard Broughan's short and far from glorious tenure as a councillor will probably demonstrate how quick voters are to turn their backs on one when he proves to be painfully unfunny.

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