Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Devil's Kitchen gets Brilloed but should carry on regardless

Chris Mounsey, leader of the fledgling Libertarian Party UK who also blogs at the vituperative (and often very amusing) Devil's Kitchen blog was interviewed on The Daily Politics today by old Brillo himself, Andrew Neil and was given a rough time. I have embedded a copy of the clip below which you can watch for yourself but I just wanted to give my views on what happened and its consequences first.

Neil seemed pretty uninterested in the policies of LPUK and instead initially focused on how small the party is (c450 members) and how small they were last year. He seemed to be trying to dismiss them as an irrelevance. Mounsey put up a reasonable defence at this point and explained how well the party is doing in building up support and members on-line.

However then Neil (inevitably) started making reference to some of the things that Mounsey has blogged about under his "Devil" persona. Neil said that he could not read out much of what was written on a particular blogpost about a trades-union leader as it was unbroadcastable but he did mention that at one point he had written that he hoped she would "bleed to death".

Anyone familiar with his blogging will know that he has strong libertarian views and he expresses them with equally strong language. However I have also seen him speak publicly and indeed we had him as a guest on the House of Comments podcast at the start of January and he does not come across like his web persona at all. It is obvious that it is the style of his blogging identity to be confrontational and controversial. It doesn't mean that Chris Mounsey, leader of the Libertarian Party is like that.

Of course as we all know and have seen many times, the real world does not work like that. We have seen council and parliamentary candidates for the other parties stand down for far, far less than the sort of thing that Mounsey regularly writes.

I had hoped for a spirited and libertarian defence of his right to have an on-line persona that is close to the knuckle and still be involved in active politics. However he just seemed to cave in to what Neil was saying. Neil suggested that an apology to the Trades Union leader in question might be appropriate and Mounsey obliged. Neil also suggested that if he were a candidate in any other party he would have had to stand down to which Mounsey also assented. Then the interview was over.

Now my blogging style is nothing like that of Mounsey's. However I think he has every right to blog in the way that he sees fit. Many of his supporters and party members will agree with what he is saying. Lots of libertarian bloggers have a strongly worded style and many of them also make very good points and are very funny too. Why should these people be barred from trying to seek political support for their views even if their styles are not to everyone's tastes?

I am disappointed to see that Mounsey offered his resignation to his party's national committee straight after the interview. I am also however pleased to see that they refused to accept it. I think he has every right to carry on both blogging in his chosen style and to seek support for the policies he wants to see. Why should he be forced to give up one or the other?

I would however say that the next time he is cornered like that, he needs to make a better job of defending his position and the way he approaches politics. He can actually use it as a way of making the point about his party's ideological position that he should be free to blog in any way that he likes and not be censored or muted by anyone. Then if he is seeking votes from people they can decide if they wish to elect him on that basis as no doubt (in time honoured fashion) his opponents will draw their attention to his blog posts.

I for one am very pleased to see people like Chris Mounsey trying to make a difference and get their voices heard both in the blogosphere and in more mainstream politics.

God knows we need more people with a bit of spark and personality in our political life.

Interview embedded here:


meanderingmammal said...

Probably unsurprising, but a pity.

I agree about staying where he is, I'm not keen on the kneejerk assumption that anyone who cocks up should resign immediately. People make mistakes, the key is learning from them. If he gets another pasting in an interview then that's the time to think about succession.

FWIW the scaling issue is a pretty significant one, and that's where the opportunity was missed. A lot of the LPUK message is quite interesting but until they're big enough there is little point in joining.

But there is a point about credibility, it's a while since I looked at the website but a bunch of students and recent graduates don't fill one with confidence. The foaming at the mouth approach in the blogs doesn't suggest that the policies are particularly well thought through. Even a minarchist position needs funding from somewhere. To be taken seriously the argument that one can have an online persona that is different from ones real life persona needs some evidence that the two are different; personal and official online, and a clear position on the separation that can be referred to at times like that.

Might want to be careful with the UKIP comparisons as well.

LibCync said...

On a purely vacuous note and having never seen him in person before, he looks like a cross between Dr. Christian from Embarrassing Bodies and Rod Liddle!

Roger Thornhill said...

"The foaming at the mouth approach in the blogs doesn't suggest that the policies are particularly well thought through."

Not sure that follows, logically. Policy statements are intentionally that, not polemical.

Alix said...

Neil is ghastly. You can't expect anything better than heroic propping up of the status quo from the media. A shame Chris was underprepared but frankly it wouldn't have done him any good if he hadn't been. And I think, for the best chance of success, someone without a record of swear-blogging probably has to start leading the charge against this ridiculous cultural over-sensitivity. He was exercising a legitimate right, but he was not in a great position to say so.

akashic said...

Have to disagree on this, in politics you can't have two different identities, you are either one or the other. I realise lib dems typically like to maintain two different positions on an issue, but eventually people want to know who you really are and what you really think.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I got the Rod Liddle doppelganger bit too. He seems like an awfully nioce chap. That Andrew Neil is a nasty, thick, smug bastion of the Old Beeb. Can't they put him out to pasture and get some fit Asian bird instead? Oh they already tried that...Hk Hk

meanderingmammal said...


Fairly straightforward due diligence, are those generating the policy statements demonstrating anything that supports the view that the policies are rigorous?

fwiw I know a couple of LPUK members in London through other routes and know their thinking is sound. I do pick holes in the odd position, but since we're broadly in agreement on a lot I'm pretty sanguine about things.

J Demetriou said...

A very good and fair analysis of DK's performance. Nice piece.


John Demetriou of Boaty & D

Dick Puddlecote said...

"God knows we need more people with a bit of spark and personality in our political life."

Indeed. There is always talk of the lack of characters in modern times, yet Brillo ignores policies and slaps down an online alter-ego instead. How sad.

And as for the 450 members bit, it's all so very football-esque.

jailhouselawyer said...

Isn't it rather hypocritical of Brillo to attack DK for suggesting that someone should bleed to death, when he killed off the DK blog?