Why Custard Has No Place In Politics

Change protestor throws cup of green custard over Lord Mandelson
Change protestor throws cup of green custard over Lord Mandelson

I can’t claim a great love for Lord Mandelson, but throwing green custard in his face is just plane stupid. Describing him as ‘slimy’ is an opinion, one that is shared by many, but does it advance a debate? Of course not.

One of the causes I espouse is to try to lessen the distance between the citizen and its political class. To physically attack politicians will have the obvious effect of them being forced behind a security screen and make them more distant, more unapproachable from the people.

In the film of the event, Mandelson is seen approaching the lady, clearly intending to listen. Instead of talking to him, or even telling him what her concerns are, she threw custard.

Earlier this week, she sounded a klaxon horn whilst Geoff Hoon was speaking. Like the British Army, I’m no admirer of him either, but surely he should be allowed to speak? If you don’t like it, rebut it. I’ll bet the farm that she, who tried to silence an elected politician, is in favour of free speech. But, of course, only free to people she approves of.

Sadly, many seem to approve of the action, purely on the grounds that they don’t like Mandelson. It’s either OK to assault politicians or it isn’t.

In her defence, she says Mandy is unelected. Well, Mandy has previously been elected by the people of Hartlepool and is in his current position at the request of an elected government. Precisely who elected Leila Deen? Who elected Plane Stupid to represent them?

God save us from spoilt middle-class angst. Lord preserve us from privileged kids feeling guilty and angry at Mummy and Daddy. They’ve been a blight on the Left for decades.

Brussels has civilised Mandy. He arrived with his usual panache, his joyful spinning and smearing. Within a week he was in deep, deep trouble as EU politics are much more sophisticated than the rough and tumble of the UK. Over here, it’s about concensus, about coalition building, not the “Yah! Boo!” screeching of the Uk’s Animal House of Common’s. He learned his lesson well.

Whenever I meet a politician, no matter what I feel about their party or policy, I deal with them politely and talk to them. Usually, they respond well and we can have a useful and interesting discussion and they do tell me what they really think and can be very open indeed. Most of these conversations are ‘off the record’ but they do inform my views and what I write.

It also means that I can talk to them in future. I can’t see Plane Stupid having many high level meetings in future, can you?

They can gleefully boast about this juvenile act as much as they want, but they have done a disservice to their cause and to those of us who want a more open, a more democratic politics.


  1. hear! Hear!

  2. Any time people subvert the democratic process, whether its breaking Starbucks windows or lynching CEOs in the news, I have to wonder how they’d like those same tactics applied to them.

    The right to free speech means people who disagree with me get to speak too. The right to be innocent until proven guilty applies whether or not you’re a public figure. And destruction of property is a crime no matter who that property belongs to.

    • HuffPo had a post on that recently, someone said in a court of law, yes, innocent until proven guilty, but as a journalist presented with overwhelming evidence including an admission of guilt, I have no reason or ethical responsibility to pretend Madoff is innocent.

      Can such a POV be abused? Sure, But his point is valid. I think.

  3. There is a delicate balance between journalistic responsibility and freedom of speech. Investigative journalism is one thing– but responsible journalism demands factual reporting when it comes to alleged criminal matters. To report that Madoff has been indicted in appropriate. If there is an admission of guilt, quote it. But in this (and too many other cases recently) there’s been speculation: the money is missing therefore he (or she) is guilty.

    There’s a the moral problem with convicting someone in the press without due process: the irreverible damage done to that person’s career and life even if later found innocent. Two HP execs were convicted in the press a couple of years ago, then found innocent at trial. I can find no record that they’re currently employed. That’s just plain wrong. In court, they say better that a thousand guilty men go free than tone innocent man get convicted. In the press, innocence be damned.

    But consider the legal ramifications: if it could be shown that overzealous reporting caused the accused to be unable to get a fair trial (based on being unable to empanel an unbiased jury), the accused could walk away scot free. How does THAT serve the cause of justice?

    But of course, responsibility doesn’t sell advertising…

    • I hear what you’re saying. The HuffPo post said that considering billions are missing and Madoff has admitted guilt, it would be irresponsible and pointless to act in print as if this weren’t true.

      That the HP people have jobs now wouldn’t be news. Their CEO was fired / resigned as a result of them wiretapping their own staff to find leaks, as I recall. It may not have been illegal, but it was, in the view of most, highly unethical.

  4. Different case. These guys were charged with fraud. The AG claimed the case was open & shut– and the press lynched them. Turns out there wasn’t enough evidence to convict. But you can’t un-lynch someone, even when the lynching was verbal (or printed).

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