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Did Munroe Bergdorf not expect the digital inquisition?

6 March 2018

2:48 PM

6 March 2018

2:48 PM

But for Toby Young, it is possible that few of us would have noticed the appointment of a transgender model called Munroe Bergdorf, who resigned this morning as a member of Labour’s LGBT advisory board. Her appointment might have gone unnoticed, along with her past comments on social media, which included attacking what she described as ‘the racial violence of white people’ – adding:

‘Yes ALL white people. Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism.’

Bergdorf was quick to try to play victim this morning, claiming that her appointment had ‘turned into nasty tabloid fodder, blown out of all proportion’. The Guardian was quick to endorse her victimhood, attributing her demise as a Labour adviser to ‘attacks in the tabloid press and by Conservatives over comments she had made’.

Let’s leave aside the issue of how much longer the Guardian is going to try to use ‘tabloid’ as a byword for what it sees as bigoted opinion when the paper is now manifested in the very same printed form, but it seems a little pointless in the Left moaning about the unfairness of trawling through someone’s past social media posts for material with which to undermine them. It was, after all, the Left which demonstrated the brutal power of doing just this when it forced Toby Young to resign from a role at the new Office for Students before he had even taken it up.

It ought to have been obvious that the Young case had taught political activists on all sides of the power of going through someone’s social media posts for offhand remarks made a while ago. It is very easy do to. The damage is so devastating because the incriminating evidence can be dripped through day by day, giving the impression that the story is never going to go away.

Labour has tried its best with Bergdorf and also with Tom Watson’s donor Max Mosley, exposed last week as the publisher of a nasty electioneering leaflet from the early 1960s: to assert that they are victims of unfair inquiry, that they have been ‘smeared’, that their past views are of no relevance to the present. But it isn’t going to wash. Can you imagine the outrage on the Left had Max Mosley been a Conservative party donor? As for Bergdorf, there is little point in trying to argue that her comments are not racist. Making generalisations about people on the basis of their race is surely the very essence of racism. Either her remarks are offensive bunkum or the Labour Party itself – on account of the colour of Jeremy Corbyn’s skin – is led by a racist.

From now on everyone is going to have to accept that anyone appointed to any kind of public or political post is going to have their Twitter feeds, their Facebook posts and everything else given a full run-through by activists. The prospect of a digital inquisition might just reduce the pool of talent available for careers in public life, but unless Mosley gets his way and it becomes illegal to hold or publish any compromising data on an individual that is just how it is going to be. 

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