I decided this morning that I had probably upset quite enough people for one week, so I would make a concerted effort to avoid controversy today. I've managed this quite successfully, and have even failed to rise (well, by my standards, failed to rise) to provocation from one of the Tory tots on Twitter who was trying to pin me down on whether I thought the idea of Margaret Thatcher slipping on a roller skate and falling head over heels down the Downing Street stairs had any intrinsic comedy value (in which case he could denounce me, along with other Labour people on Twitter, for calling for the violent death of a 'frail old lady', and boy did he want to do that. All very silly).
Last night on Twitter was quite bizarre. It started when Sandra Gidley - a Lib Dem MP with whom I have been on a Bill committee, but don't think I've ever spoken to and don't really know anything about - took umbrage at something I'd written on my blog. She tweeted - "Patronising tosh from @KerryMP" with a link to one of my recent posts. (See if you can guess which one..) and this was then duly re-tweeted by a few Lib Dems, and then by someone calling herself @Esther4Luton...
For a start I'd dispute that I was patronising the Lib Dems. I was quite clearly 'on a wind up' (sorry, can't think of a more elegant way of expressing it) as is generally the case when I talk about Lib Dems on here. Their fault, I would argue for having absolutely no discernible sense of humour whatsoever. And I certainly wasn't decrying the intelligence of those who vote Liberal Democrat, though I would certainly stick to my guns in saying that generally votes for the Lib Dems are votes against the two main political parties, not votes for the Lib Dems in an enthused, passionate, committed way. And as evidence for this I would cite something I was told recently; that of those voters who said that the party they 'most closely identified with' was the Lib Dems, two-thirds haven't yet decided which party they're going to vote for at the next election. Anyway, Sandra and some other Lib Dems thought I was being patronising and talking tosh but resisted by entreaties to engage in debate by putting me straight on this blog.
As an aside I do think there's something very Lib Dem, a little passive-aggressive perhaps, about not actually telling me directly that the post is patronising tosh but just dropping my name into a tweet which I would see anyway. It's something that's quite common on Twitter and rather rude, methinks. Far better to say "@N*****D******MP You're talking nonsense again" than to say "I see that "@N*****D******MP is talking nonsense again". (This is of course an entirely fictitious Twitter account and any resemblance to any person, etc, etc).
Anyway.... @Esther4Luton joined in the RT-ing. Can you imagine, being called patronising by Esther Rantzen of all people! I tweeted back along the lines of "Patronising? Pot. Kettle. Black?"
Then Iain Dale DM'd me (i.e. a private message on Twitter) saying 'No way is that the real Esther Rantzen'. I'd already started to come to that conclusion, having looked at her past tweets, so I tweeted to all and sundry, "Apologies, it's not really Esther Rantzen, it's clearly a spoof". At which point, someone else DM'd me and said, "Errr.. it really is her." And finally Esther [and finally, Cyril...] herself replied saying "It is me. And I can read. And I did not say you were patronising". So I then had to explain to her how re-tweeting on Twitter works, and that if you RT someone else's comment it kind of sounds like you're endorsing what they've said.
Anyway, this episode has led me to discover the joys of the Esther4Luton blog which is all about how passionate she is about Luton and what a marvellous little town it is, and how wonderful the people are, and how glorious the curry was at an event she attended. Or words to that effect. (Which I suppose is an improvement on John Carlisle, the former Tory MP for North Luton, who was proud of the fact he'd never eaten in an Indian restaurant in the town.) She now has a purple and orange office in the indoor market, which is orange for Luton (LTFC, or Easyjet, take your pick) and purple "for the passion she feels for the town." Sounds rather like the house I lived in in Luton in the 1970s. Purple kitchen, orange bedroom, very fashionable.
Esther also blogs about strange creatures called the Caddingtonites, who inhabit a village one mile or so outside Luton. Which happens to be where I spent the first six years of my life (in a council house before you get the wrong idea!) and where my mother grew up, and where my grandfather and an aunt and uncle and three cousins and their husbands and their children all still live. Which is a long-winded way of saying that I am in a position to know what people from Caddington call themselves and it's not Caddingtonites (which sounds a bit too much like troglodytes for my liking). The local magazine is the Caddingtonian.
Esther's pitch for the Luton South vote is of course that she's an independent voice and not a professional politician. She was tweeting that all three main parties are tainted by sleaze (which is a bit of a slur on those candidates standing against her, not to mention neighbouring MP Kelvin Hopkins who has been dubbed by the press one of the 'saints' in the expenses saga) and that MPs from the main parties are completely in thrall to the party whips. (Hmmm..... Kelvin has notched up something like 250 rebellions to date. In fact I have to do a double-take when I see him in the same lobby as me, just to make sure I am actually supporting the Government).
Anyway, Labour has just shortlisted its candidates for the Luton South selection, so hopefully someone will be in place before Christmas. I will of course be focusing all my efforts on Bristol East, but I might be tempted to keep just half an eye on Esther's blog...