In the first episode of the third season of Blackadder, a caricature of David Dimbleby advises a mockery of the Monster Raving Loony Party to, perhaps, "consider taking up politics". This scene always comes into my mind whenever I hear of things like the covering of Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg in blue paint by an ex-Lib Dem activist. It came into my mind when Jonnie Marbles attacked Rupert Murdoch with a foam-pie as well. People tend to polarise into two-camps following events like this; they either see them as immensely humorous and in some way politically justified or they tend to completely lose the plot and scream assault and battery. The first response is politically naive and the second is mildly insulting to people who have been actually assaulted with something a little more damaging, like, for example, fists or a broken glass bottle.
Now it's absolutely true that Clegg's attacker screamed political slogans but the point is in doing that all he is doing is discrediting them by making them look like they are the kind of arguments that only somebody with less maturity than your average Pre-school class can muster. Furthermore, it is utter nonsense to say this is merely another kind of 'direct action' of the kind UK Uncut regularly organise. It isn't. UK Uncut's targets are predetermined with a clearly articulated agenda behind them, the actions themselves are usually accompanied by people handing out literature to explain the point of what is actually going on. So, the actions of Marble's or the aptly named, on Twitter, 'Stu-Pot2' are clearly not actions of this caliber now are they?
Nonetheless, some on the left persist in saying they are and feteing these people like some kind of conquering hero, totally oblivious to how these actions are viewed by the general populace. Most people simply don't like it - they tend to sympathise with the person on the receiving end because their attacker is obviously, well a bit of an attention seeking berk, not a serious politician or political activist. They feel, rightly, if you are going to make a political point you should probably try and do it in a sensible and comprehensible way, not shrilly at the top of your voice as your being dragged away kicking and screaming by the police. Meanwhile, the police and the state use all this as an excuse to extend their power and restrict our democratic freedoms, like free speech, and freedom to protest, etc. Marble's little adventure has probably spelled doom for reasonable public access to Select Committee hearings, for example.
Not that the media is totally blameless. The Guardian giving column inches to Jonnie Marbles (and probably now Stu Pot) was ill-advised but the barrage of morally self-righteous criticism from the rest of the media which had lapped up the Marbles story and splashed it over every front-page was frankly vomit inducing. The fact is, and yes, i'm talking to you journalists, you love it and you know you do, it's one of the few ways a political story get's serious front-page attention in some of the more low-brow tabloids. Ultimately, however, the responsibility lies with us, the left, to hold these people to account and not to treat them like some kind of misunderstood geniuses. They are self-serving prats and until the electoral franchise is extended to the under 5's they will do us and our politics nothing but harm. So, Jonnie and Stu-Pot, please, for all our sakes, consider taking up politics.
Follow Darrell Goodliffe on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DarrellGoodliff