Is it ever acceptable to be offensive?


On the way to my office this morning I was listening to a debate on 5 Live about the decision of the Press Complaints Commission not to uphold the 25000 complaints made over the article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail, the day before Stephen Gately's funeral. Peta Buscombe, the PCC Chairman defended the decision claiming that the Moir column "just failed to cross the line".
During the debate, Matthew Parris, the former MP and openly gay journalist, was arguing that while he considered the article to be offensive he defended the right of Jan Moir to write the article.
So it is acceptable for a journalist to be offensive, but compare this to the reaction to David Wright, the Labour MP for Telford, allegedly describing Conservatives as "scum-sucking pigs" on Twitter. (He has denied it, and has claimed that someone had hacked into his Twitter account). I also remember the understandable outcry when my colleague Cllr Norman Lewis was likened to Frank from Shameless, and the residents of the Barlow Moor estate were likened to the inhabitants of the Chatsworth estate by a well-known Manchester Labour blogger (and Council election Candidate).
It's all very well talking about freedom of expression, but where do you draw the line? I was contacted today by a constituent who had read a tweet by Labour Councillor Val Stevens. She has claimed that I'm so worried about losing my seat that I've taken to 'comfort eating and losing my temper at random moments'. Personally I'm not worried by silly comments like this, and as a politician you have to be a bit more thick-skinned.
Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but there is no need for it to be done in an offensive way. The Jan Moir piece the day before Stephen Gately's funeral was offensive, both in its content and in its timing. If it had been written by a politician they would have been rightly hung out to dry. Why should a journalist be treated any differently?

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