The internet's long memory hasn't helped O'Mara. But these weren't distant teenage blunders—and their import isn't limited to the digital sphereby Stephanie Boland / October 25, 2017 / Leave a comment
As the Jared O’Mara saga enters its third day, led by further stories on political gossip blog Guido Fawkes, there’s one question on everyone’s lips (well, at least one question): how did it get to this point?
The truth is, political vetting is often quite successful: it is relatively usual to Google candidates and sift through their Tweets, although parties have certainly slacked in the past. Yet the resources required for proper vetting on a short turnaround are enormous. As one Canadian Liberal strategist explained after a political expose there in 2015, the issue is that parties often lack the man power to properly vet: “They expect people to voluntarily disclose problems.”
This was almost certainly the case in June. New candidates were selected not on a local level, but via Labour’s National Executive Committee and its regional boards. Some have pointed out that local activists had concerns that weren’t heard; certainly, there are women on Twitter to whom the latest allegations seem to come as no shock.
Former leader’s office staffer Matt Zarb-Cousin tweeted saying, “Amazed that Labour went to the trouble of buying software to scan the social media accounts of all its members to find a reason to throw people out but it still can’t get its head around properly vetting candidates.”
It is true that with the election moving so quickly—the selection process took all of five days—vetting was not as thorough as it might have been, and there are certainly questions to be asked about how local activists’ concerns could have been heard.
As Stephen Bush writes, “The party’s shortlisting committee, from right to left, was united in believing the only battles that mattered were those in seats where the incumbent MP was standing down … if one side or another was pushing someone strongly, no-one was that inclined to press the point.”
Yet this isn’t just a party issue. It is, of course, up to Labour to vet its candidates as well as possible, and up to them to decide whether they ought to withdraw the whip when revelations such as these come to light.
But those who suggest O’Mara’s comments are symptomatic of a wider rot on the party’s left miss the point. Neither homophobia or misogyny (or xenophobia, or racism) are the preserve of a specific political orientation. Labour has now suspended O’Mara, but all…