This Hillsborough stuff is pretty repugnant, quite frankly.
I’ve known Paul Nuttall about 11 or 12 years so far. He’s often spoken to me about being at Hillsborough, and he does so with detail regarding the scenes of that day. He doesn’t usually talk about what happened after he got inside; it’s too painful for him to bring it up.
When people claim that he wasn’t there, and embark upon a negative, nasty and intrusive set of questions – including the press causing further pain to one family by trying to contact a person who died a few years ago – it demonstrates the very worst of the media.
Paul did know people who died that day.
And yes, five years ago – long before he ever thought about standing for the Party Leadership – someone wrote the wrong thing on his website by mistake.
He was at Hillsborough with close personal friends. And he knew people who died. They weren’t the same people.
So someone posted the story on his website getting those two things conflated.
These things happen in politics, and I’m scared stiff half the time when a member of staff posts something on my website or social media without my express sign-off on the precise wording but occasionally it has to be done.
That’s politics; you have to be able to trust the person who does that. Sometimes (like now) I post personally – there are others that a staff member will put up.
And honestly, they usually get it right. But there’s that time, that one in a hundred time, when they don’t.
If they get so much as an apostrophe out of place, I do rather haul them over the coals for it. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m completely illiterate…
But in this case the error went unspotted. Does that make Paul Nuttall a liar? No, it doesn’t.
It means a staff member made a mistake. An uncharacteristic mistake, I might add, in this case.
We all make mistakes, but the difference is that I (or anyone else in full-time public elected office) would be blamed not just for my own mistakes but for any mistakes of any of my staff.
When it comes to my staff I try to sign off on almost everything they do, to mitigate against such errors being public. There are times when it’s not possible, because of the nature of the job – an MEP doesn’t have time to be a full-time manager of a staff team whilst doing their job.
There are times when I might have only a couple of minutes to check something on my mobile phone on my way into a meeting. That’s led to me having to embarrassingly withdraw a beautiful graphic with a mis-spelling a couple of times in the past. My staff member made a mistake; I didn’t spot it instantly. I then look like an idiot; that’s how responsibility works.
Is Paul technically responsible for an error made by a staff member in a statement on his website, five years ago? Technically the buck stops with the boss, but morally he’s done nothing wrong.
The story should be about the press hounding Paul and those close to him about a tragedy like the Hillsborough disaster, trying to claim he lied when he did not.
That is an absolute disgrace and it’s disappointing to see journalists who are normally responsible acting in such ways. I strongly support a free press because it’s the best protection against becoming a quasi-dictatorship. But the quid pro quo is that the press should itself act responsibly.
And interesting, isn’t it, that after a string of embarrassments from Paul’s main opponent, Gareth Snell, the media is barely reporting on those things.
I could count at least five (I think there are more, but I can recall only five immediately) violent or racially-motivated incidents against UKIP campaigners in the last week or so in Stoke. Two of the perpetrators of one incident have been identified as Corbynista Labour activists.
Yet when a UKIP member is accused of saying something racist, and is suspended from the Party almost immediately, the press report the comment but fail to report the Party taking swift and decisive action. If we find racists in UKIP, they don’t stay with us very long.
The Labour scandals aren’t just about words or racism, but violence – and that makes them worse. They should be front-page news yet they are not. It is disappointing, to say the least, that the press continues to attack UKIP.
It shows one thing though: we are a threat to the establishment. Keep the faith!
This article originally appeared on Jonathan Arnott’s Facebook Page