Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Godfrey Bloom's 'slut' quip was hardly heinous

UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom was stripped of the party whip last week

Right. This feels difficult to confess, almost transgressive. A bit like admitting to fancying Jim Allister, or harbouring a strange fascination with Nelson McCausland's beard.

But here goes: I feel sorry for Godfrey Bloom, the UkIP MEP, who was stripped of the party whip last week after he told a group of female party activists they were all "sluts". He has since announced that he will no longer represent Ukip in Europe.

In vain did the hapless Bloom protest that he had been joking when he made the "slut" remarks, following the admission, by two of his female colleagues, that they did not clean behind their fridges. (Does anybody actually clean in there? I know I don't.)

In vain did he point out that the women at the Ukip conference fringe event enjoyed the joke.

Admittedly, Bloom did not subsequently redeem himself by whacking a reporter over the head with a copy of the conference brochure, or by going on to accuse the BBC's Allegra Stratton of having no sense of humour (after asking "has your mother never called you a slut?")

And Bloom already had form in drawing troublesome attention to the party, with his recent description of the Third World as "Bongo Bongo Land".

But this time, it was all too much for Ukip leader Nigel 'Mine's a Pint, I'm Normal, Me' Farage, who said that the MEP had "gone way over the line" and, sure enough, soon it was bye-bye.

Not a great loss, you might say. A foolish, bigoted old man has been punished for ill-judged and offensive behaviour, by an ambitious party – eager to move beyond its 'fruitcakes and loonies' image – which can no longer be seen to tolerate anachronistic views that smack (overtly, anyway) of racism, or sexism.

I'm no fan of the bumbling Mr Bloom. I didn't appreciate his claim, in 2004, that nobody sane would "ever employ a lady of childbearing age", or when he congratulated France for bombing Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior.

Neither am I enamoured of the nasty little party, associated with neo-fascist groupings in Europe, that he formerly represented. Alan Skedd, the disenchanted founder of Ukip, accurately summed it up as extremely right-wing, morally dodgy on immigration and lacking in intellectual weight.

Mr Bloom's silly quip about sluts was, indeed, an ugly thing to say, yet it was hardly heinous. Blazer-wearing Buffington-Tuffingtons like him are common enough on these shores, too, and I have heard them make similarly unfunny 'jokes'.

My usual reaction is one of pity and boredom, rather than anger. I expect the female Ukip activists who laughed were probably just indulging him, as compliant women have done for centuries.

But what I found just as offensive and actually far more dangerous than Bloom's "slut" joke was the media reaction to it. Especially the so-called liberal media. The levels of sanctimonious outrage soared sky-high.

The Guardian helpfully explained to its readers that "the word slut can mean a woman who is slatternly, but also one who is sexually promiscuous". Ooh, you don't say.

Neither Bloom's claim that he was just joking, nor his aide's suggestion that Bloom had meant merely "slovenly", held any weight with the New Statesman.

It prissily pointed out that "the two versions of events are, of course, mutually exclusive; if the word was used without its double entendre connotations, there is no joke". Er, right, whatever you say, guys. And why not get a life while you're at it?

Bloom was pursued and excoriated with an odd mixture of prim disgust and gleeful delight, like a group of swotty, self-righteous sixth-formers on safari, trying to shoot a doddery, diseased old lion.

It was almost too easy. Somebody had said a bad word, one of those words we just won't tolerate hearing in our modern, civilised, ultra-tolerant society.

That means he's fair game. Go on, boys (and girls): in for the kill. Godfrey Bloom and his ilk are the sort of people that we are officially allowed, even encouraged, to despise. Yet, in policing every word of these boorish buffoons, in shutting them down and silencing them the moment they say anything remotely off-colour, the smug 'liberal' moral majority is acting in the interests of censorship and intolerance and in opposition to freedom of expression.

Did someone mention the word fascism?

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