Labour MP gives colleagues a lesson in how to deal with Aaron Bastani

Written by David Singleton on 9 November 2018 in Diary

As other MPs rose to the bait, Kevan Jones urged people to 'ignore the angry and the ill-informed'.

In recent, thoughtful piece on the evils of Twitter, the respected commentator Raphael Behr noted that “the Twitterstorm is not only routine, it is the qualifying benchmark for newsworthy controversy”.

His article for Prospect continued: “Whether the controversy is Boris Johnson’s comments about the niqab, or Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism, Twitter is the place where anger congregates and provokes more anger in a near-perpetual cycle. And those are cases where the initial offence occurred in the analogue world. There are others that exist purely for Twitter. It is a laboratory capable of synthesising scandal of its own…

“The sparks ignite partisan wildfires that rage intensely for a few hours or even days. They matter because they scorch a little more of the earth, charring the space where a more balanced and civil political debate might have been possible.”

The latest character making an obvious bid to spark a wildfire on Twitter is the far-left commentator Aaron Bastani.

The fierce Corbyn supporter ranted that it was “absolutely sickening” that Britain spends £45 million on poppies. He then added fuel to his fire by laying into the Royal British Legion and calling for it to be wound up.

And it worked! 

Bastani got coverage in The Sun with deputy Labour leader Tom Watson calling his comments "not just factually incorrect but disrespectful to the Royal British Legion who work tirelessly for our veterans".

On Twitter, John Mann was fuming. “This ignorant man needs throwing out of the Labour Party today,” he said.

His colleague Graham Jones also put out an angry tweet, while a further five MPs retweeted reaction to Bastani’s outburst.

For once, straight-talking Tory MP James Cleverly did not get too involved in the pile-on. Rather he tweeted: “I have deleted numerous draft responses to the vile things that Aaron Bastani said about the British Legion & Poppy Appeal. I found myself using language completely inappropriate for someone in my position.”

But perhaps the best comeback of all was provided by Labour’s Kevan Jones. In a piece for PoliticsHome he wrote that: “The poppy is our national symbol of remembrance. Wearing it is a simple annual act to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we all in this country take for granted today. It also acts as an annual focus for the public to help to financially support the work of The Royal British Legion who assist veterans, serving members of the Armed Forces and their families.”

He went on: “In the value-free social media age, it is easy to be cynical and to be critical. Making outrageous and uninformed Trump-style claims about the Poppy Appeal may shock and may raise an individual’s media profile - which may have been their only aim - but adds nothing to serious debate of how we support our Armed Forces community or how we recognise the sacrifices that allow the freedom of speech that we have today.”

And without giving any names, he urged people “to ignore the angry and the ill-informed and to support the Poppy Appeal”. 










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