28 April 2010
What Chris Mounsey should have said

A few weeks (days?) ago, Chris Mounsey, aka The Devil’s Kitchen and leader of the UK Libertarian Party (or is it Libertarian Party UK?) appeared on Andrew Neil’s TV programme and got torn apart.  As a direct consequence he announced that he was going to give up swearing and that the Devil’s Kitchen was no more.

Brian said: “I told you so.” Or words to that effect.  Meaning that you can’t mix swearing and party leadership.  But I do find myself wondering if Mounsey could have done better even with the hand he held.

He was asked two main questions.  The first was about the size of his party.  Mounsey immediately went into defensive mode: “Oh we’re growing all the time etc.” and ended up sounding like a dodgy saleman.  Why not say: “Yup we’re tiny at the moment I would like us to be much bigger but we’ve all got to start from somewhere.”?

Or to put it another way: be honest.  Or to put it another other way: you’re not so far in with the Establishment that they’re prepared to ignore your lies yet.

But then came the knock-out blow.  Neil started asking about the swear blogging.  He dug up a particularly choice example most of which he couldn’t repeat but included some line in which Mounsey hoped a trade unionist would bleed to death.

You know what I can’t even remember what Mounsey said in reply but it didn’t come across well.  Yes, I know I could go back and look at the tape but to be honest, I can’t be bothered.  It’s too painful and anyway, I think my impression is far more important than what was actually said.  Anyway, I think Mounsey backed down.  But he may have been just evasive.  But he looked terrible and the knock-on effects are there for all to see.

But what should he have said?

Again I think he should have been honest.  Which is easier said than done.  The thing they never tell you about honesty is that it is hard work.  Our real motivations can be far from clear.

For instance, I don’t think Mounsey thinks that statists should all be killed.  Not even a substantial minority.  Not even that particular trade unionist.  I think he was simply using colourful language to express his disagreement.  It was not to be taken seriously.  And he should have said so.  This is how the conversation should have gone:

Neil: You’ve said these terrible things.

Mounsey: I was joking.

That is after all, (I hope) the truth.

Neil: Well, I didn’t laugh.

Mounsey: You’re wrong.

Neil: About not laughing?

Mounsey: No.

What Neil is wrong about is the idea that jokes are supposed to lead to laughter.  Some jokes are unserious but not funny.  This is an example.  But there’s no need to tell Neil that.  He’s being the belligerent.  There’s no need to co-operate.

Or perhaps the conversation could have gone this way:

Neil: You’ve said these terrible things.

Mounsey: Had it ever occurred to you that I wasn’t being entirely serious?

Neil: No.

Mounsey: Then you’re a moron.

In the end I suspect Neil did Mounsey a huge favour.  Better to have your disasters early on rather than later.

I may follow this up with Crozier’s compleat guide to dealing with the media.  But I might not.

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  1. It is indeed LPUK rather than UKLP, if only because UKLP is one small line away from UKIP.

    I think an even better defence would have been to concentrate on anger.  Something along these lines:

    “[I]nstead of [whining] about how you just adopted a “persona”, you ought to have told the truth: that the people of this country feel unalloyed rage at the way they are milked for money by unions and parties. You should have stood your ground and challenged Wiggy - you should have asked him why he is more troubled by the language of one blogger than by 13 years of Labour corruption.”

    That’s what Rob Fisher said chez moi that Mounsey should have said, and I think that would have worked far better than “I was only joking”.  It also has the advantage of Mounsey not needing to insult Andrew Neil for not getting the joke.  Neil might be sympatico to the LPUK at some time in the future.

    I still think it was wise to stop with the swearing now, though.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 April 2010 at 10:41pm

  2. Not my words, incidentally, I was just quoting someone else, but yes. Any robust defense would have been better than giving up.

    I keep hearing the phrase “media training”.  This is presumably what enables Harriet Harmon to ignore the question and keep repeating over and over the Gordon didn’t mean it. But this is too transparent.  It would be nice to see some honest debate.  It would be nice if the media allowed this, of course.

    I’d be interested to know how the Crozier school of dealing with the media differs.

    Posted by Rob Fisher on 29 April 2010 at 01:02pm

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