Political rhetoric goes too far when things get personal

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to volunteers at Nelson Hall Community Centre on December 16, 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The UK Labour leader joined with Scottish Labour leader...

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of calling Theresa May a “stupid woman”.

Jeremy Corbyn has been caught up in a media storm after allegedly referring to Theresa May as a “stupid woman”.

During a heated moment in Prime Minister’s Questions on the 19th December, Corbyn is caught on camera mouthing something inaudible, which lip readers claim to be “stupid woman”.

Since then, a spokesperson for Labour has dismissed this, as reported by BBC, claiming instead that Corbyn said “stupid people”.

The spokesperson dismissed calls for the Labour leader to apologise, stating that Corbyn had “no time for misogynistic statements”.

They said: "He did not call her a stupid woman and so I don't think there's any basis for an apology. As I understand it, he said 'stupid people'."

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers Questions on December 19, 2018 in London, England. Today's PMQ's is the last of 2018 before...Prime Minister Theresa May on her way to PMQs on December 19th.

 

Regardless of whether Corbyn’s remark was a sexist jibe or merely just a personal insult, it still crosses the line from political rhetoric into the unacceptable.

The Brexit divide has ensured that British politics is turning increasingly toxic and the environment of PMQs puts the two main party leaders in the spotlight with emotions running high.

But debate goes too far when politics are cast aside and a personal insult is the preferred argument tool.

 

Just earlier this week, Ian Blackford – an MP for the Scottish National Party – was told to “go back to Skye” by a Conservative MP in parliament.

This comment was not rhetoric, but instead discrimination; an ill-judged and unnecessary personal remark intended to offend Blackford and Scottish people.

Pro-Europe British politician, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP, Ian Blackford attends at People's Vote campaign press conference in London on December 11, 2018. - British Prime Minister...SNP politician Ian Blackford

In fact, Blackford managed the situation gracefully, dismissing it as “ignorance and arrogance”.

But “ignorance and arrogance” are completely unacceptable traits for elected representatives, who are supposed to be held as moral beacons in this country.

Politicians are meant to set an example, but too often, they end up doing the opposite.

 

In one sense, it does not matter whether Corbyn was being sexist or instead dismissing his opponents as unintelligent.

As leader of the opposition in the United Kingdom – at such an important time in the nation’s history – Corbyn should rise above personal insults.

In political debate, we should be seeing politicians eloquently and rationally articulating their argument.

Of course, politicians should be able to vehemently express their disagreement with their opponent’s politics.

But using personal insults diminishes the argument and ventures beyond the realms of magniloquence.

Political rhetoric has a limit, but the mark is being overstepped far too often now.