Amid Brexti chaos, a Twitter argument between two Members of Parliament has lightened the mood this week. Conservative MP Owen Paterson and Labour MP Louise Haigh have become embroiled in a social media debate involving the Didn't Happen of the Year Awards.
Haigh “nominated” Paterson for the infamous DHOTYA after the Tory MP claimed that strangers approach him on the tube to discuss Brexit. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Paterson said: “People come up to me on the tube, on the trains, saying ‘just get on with it’.”
"People come up to me on the tube, on the trains, saying 'just get on with it'."— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 19, 2019
Conservative MP Owen Paterson says "people would be dismayed" if the UK fails to leave the EU. pic.twitter.com/ReevIkveW4
Quoting a clip of Paterson on her personal Twitter account, Sheffield Heeley MP Haigh responded by saying that no one talks to each other on the tube and tagged the Didn’t Happen of the Year awards account for comic value. The DHOTYA account has nearly 150,000 followers and is growing in popularity on social media.
But rather than retort with a humorous quip or by merely ignoring the situation, Paterson decided to escalate this situation with a formal request for Haigh to withdraw her nomination. On official headed Commons paper, Paterson wrote to Haigh giving reasons why he was not lying.
I have written to @LouHaigh after she nominated me for the @_DHOTYA Awards. The man who approached me unsolicited on the Tube encouraging me to continue urging the Government to deliver Brexit gave me his card and she is most welcome to come to my office to see it for herself! pic.twitter.com/yOMoTnbMIN— Owen Paterson MP (@OwenPaterson) March 20, 2019
Referencing one man, rather than his initial claim of “people”, Paterson said: “The gentleman in question even gave me his card. I will not, of course, publish his name as he gave it to me privately, but you are most welcome to come to my office and see it for yourself. I should, therefore, be grateful if you would withdraw your nomination publicly."
Twitter reacted hysterically to Paterson sharing the letter on social media on Wednesday evening - at a similar time to Theresa May’s speech on Brexit’s progress.
And rather than 'withdraw' her nomination, Haigh quoted the tweet and said “not now, Owen”, pointing out the poor timing of his post. Later she replied with a lengthier tweet, calling the North Shropshire MP out for changing his initial claim and urging him to return to more important political affairs.
Dear Owen,— Louise Haigh MP (@LouHaigh) March 20, 2019
You said people before, now it's one bloke?
Did you or the badgers move the goalposts this time?
Shall we get back to trying to sort Brexit out now?
Since then, DHOTYA tweeted Haigh to ask for confirmation of the nomination, to which she replied with “I regret nothing”. It looks like Paterson could be the first MP to win the unwanted accolade of the DHOTYA.
There is only one winner and one loser from this Twitter debate. While Haigh emerges showing her social media nous and humour, Paterson's ill-fated attempt to brush this under the carpet has dramatically backfired.
If Paterson was really concerned about winning the DHOTYA, which should be the least of his worries, then the best tactic would have been to ignore Haigh. But by insisting on taking formal measures to lodge a complaint, he has dug his own grave and sealed his place in this year's DHOTYA nominations.
With the nation in crisis over Brexit, it really is remarkable that Paterson has taken Haigh's minor joke so seriously and defended his original statement in such melodramatic and stouthearted fashion.
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