Why Nick Sowden Should NOT Have Been Expelled From The LNP

It would be fair to say that after Nick Sowden was expelled from the Liberal Party and I posted a rather spirited defense of him, I received a flurry of emails by persons wondering why on earth I would do such a thing. After all, the political history between me and Mr. Sowden would be described as bitterly acrimonious at best. What’s more, he is a self-proclaimed moderate, something I feel is a scourge upon the Liberal Party. He attacked the Tea Party movement in the United States (of which I am a part). Together with a few other malcontents, in the University of Queensland Student Union elections he worked with the Labor club against the Liberal ticket. And his personality and approach to politics is the polar opposite to mine.

Yet I stand by my previous comments. As much as I may differ with him personally, I strongly believe that he should not have been expelled from the Liberal National Party over this, and that a very damaging precedent that has been set. And, rather than this being something to laugh about, this is a very, very important issue. Because principle should triumph over personality.

I say this for two main reasons. Firstly, because this will open up the floodgates where every joke, every comment will become fair game, and secondly, because of the principle of party loyalty.

Before I explain, however, I wish to make one thing absolutely, totally, and abundantly clear: I do notbelieve Mr. Sowden is a racist, and I am 100% convinced that his explanation of parody is genuine. I say this for a very simple reason: I have followed Mr. Sowden on Twitter for a very long period of time now, and I know his style of putting on act of being an extremist to try to troll for responses. As I stated on my personal blog, we are talking about someone who tries to provoke people by condemning all gays to the fires of hell on Twitter, when he himself is out of the closet. We are talking about your classic internet troll.

Now, is he an idiot for doing this? Yes. Is he a jerk? Yes. No doubt whatsoever. And I have never seen how such trolling can be funny. But be that as it may, anyone and everyone who knows Mr. Sowden knows that his tweets, whilst stupid, were not a reflection of his views, and that he is most defiantly not racist.

With that in mind, therefore, in succumbing to the howls of outrage from the press gallery, and expelling Nick, what has the LNP done.

Firstly, it has sent a message that even if you have worked for the party for many years, served it, expressed loyalty to it, that at the first sign of trouble, the party will simply cut you loose and throw you to the hounds. This is not how parties are meant to work. In Australia, we have a system, for better or for worse, based upon party loyalty. On one hand, party members are expected to support their party, and not attack it in public (although of course are allowed to disagree on issues). Yet the corollary of this is that a party is expected to remain loyal to its members. And when unsubstantiated charges are made, the party should defend its members. And if a party no longer shows loyalty to its members, then members will no longer show the party any loyalty in return. And this is something that will have serious ramifications. After all, why should I be loyal to a party if it will not be loyal to me?

Secondly, however, this has now opened political parties up to Mutually Assured Destruction. And I say this quite seriously. All of us have at some point said or done something stupid. We have all made a joke on Twitter that, taken out of context, could land us in deep, deep trouble. Up until now, there has been an unwritten code that we will not go after members of the opposite party for such things. Sure, it’s been breached a little here and there, but, for the most part, what happens online, stays online. What is clearly a joke, shall stay a joke. Because once we open the floodgates up so that every joke taken out of context becomes fair game, it is a very, very rapid decline into a situation where everyone’s private jokes get spread throughout the media, and no-one is safe. Had the LNP not expelled Nick, this could have been avoided. Now, however, a precedent has been set: you can destroy someone’s career (and indeed life) by taking 140 characters of theirs out of context, and using it to mount an attack. And this is not a good thing, and shall lead to only the most dull, the most bland, the most devoid of personality continuing in politics.

Some have told me “yeah, but look, he was going to be expelled anyway (for reasons I shall not get into), this was just an excuse”. Sure. I accept he was most probably going to be expelled anyway, and, knowing the circumstances, I probably would have rejoiced at the prospect. But the problem is, he was not expelled for any of the deserved reasons. Rather, he was expelled for an out-of-context parody. And this is the message that has been sent – that if a silly comment you make gets reported, you’ll be cut loose. And I find that deeply problematic, a fact only compounded by the complete lack of due process, and by the fact he was not even given the opportunity to mount a defense. Precedent and messaging matter.

So, to conclude, all can say is, yes, Mr. Sowden is an idiot. I will certainly not dispute that. But if political parties start expelling all members who are idiots, then, very shortly, they will find they have no members left. The actions of the LNP were not only foolish and unfair, when it comes to the precedent they set, they were downright dangerous.

(Originally posted at http://www.menzieshouse.com.au)

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3 Responses to “Why Nick Sowden Should NOT Have Been Expelled From The LNP”

  1. FormerLibStudent Says:

    You’re right, he should not have been expelled for this. He should have been expelled for working with Labor on campus.

  2. Tim Andrews Says:

    I actually am unsure about that, for the very simple reason that I am of the school of thought that Liberal student stuff ought be separate and independent from party stuff

  3. Ben Says:

    Tim – I hear some people are organising a special party for you. I hope you can make it.

    PS> Just one little thing. Please leave your mobile phone at home. There’s a good chap.

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