Hurling insults on Twitter is no way to govern a city

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CLIVE SMITH: I thought they’d finally got the date right and we’d reached Armageddon

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It’s less than a month since we had cause to bemoan behaviour at the civic offices in Portsmouth, and the tit-for-tat nature of what passes for debate nowadays.

Back then we suggested a section of the stone stairs in Guildhall Square be turned into a ‘naughty step’ to remind politicians of their duties. As yet that plan has not come into action but it looks like it may be needed.

As reported on page 4, during the wrangling over the amount of money spent by new council leader Donna Jones on an office, Councillor Jones took to Twitter and called Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson ‘Gerald Vermin-Jackson’.

Despite not being particularly funny – there’s a history of political insults in this country and this is hardly Churchillian repartee – it is, sadly, representative of some of the discourse seen in this city, some of it conducted on Twitter.

Cllr Jones, rather implausibly, claims it is a genuine typing error, but whatever the explanation, it simply isn’t good enough – it isn’t the behaviour we expect to see from those we elect to lead us.

There is currently plenty of public cynicism about politicians of all levels, from the public who sling lazy insults about councillors’ allowances to those turned off by the boorishness of Prime Minister’s Questions each week.

It’s this kind of feeling that has driven a lot of the ‘protest’ votes nationally and locally, the sense that those in politics have no connection to those they are supposed to represent.

This isn’t healthy, and what does not help the cause is that those who are entrusted with public office and public money – our money, let us not forget – and the job of improving our city appear more interested in insults and political point-scoring.

There is already an investigation into bullying allegations at the city council over the last few years, and we were promised a new era of higher standards when the alliance of Conservatives, Labour and Ukip was formed in Portsmouth.

Let’s see some evidence of this, please.