Skeletons Exit Closet in U.K. Social Media Election Shakedown

(Bloomberg) -- It’s been a decade since unwise social media posts began destroying political candidates’ fledgling careers, but the evidence in Britain is that the lesson hasn’t yet been learned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s snap general election has meant political parties have spent the past few weeks rushing to select candidates for each of the 650 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs. In theory, this is supposed to be done from lists of wannabes whose pasts have already been carefully screened for unwise outbursts on Twitter and Facebook.

That hasn’t been how it’s worked out. Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party have all been forced to defend -- or boot out -- people over past comments.

The election campaign has only being going a week, but long-standing allegations of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Islamophobia among Johnson’s Tories have led to a higher level of candidate scrutiny and the clatter of social media skeletons falling from closets.

A Labour candidate in Scotland stood down after a blog emerged in which she compared Israel to an abused child. But another is still representing the party after she apologized over tweets from five years ago saying she would celebrate the deaths of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Tory contender in northern England quit after a historic social media post emerged in which he referred to the U.K. capital as “Londonistan,” while another post from 2010 suggested Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi could hide in Bradford, a northern city with a large Asian population.

In Essex, east of London, a Liberal Democrat was also forced to stand aside due to racist and homophobic language in tweets between 2009-10.

Even so, it’s not always racism or sexism that leads to candidates getting the boot. According to the Yorkshire Post, a Brexit Party candidate was taken off the ballot after social media posts revealed she believed aliens are in league with world governments and she comes from the star Sirius.

--With assistance from Robert Hutton.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Stuart Biggs

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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