As I was heading to work at seven-thirty when I receive a message from Sarah (@Baskers) on Twitter, saying that she’s had a nasty article about her published by the Daily Mail. Immediately I got the BlackBerry out and started to find the root of her distress, which didn’t take long. So called ‘journalist’, Quentin Letts, wrote a rather personal and damaging article about her, in which he has the guile to insinuate that she does a terrible job and is a waste of taxpayers money.
I am proud to say that I am a friend of Sarah’s, and that she is an excellent example of the staff that the civil service employs. Sarah is extremely hard-working and the dedication that she has to her department is second to none. What I want to know, is when does someone tweeting in a personal capacity become news for a national paper? Letts has the front to say that Baskers is breaking the civil servant’s rules of impartiality with the line ‘Civil servants used to try to be impartial and discreet’. Baskers has always played by the rules. Her Twitter account, like mine, states that the views and opinions posted online are her own, and not the view of the department as a whole.
Sarah is a woman who likes to have a drink and let her hair down whenever she can. She works a particularly stressful job, which often is a thankless task and she has an unswerving commitment to her team and the integrity of her department. Letts seizes upon an earlier Twitter posting from her, saying that she’s feeling a tad hungover from the evening before as if it’s never happened to anyone else. I’d certainly be willing to bet that Mr Letts was lucky enough to have a university education, and during his time at university I’d also be willing to bet that he suffered more than one hangover. He then goes on to complain about an earlier posting stating that she was feeling tired and would rather be at home than be in the office. This is uncommon, how? I’m sure she’s rather sorry that she is an actual human being who has normal bodily function and not a robot.
This whole article really shows a journalist, so desperate for a story, that he’s willing to attempt to completely ruin someone’s career just for an article. One which isn’t even worthy of being called an article at that. It just shows the state that the British press are in today, if they have to manufacture something as rediculous as this.
This morning, I awoke to see that the Independent have jumped on the bashing bandwagon too. Disgraceful! Following the lead of the Daily Mail is by no means original and independent journalism. It seems totally unacceptable and completely unjustified to me, that someone can be paid to spend a short while writing an ‘article’ that has the potential to bring down someone’s career (gained entirely through hard work and merit) by adding fuel to the fire. A fire I might add, started by someone with as much journalistic credibility as a sixteen year old ASBO holding arsonist scally.
What this all boils down to is freedom of speech. Sarah, being a passionately engaged public servant is also entitled to her opinions. But, alas, I forgot we were living in the past where if you spoke out you were punished. I find it funny that our government, both of past and present can campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release so that she can continue being an advocate for freedom of speech, but if any civil servants question the government of the time, well, they’re in trouble. Sarah hasn’t directly questioned the government, nor has she criticised the new policies brought in. What Sarah has talked about are the difficulties facing her directly, and the way that she manages her her working life. Isn’t this normal? Don’t we all like to have a moan during the bad times, and celebration during the good?
I also find it rediculous that the media are allowed to say what they like, so long as there is a disclaimer involved, but when a civil servant has the disclaimer “All views posted here are my own, not the government department’s that I work for” they seem to skirt around it completely, also ignoring copyright on the user’s picture and taking the image. By the way, Sarah, I do hope you send them a bill for that.
As a fellow DfT umbrella employee, I do hope that the DfT officials realise that this is pure poppycock and do the right thing, which would be to keep hold of Sarah. She’s a valuable asset to the department and it would be a loss to the taxpayer to see her go.
I’ve had the pleasure to meet with Sarah on several occasions, and I’m extremely proud to call her a friend. Stay strong, mate!
P.S. I’m publicly sorry for being two hours late to our first ‘Tweetup’!