The newly appointed youth police crime commissioner of Kent has newly resigned bringing an end to her first political appointment, but hopefully not the idea behind it. Miss Brown was appointed to the post at the (tender?) age of 17 years and looking forward to a £15,000 a year salary, a salary that would be the envy of most of her contemporaries. The reason for her resignation came about when some of her ill thought out tweets were brought to the attention of the public, this resulted in a press conference where, no matter what her tweets said, you could not help feel a little sorry for her. Indeed when I heard her statement on the radio I struggled to understand what she was saying due to her obvious distress, something her peers would surely not envy.
In a time when social media is at the forefront of how we communicate with each other (who doesn’t have Facebook?) and politicians are often considered to be out of touch it seems the inclusion of some ‘young blood’ in politics was a good idea. However the way Brown’s appointment came about may have simply reinforced the view that politicians are out of touch, that is Ann Barnes (the Police Crime Commissioner for Kent) really should have had a look at her protégées social media trail because as a politician accountability is important and what you say in public office (or before) is all up for scrutiny. This oversight on the part of Barnes has the potential to ruin a young woman’s aspirations in politics, but has it?
Brown may have been younger when she posted these offensive tweets but it didn’t stop them coming back to haunt her and so what difference does it make whether she was ’exposed’ now or at a more mature age? It could be suggested that if ten years had elapsed between the tweets and Brown stepping up to public office then she could have even laughed the criticism off as the foolish things you do as a child but perhaps this is naïve, perhaps your social media trail (like a criminal record) is yours and the media’s forever, creating a world where you live by the tweet and die by the tweet.
It seems therefore that not only are the politicians out of touch but so are the kids! Through no fault of their own, of course. How are we to expect a fourteen year old to bear in mind that what they say on Twitter may seriously damage their future career prospects? How dare we suggest that a child should be career minded when they should be enjoying the pleasures of mistakes and immaturity?
Surely it is time to look even harder at the force of social media in an information laden society and what the consequences will be when a generation brought up with it starts running things. In other words the politicians (and the parents) need to remember that things are not the same as when they grew up. One way to do that could be to follow Barnes’ lead but not as a quick fix, political statement, rather as an ongoing dialogue between young and old of what is expected from a civilized society but also the changing nature of the tools we use to maintain such a society.