Doug Beattie’s long record of service should not end over tasteless tweets

News Letter editorial of Monday January 26 2022:

By Editorial
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 2:24 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 10:27 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Doug Beattie’s career is unusual for a politician.

While many elected representatives have been active in the political world since their student or even school days, Mr Beattie’s original job was in the army. He rose to officer level through the ranks, having not been commissioned.

As leader of the Ulster Unionist Party he has often been a breath of fresh air, as someone who can relate to voters and who is often a candid voice on important matters.

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Mr Beattie has, as leader of a party that has struggled in recent years to stay at top level politics, taken the UUP in a liberal direction. Many unionists, even some conservative ones, feel that such a path is necessary as a way of stemming the loss of support to the political centre ground.

He has, like many politicians, been fond of the social media platform Twitter, in which users can tweet their views or links to articles or matters of interest. It is a potentially perilous forum, in which a badly judged comment can end a career or even result in someone being investigated by police.

At times Mr Beattie can adopt political positions that veer towards overly virtuous, and so perhaps seem too keen to please the public. At other times — for example on Twitter — he can come across as thin skinned. Yet very few observers can doubt that he has demonstrated decades of commitment to public life, first in uniform, then in elected office.

Now, after Mr Beattie forwarded a deeply offensive tweet joke that cited Edwin Poots and his wife, some even worse tweets that he sent a decade or so ago have emerged.

Misogyny means hatred of women, so it would be more accurate to describe some of the tweets as sexist. Not long ago the military world was full of crude humour and chauvinistic attitudes. Thank goodness attitudes have changed markedly.

Nothing has emerged so far that suggests that Mr Beattie should resign as UUP leader. It is hard enough to find new, interesting, able and conscientious politicians without forcing existing ones out over tasteless tweets.

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