"We have only had politics for a few months now and look, already it is being turned to crap," said a first time commenter in an internet discussion forum. "In the weeks that I have been following the news I have never once heard about politicians spreading rumours about each other – who do I complain to so this will be stopped?"
Several tabloid newspapers have joined in the outrage and have devoted what remains of their in-house journalism capabilities to cover what has been dubbed as "Downing-Street-email-address-used-to-discuss-spreading-rumours-and-innuendo-for-a-new-innuendo-and-rumour-website-gate"
"Never before in British political history has someone working for one party – Now Labour isn’t it? – tried to start rumours about someone from another party – they are the Conservatories? Yeah?" said the Daily Star’s celebrity correspondent Nikkister, drafted in to cover the outrage. "I can’t believe that people can behave like this after Jade Goody. Don’t they stop to think what Jade would do?"
Questions are also being asked about the role of the "blogger" after it transpired that the recipient of the email was a misleading, self-promoting, shouter on a Labour supporting blog whose emails were outed by a rival pseudo-anonymous, right-wing, mud-rakng blogger following several weeks of calling each other names. Rumours of hair-pulling are said to be unfounded.
"dis shows de power of the internet, how it lets ordinry ppl sit @ home n thump the keyb hard with there opinions," said an anonymous comment left on ignorantshoutytwats.com. "de media dont like it coz dey have 2 check facts and libel and speeling and stuff. But our community on dis site of real people with all made up userids and e-mail addys can call anyone a shirt-lifter."
The mainstream media has reacted to the rise of the bloggers. One unsigned opinion piece in the Daily SendThemAllBack claimed that: " … there is no place for journalism based solely upon spreading rumour, abuse and innuendo outside of Fleet Street. The rise of the citizen journalist will lead to amateurish and ineffectual mud-slinging diluting the results than can be achieved by a team of expert and professional journalists."
Hillary Billingsworth, professor of media studies at the Jeremy Kyle University has been monitoring the development of the unprecedented scandal and says that it has serious implications for the future of politics and journalism in the UK.
"This is the first time that any of us can remember anything in politics that could amount to spreading rumours about someone’s character," said the Professor. "For generations politicians have been selfless, upstanding citizens. Free from vice and corruption they are dedicated to creating a utopia for us all to live in. To think that their stock-in-trade might be a selfish and devious manipulation of people’s opinions – perhaps by horse trading favours and influence in exchange for power – will be a body blow to the reputation of politics."
Already the long-term ramifications for the nature of politics are being felt as the Oxford English Dictionary admits it is reviewing it’s definition of "politician" which currently reads:-
pol·i·ti·cian noun :- one who develops a property or second home to increase its value using funds obtained from their constituents by force.Downing Street revealed that the Prime Minister had personally written to those that may have become victims of the smear campaign had the details become public knowledge, which they now have, but a spokesman would not confirm if the letters contained an apology.
"All I will say is that Gordon Brown has made it clear that these are unsubstantiated allegations that should not be repeated," said a spokesman for Number 10. "On that matter the Prime Minister has written directly to the nutter, the dirty stop-out, the transvestite and the one with itchy under-pants."