Iain Dale and Godwin’s law – Shooting the messenger

On Saturday morning, Iain Dale posted on his website a blog post titled “Political artist goes for Brown”. In this post Iain says the following: 

“Political art is a subject which has allways (sic) been controversial. Yesterday an artist called Louis Sidolo (sic) got in touch with me to ask if I would like to feature some of his work on my blog.”     

He then goes on to copy a press release from the artist explaining his latest works of  ‘art’. This release includes the following statements:    

“The first piece is called ‘Reign of Error’ . In this piece, (Brown) is ‘morphed’ into an image of Hitler! (I)f you think about it, there are strong similarities: Both started out as chancellors (and) both tried to rig the electoral process. The second piece called ‘Psychologically Flawed’. In this piece, he gets the ‘satan treatment’ with demonic lurid green face clashing with bright orange background, which hints that this person is truly diabolical!”    

Good political art


Embedded are photos of the two pieces mentioned above. I won’t post them or link to them here, as they’re really beneath my blog. The first of these is a pretty basic Photoshop of Gordon Brown’s face over Adolf Hitler’s, next to the original image of Hitler. Then Sidoli tinted a dark red colour. The artist would probably justify this as representing the satanic nature of the subjects or some such bollocks, but I’m pretty sure it’s just to make the cut and paste Photoshop less obvious.    

Louis Sidoli is a talented professional artist who does well for himself commercially. However, he is a talented contemporary glass artist, specialising in landscapes of great cities. And not at all talented with photographic manipulation and portraits apparently. The dictionary defines art as:    

“the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”    

Now, I’m very aware as an (albeit amateur) artist that art is very subjective and aesthetic principles are defined in lots of ways. Nonetheless, I’ve studied this piece for  a while and can see neither beauty nor appeal in it.  ‘Of more than ordinary significance’ is what makes a lot of modern art, art. It’s down to how Hurst, Emin, or whoever explain what their piece represents. Unfortunately for Sidoli, the reasoning behind Reign of Error is flawed. He is comparing Brown to Hitler because there are “strong similarities” in that they “both started out as Chancellor” and “both rigged the electoral process”. This fundamentally misunderstands the difference between the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK and the Chancellor of Germany, for a start. And as for rigging the electoral process, Hitler lost his 1932 election to Hindenburg and failed to win a majority in 1933. He presided over what was effectively a hung Parliament, before he forced a dictatorship. So he didn’t do the best of jobs of rigging elections. And to suggest that Gordon Brown has ever rigged a public election is probably actionable.    

Iain Dale has been around Westminster long enough to know that this nonsense is nothing more than a personal slur against the Prime Minister. For him to choose to publish it in his well-read blog says much more about him than it does about Gordon Brown. Several commentors from across the political spectrum made this point, to which Iain responded with the following comments:    

 “Let’s get a few things straight, shall we? I have reported the fact that a(n) artist has created a bit of controversial political art. The key word here is ‘reported’. By reporting something it does not imply approval.   I felt this was an interesting development and reported it without comment, allowing his own words to justify his art. Feel free to continue shooting the messenger, but many of you are being blinkered. Seeing as it is not me that’s doing the comparing I maintain my view that the reaction to this is totally OTT and full of nauseating rank hypocrisy.”    

Political art with a point


This defence that Iain was only “reporting” news is a lot weaker than I would expect from someone who is a political name in the UK. He is perfectly well aware that this press release was not news that desperately had to be covered as if he were a reporter for BBC or Sky. He has deliberately avoided blogging about stories that were making headlines around the world when they weren’t favourable to the Tories. The blog is his and he has full editorial control of content. He can choose whether or not to publish anything. He saw this as an opportunity to spread a slur against Gordon Brown and used it because it suited his agenda. Not because he felt compelled to report this story. By placing it on his blog, he gives implicit approval to the slur, breaking Godwin’s law so soon in the campaign, and should not hide behind the excuse of reporting . I’ve probably blown my chance of making the Daley Dozen, but the hypocrisy here is Iain’s and no one elses.


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