This is Jared O'Mara. He is my local Member of Parliament. Back in June, to widespread surprise, he ousted Nick Clegg from the Sheffield Hallam parliamentary constituency. Clegg was the national leader of The Liberal Democrats and had been Deputy Prime Minister when the LibDems were in coalition with the Conservatives under David Cameron. In June, Jared had appeared like David bringing down Goliath.
As I am a lifelong Labour voter, Jared O'Mara naturally got my vote.
Today news broke that he has been suspended from The Labour Party. Why? Is he guilty of financial wrongdoing? Is he guilty of sexual impropriety? Did he enter The House of Commons as drunk as a lord, cursing The Speaker before urinating on The Woolsack?
No. None of these things. The reason he has been suspended is to do with computer algorithms and the fact that these days people's online lives are being recorded and documented for future reference. What we write online will never entirely disappear. It can be raked up so that things we said in the past may come back to haunt us.
Back in 2002 and 2004, Jared O'Mara made some unpleasant remarks in different internet forums. These remarks have been judged to be either sexist, racist or misogynistic. I have read some of them and they are pretty juvenile, nasty and stupid but a long way from being truly criminal and shocking. It's the kind of thing young online warriors might say late at night when they are going with the flow of online forum banter.
O'Mara is only thirty five years old now. When he made these comments during his early twenties, he would have had absolutely no idea that it would all come back to bite him. Don't get me wrong - there's no way I approve of his remarks but I think it's a warning to all of us. Be very careful what you say online.
In the distant past, before the internet came along, our trails were less easy to trace. Youthful stupidity was forgotten or remembered only as vague hearsay. Now it's different and it is almost impossible to erase incriminating "evidence" from the internet. It's there in black and white. As internet slickness has increased so the ability to capture and archive online activity has also advanced.
I must say that if I still conducted interviews in teaching, I would happily use the internet to find out more about the candidates. One of the key aims of any job interview is to get to the core of someone's being. What somebody says may be at odds with online evidence about them.
Though I feel some sympathy for Jared O'Mara, it is in the end very disappointing that Labour Party research didn't uncover his online wrongdoing before he was chosen as our local candidate. Now there is every possibility that we will be having a by-election here in the near future.