Woe betide anyone wanting to become a politician. Any eager teenager keen on life as a minister better be prepared to a full and exhaustive trawl through their private life. It matters not whether they have have left school. And one more piece of advice, after the bullying, tribal attacks on 16-year-old Rory Weal, if you happen to hold left-wing view, make sure you’re on the bread line.
Following in the well-known footsteps of William Hague, the then hairy Thatcherite youth who appeared at the Conservative Party conference in 1977, Rory Weal rose up earlier this week at the Labour Party conference to defend the welfare state.
Before a gripped conference he said: ‘Two and a half years ago, the home I had lived in since birth was repossessed… I owe my entire wellbeing and that of my family to the welfare state. That is why I joined the Labour Party. That very same welfare state is being ruthlessly ripped apart by a vicious, rightwing Tory-led government.’
Powerful stuff. The Labour faithful loved it and gave him a standing ovation as the 16-year-old stalked off stage, ever-so-slightly chuffed by the reception. And he was lauded. He spoke with passion, conviction, fluency and anger. Whether it is true really doesn't matter. Even Ladbrokes pencilled in the odds of him becoming Prime Minister by 2040.
But there’s a long way to go yet. After all, the right wing press have only just got started. Seemingly affronted by the sight of a coherent, lucid 16 year-old leftie, the tribal Tory media, with their Lib Dem lapdogs, have gone into overdrive with an extraordinary campaign of character assassination. It turns out that Rory once went to a private school and even now goes to a grammar. His father was once a millionaire. How dare he talk of the welfare state, they froth, seemingly forgetting it's there for everyone and not just the destitute. If you have money, it seems, you can't be left wing.
And the circumstances of his life seem to have been ignored and forgotten. As a 13/14 year-old he lost his childhood home and his family disintegrated. I don't know what services he relied upon but something worked. Here is a kid who, despite personal trauma, has secured good GCSEs and has a very promising future. But, the right choose instead to try and besmirch his character instead.
The predictable hacks were out in force. The despicable Guido Fawkes took a pop, commentators on the Daily Telegraph and the egregious Melanie Phillips had a go.
In fact, I think you would struggle to find a more explicit example of the terrible, irresponsible power of the media than her column. Vindictive, bullying, and utterly unreasonable, it reveals nothing but the inadequate nature of Melanie Phillips. Her article, under the quite paranoid headline of 'The Labour Mantra of hate finds a new star in 16-year-old Weal', can be found here and an excellent critique by The Guardian's Zoe Williams here.
On Twitter, the conversation has followed similar lines. Rory Weal has faced severe personal attacks. Oddly, his actual points have rarely been challenged. I had a long debate with a couple of Liberal Democrat supporters about Rory and both were convinced he misrepresented his position. Neither, of course, could realistically defend such an argument as they know so little of his personal details. Had attacking his arguments been the focus that would not have been an issue.
Instead, we've had the very ugly spectacle of tribal Tories and loyal Lib Dems attack and question the life of a 16 year-old boy simply because he had the temerity to speak fluently, attack their political positions and not be poor enough.
As Owen Jones fluently argues in Chavs, the real class warriors are Tories. How true he is. Only now the Lib Dems have joined them.