Would Winston Churchill have failed the Tories' new Google test to seek out past indiscretions?

Well yes, but not just because he wouldn’t know what it was. Would-be MPs are being asked to check their online reputations. Luckily,  Winston never had to

Remember that Thing you did in 1982? Yes, you were young, but it was pretty bad, wasn’t it? And that really embarrassing thing you said in public in 1997 and hoped was forgotten? Or that inappropriate thing you wrote in 2009, when you were drunk, and ill-advisedly tweeted to that person? We’d like you to confess to all these transgressions (and any more else you can think of) right now or you can kiss goodbye to your dreams of becoming a Conservative MP. And speaking of kissing, who’s that in the picture with you on your Facebook page?

Conservative Central Office will soon be rattling with the noise of skeletons being dragged out of cupboards. Selection panels which consider the eligibility of men and women to stand as prospective candidates will henceforth ask their quaking interviewees: “What’s the most embarrassing thing we would find if we Googled you?”

Life used to be easier before the internet. Unless they had a criminal record, or had been registered as bankrupt, men and women could feel confident that past evidence of low  morals or foolish behaviour would remain  buried and unavailable to the dreaded “background checks”. Not any more. On Wikipedia, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, awkward facts and unguarded remarks stick like bugs to flypaper.

Chuka Umunna and Andy Burnham are among several MPs accused of editing their Wikipedia entries to remove awkward truths. Grant Shapps, national chairman of the Conservatives, probably wishes his Wiki-page didn’t display the fact that, under the nom de plume of Michael Green, he once published a book called How to Get Stinking Rich.

Others have been subjected to a “social media trawl”. Remember Paris Brown, the young Youth Police and Crime Commissioner who had to resign in April after “offensive, racist and homophobic posts” were found in her past Twitter feed? Any future would-be candidate can expect to be trawled just as thoroughly. But which famous politicians might have been debarred from becoming MPs if such inspections had applied in the past?

Would Churchill have been shown the door because of the alleged  illegitimacy in his family? (His mother Lady Randolph was rumoured to be the Prince of Wales’s mistress.) Or because he once destroyed the headmaster of Harrow’s straw hat? Would Edward Heath’s application to become an MP have survived the discovery that he attended a cocktail party in 1937  with Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels? Would Disraeli have  been allowed near No 10 (or indeed No 11) if somebody had mentioned that he’d been financially ruined at 21 by investing in South  American mines?

I don’t think so. But some of us like our politicians who have a touch of wildness in their past, and think they should celebrate it. As George Bernard Shaw said: “If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, best teach it  to dance.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Consultant / 1st Line Support

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As your knowledge grows you wil...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support and Sales Engineer - UC / M2M / IoT

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Cloud ...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk