It might be regarded as a happy hunting ground for the crucial female votes of Middle England but Mumsnet has again proved it can be a jungle for politicians hoping to reach out beyond the confines of Westminster.
It was a lesson that has been learnt by an MP who it emerged on Thursday has been suspended from using the site after breaching rules safeguarding the anonymity of users taking part in online debates.
John Hemming, who represents Birmingham Yardley was originally reported to moderators when he became embroiled in a long-running discussion in the controversial case of an Italian woman who was forced to undergo a Caesarean operation and her child taken into care by Essex County Council.
The Liberal Democrat, who also admitted drinking whilst using the forum, contacted the social network after he posted a transcript of Italian court proceedings which identified some of the protagonists in the case breaching UK reporting restrictions protecting children. The post was deleted.
He was later reported again by other users after flouting guidelines which linked to users’ real names and was suspended from the site shortly before Christmas. A Mumsnet spokeswoman said: “After a cooling off period while we review the things that lead to the suspension we will decide on the best way forward.”
Mr Hemming, who has been using on-line debate forum for the past 11 years, said he was now “on the naughty step” with Mumsnet. “It is a bit unfair to knock someone off without saying you are breaking the rules please follow them,” he said.
“Like everyone else I click the button without reading the rules,” he added. “You have a choice as an MP of either not getting engaged with the public or of getting engaged with the public – so I engage with the public,” he added.
Writing on his blog he said: “Hence I am now indeed "on the naughty step" at Mumsnet. Because it is Christmas little has been sorted out about this, but I would expect something to be sorted out. I am continuing to debate issues on Netmums as I have done in the past, however.”
In a separate on-line debate Mr Hemming argued that Lord of the Rings was inspired by the landscape around Birmingham at Moseley Bog close to where Tolkien grew up. When challenged by a fellow poster over the veracity of his claims the MP wrote: “I am not sober, but I am right.” Mr Hemming said later: “I wouldn’t say I was drunk but I wasn’t sober either.”
Mumsnet is the UK’s largest parenting website attracting 4.3m monthly visitors. It has become regarded as a barometer of public opinion and its users were courted by leading politician at the last election including David Cameron and Gordon Brown who found themselves suffering wounding maulings after failing to satisfactorily answer questions posed to them in webchats.
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