The Piers Morgan-Stormzy spat highlights all that is wrong with UK’s barely functioning democracy

Piers Morgan beats Stormzy 7 to 1 in terms of millions of Twitter followers. The two British men enjoy a high media profile. The former is a television journalist, the latter a black rapper, and their recent spat via social media about Stormzy's comment to primary school children that 'Boris Johnson is a very, very bad man' was revelatory, writes Italian translator and commentator on European political and social affairs Alessio Colonnelli.

Piers Morgan beats Stormzy 7 to 1 – in terms of millions of Twitter followers. The two British men are media giants: the former is a television journalist; the latter a black rapper.

A mighty youth icon already, despite having just released his second album, Stormzy displays no biographical description on his Twitter account. It is this obvious who he is. And I believe that, in the long run, the singer and songwriter’s words shall overcome.

But let me clarify, first. Here I’m not endorsing Stormzy’s words on Twitter in defence of other words of his (he told kids this week at his old primary school that “Boris Johnson is a very, very bad man”). The 26-year-old talent from South Norwood, London, is entitled to his political opinions about the newly elected prime minister of the United Kingdom; even in front of children. Stormzy said nothing vulgar or offensive. So, I’m not openly endorsing what he said because it’s sensible and needs no further acknowledgement on my part.

I’m doing something else here: I’m highlighting Morgan’s response. It resembled a verbal attack. He first tweeted that “He [Stormzy] shouldn’t have done this, and shouldn’t have been allowed to do this.” To which Stormzy replied: “The kid asked me a question and I replied truthfully nothing wrong with that Piers lol.”

Morgan retorted immediately: “Come off it @stormzy – saying stuff like that to a bunch of very young schoolkids isn’t cool, and you know it. You’re a hugely influential role model now to so many youngsters, wield that power more carefully.” This was supported by several thousands of retweets and ‘likes’. The ITV presenter enjoys a huge, morale-boosting following.

This taking by storm is particularly bad. For Morgan isn’t just risking sounding sycophantic towards the Conservative party and its establishment, which isn’t great for a well-known hack; he’s actually made a complete journalistic blunder. Stormzy, as an artist, has every right to criticise Johnson. In his rhetoric, Morgan’s deliberately swapped the status of a head of state – be that a monarch or president of a parliamentary republic – with that of a head of government; but the latter has to be the focus of journalists, writers, artists and intellectuals’ critical eye.

We mustn’t forget that a prime minister is a politician; a modern king or queen (legitimised by a written constitution) or a republic president elected by parliament (as in Germany or Italy, for example) are not. These are arbiters between legislative and executive powers. Without them, democracy would be frailer.

So this quick-fire spat helped to highlight – once again, but, very interestingly, away from academic or political platforms – that the role of Her Majesty Elizabeth II is inefficacious. No disrespect meant, of course. Not at all. This is a monarch who knows her place, and should be praised for it. The Queen’s simply been made a powerless head of state. When Johnson asked her to prorogue Parliament during his first mandate – as an unelected prime minister – Elizabeth II could frown upon him, but not much else. Can Britain afford to have an institutional vacuum of this size, leaving it completely exposed to the whims of governments?

Stormzy is a huge influential role model for young people, as Morgan correctly pointed out; but Morgan is a revered public figure too. Maybe not particularly by the young, but definitely by the millions of members of the wider population owning at least one remote control. As a big journalist, not a mere TV entertainer, he ought to take his own claims more seriously – he works with words, after all.

And so, for the time being and followers aside, a young rapper is winning an age-defining political argument hands down.

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  • Alessio Colonnelli is an Italian freelance translator, writer and commentator on European political and social affairs, and a contributor to publications that include The New Statesman, The Independent, Prospect Magazine, the Huffington Post (UK), Foreign Policy and Politico Europe. His regularly updated blog, Thoughts on Europe, can be found here.

 

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