SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: ‘Rik Mayall’ Style Photo Bomb Goes Horribly Wrong, Claims NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham

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Earlier today, we published a blog piece which featured a photo of Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham pulling what appears to be an obscene gesture in a group photo.

To put not too fine a point on it, Buckingham appears to be simulating cunnilingus at a recent NSW Greens function.

But, according to Buckingham and his media adviser Max Phillips, it’s all a big misunderstanding. Following is the second part of an email we received from Mr Phillips this afternoon (we get to the first part below the photos… trust me, you’re going to want to stick around).

“Attributable to Jeremy Buckingham:

“This was a light-hearted up-yours and raspberry blown to the opposing trivia team after we won a trivia night. It was not intended to be anything else. I have apologised to anyone who has interpreted this gesture differently and any offense that it has caused.”

Had that been where Buckingham ended his statement, all might have been right and harmonious in the world of Greens NSW politics once more.

Unfortunately, Buckingham went a little further.

“I am a fan of 1970s punk rock and Rick Mayall from The Young Ones who often used the two finger up-yours as a cheeky gesture.”

Firstly, it’s ‘Rik Mayall’. No ‘c’ … so you can’t be THAT big a fan.

Secondly… here’s a series of images of Rik Mayall being, as Buckingham says ‘cheeky’. Can anyone spot the difference?

In any event, Buckingham is entitled to his defence, and that’s it… he was pretending to be Rik Mayal, and (in an earlier Facebook post), it was an unfortunate camera angle (being front on…???) and he didn’t even know the gesture was rude.

Admittedly, it’s not entirely beyond the realms of possibility… but anyhoo, in the spirit of the ongoing and increasingly dirty internal war inside the Greens NSW being made public – because it is, after all, a matter of substantial public interest – here’s the first part of the email from Mr Phillips.

“Hi Chris, Background (not for attribution) the photo was taken of the winning trivia team at a Greens trivia night. Jeremy is giving a light-hearted up-yours and blowing a raspberry at the opposing teams. It was not intended as any kind of sexual gesture. Perhaps it is the camera angle that makes it look like something it is not. It was posted by one of the other members of the trivia team to a private Facebook but then taken and publicised by former Shoebridge staffer Lauren Gillin.”

Translated, I read that as:

‘Hi Chris, I need you help to clean up Jeremy’s mess, by helping me shift blame and focus onto Jeremy’s political opponent within the party. We can do that by way of ‘background (not for attribution)’ where you just print what I say as fact, and we both smear Shoebridge. Cheers, you big handsome devil’.

For the uninitiated, the practice of going ‘on and off the record’ with politicians is well worn in media. But it’s actually based on an agreement – i.e. it doesn’t happen unless and until both parties agree. There was no agreement on this occasion – just an expectant email from a Greens staffer making some very big assumptions.

More importantly, in New Matilda’s case, ‘off the record’ will never be agreed if it’s simply being used to background against an opponent and promote smear. Something which came up only last week re the Greens NSW in this excellent three-part New Matilda series by Michael Brull, available here, here and here, in which he comments extensively on the process of Greens NSW MPs, wait for it, backgrounding against their colleagues. Oh, the irony.

The mistake Mr Phillips and Mr Buckingham appear to have made on this occasion is that New Matilda operates with the ethics of a mainstream media outlet. Oops.

And by the way, we didn’t get the pic from Lauren Gillin, or Shoebridge’s office.

Tomorrow, New Matilda launches #MAYhem, when we break a series of major investigative features each week in the month of May, to show what we could do ALL THE TIME if we were properly resourced, and people actually paid for their news. You can subscribe here in the meantime, or sign up for the free #MAYhem news alerts here, to see what all the fuss is about. 

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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