A regional journalist has defended a tweet posing the question how many people who voted in the 2016 EU referendum had since “snuffed it” amid a furious backlash from Brexiteers.
Darren Burke, digital journaliast for the Sheffield Star and Doncaster Free Press, faced what he called a “baying Twitter mob” after posting an apparently light-hearted comment musing over how many people who took part in the vote were still alive.
The tweet went viral after local MP Caroline Flint, a pro-Brexit former Labour Cabinet minister, retweeted it to her 72,000 followers.
Darren, pictured, has described the response to the tweet as “absolutely crazy” and denied he was seeking to “stir up trouble” or suggest that the result of the referendum should be overturned.
The tweet, posted yesterday morning, read: “Just out of interest, how many of this fabled 17.4 million figure of Leave voters are actually still alive? Would love to see a revised figure of how many have snuffed it (from both sides) since 2016.”
Ms Flint, MP for Don Valley, responded: “There was nothing “fabled” about the 17.4m they were ordinary people who cast their vote. Since when do we invalidate Elections 2 or 3 years on because sadly some voters are no longer with us.”
It unleashed a torrent of abuse directed at Darren, with one Twitter user commenting: “Snuffed it? You are no better than the stuff I scrape from the bottom of my shoe. #muted for being lower than whale sh*t.”
Another commented: “Darren you need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Your tweet was insensitive to say the least…it’s a tweet I would normally associate with a sewer rat!”
But Darren hit back suggesting it was Ms Flint who needed to think more carefully about her actions.
Citing the above comments he wrote: “This is just a sample of what I’ve been receiving all afternoon after @CarolineFlintMP chose to quote my tweet. In the toxic atmosphere we have right now, MPs especially need to think about their actions and words.”
He added: “Just for some clarity, this was just a thought. Not for a story. Not to stir up trouble. Not to suggest overturning any result. Not to get local MPs and councillors foaming at the mouth, so call off the baying Twitter mob and get a grip, yeah?
“I cannot believe that a tweet I put out, purely out of interest and not for any political pot stirring, newspaper story or to cause any offence has created so much (ongoing) abuse and hatred, simply because it was exposed to a wider audience.”
The backlash even prompted Darren to tweet a link to an old column headlined ‘Burke by name, Burke by nature’ in which he declared himself impervious to such “playground” insults.
The original tweet itself has since been deleted, although the threads it generated are still visible on Twitter. Darren has declined to comment further.