Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ian Davidson is the wrong person to chair the Scottish Affairs Committee

I've thought for some time that Glasgow South West MP Ian Davidson is the wrong person to chair the Scottish Affairs  Committee of the Westminster Parliament. Any Parliamentary Committee is there to hold the Government to account and so its chair must be capable of ensuring that evidence is heard and conclusions made in a credible and fair manner.

It's hard to do that when you have a huge chip on your shoulder about the SNP. Yes, they can be darned annoying, their constant picking of fights with institutions on the basis of location rather than efficacy is tiresome and the narrowness of their nationalism is at times the political equivalent of nails on a blackboard as far as my liberal sensibilities are concerned.  However I would never, ever describe them as neo-fascists. Not even in jest - and Ian Davidson did not appear to be struck with mirth when he so described the SNP during the Scotland Bill debate earlier this year. He later said that he meant that they were thuggish. Well, with his pugnacious manner, it's a bit like the old pot and kettle scenario. And I could tell you stories about how I've had dogs' abuse and been chased out of streets by burly Labour thugs in my time. Let's not pretend that the Labour party are a bunch of cuddly teddy bears.

And now the latest incident to involve Ian Davidson has resulted in the withdrawal from the Committee of Dr Eilidh Whiteford, SNP MP for Banff and Buchan. She alleges that Ian Davidson threatened her with "a doing" if details of a private meeting of the Committee last week were leaked to the media. Clearly I wasn't there. I have seen Ian Davidson use strong and pugnacious language on many occasions, though.  I also know and like Eilidh Whiteford and am absolutely certain that she would not make something like that up. I have enough faith in her as a person to trust what she says on this.

The BBC states that concerns about Ian Davidson's language were first raised by officials, which may explain why this has not been made public until now. I can't imagine that Eilidh will have made the decision to do so lightly, either - for precisely the reason of the pasting she's getting from Labour. Their response has been gruff and churlish. We'll see what they have to say in a fuller statement later.

In my local Health Centre, there's a sign saying that anyone raising their voice or using aggressive language to staff will be struck off the patients' list. In most places of work, aggression and violence towards people is just not tolerated. An allegation of this nature would normally mean suspension pending an investigation. The political environment is tough - but MPs should be able to go about their business without threats of violence from their colleagues.

There was already enough doubt in my mind about Davidson's performance before what happened to Eilidh and I really think the Committee needs a more effective chair. Therefore, I want to see Ian Davidson step down and hand over to someone else who can be a more credible and calm leader of the committee.

3 comments:

youngdegsy said...

I don't know Eilidh Whiteford from Adam (or Eve), but the language alleged sounds so like what Ian Davidson would say that's it's hard to do anything but believe Ms Whiteford completely.

Davidson is the classic West of Scotland Old Labour clueless bampot, of whom I have met many, and the green benches of Westminster are littered with (Brian Donohoe, Sandra Osborne, etc etc ad infinitum).

Only in the Labour Party could such mediocrity attract deference and elevation to the chairmanship of anything, except perhaps a catering arrangements committee.

Rosemary McKenna had it right when she famously screened him out of the group of potential MSPs, along with Dennis Canavan: Dennis had more success challenging that result. Dennis's problem was that he had too much integrity for the Labour Party, Davidson's is that (in the current Scottish Labour group at Westminster) he has just the right amount of unjustified self-importance. Poor Rosie then took over from Norman Hogg in Cumbernauld & Kilsyth and found herself plonked alongside Davidson on the green benches, much to both of their chagrin.

The Scottish Affairs Committee, if it means anything, should be as a bulwark in demonstrating a continued valuable role for the Scottish MPs at Westminster. That is not the same as carping constantly at the Nats: a lesson that the Westminster contingent of Scottish Labour remain deaf to. If these are the best that Scotland can produce to support the Union we are doomed.

Caron said...

I can't find anything to disagree with in that at all.

It's really good to have you to give the background to all of this. I wasn't around in 99 for the referendum - didn't come back home again until the next year, so a lot of this passed me by.

Your last sentence is quite chilling. How in the hell do we get a positive, grassroots pro-union campaign going with all the negativity that comes from the anti-independence camp.

cynicalHighlander said...

He has given a grudging half hearted apology back by all other unionist members, disgraceful.

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