Monday, January 16, 2012

Labour's "attack dog" silenced, so why does Joan McAlpine still have a job?

So far, only the Sun in its usual inimitable style, appears to be reporting the story I heard on Good Morning Scotland that Tom Harris, pugnacious Labour MP for Glasgow South has been forced to stand down from his post as Labour's New Media Adviser. This is because he put out a You Tube video satirising the comments by Alex Salmond's parliamentary aide Joan McAlpine that the unionist parties were "anti Scottish."

The video was yet another Hitler parody. The Guardian wrote a couple of years ago about how this phenomenon of using that scene from the movie Downfall to satirise current events was getting a bit old. In fact it's not the first time it's been used to make fun of events in Scottish politics. Just after the SNP won Glasgow East, that scene was subtitled to make it seem as if the news was being brought to Gordon Brown and his subsequent tantrum. It wasn't just comparing Brown to Hitler, but was highly offensive to the people of the constituency who had just rejected Labour. A few months later, there was another one after Labour held Glenrothes depicting Salmond as Hitler. 

The difference with "Joan's Downfall" of course was that neither of these previous efforts had any clear links to anyone in either the SNP or Labour. We all watched them, we may or may not have guiltily laughed at some elements, but we couldn't pin them on anyone. Tom brazenly published this one on his You Tube channel.

I had a conversation with Tom Harris on Twitter last week about how I wanted the referendum debate to be conducted in passionately positive language. He disagreed with me, saying that "attack dogs" were needed. I'm not convinced raising the temperature of the debate is particularly helpful. although certainly the SNP's plans need to be robustly analysed.

Tom is many things, but stupid is not one of them. I suspect he knew exactly what he was doing and that he would have to resign for it. But how big a tragedy is that? New Media Adviser? It's hardly ruling the world, is it? Thing is, he associates himself, on new media, with something pretty tasteless. Within hours, before there is even that much of a fuss, Johann Lamont has him in and tells him to sling his hook. 

This does not compare well with the SNP leadership standing full square behind Joan McAlpine. Her comments were much more divisive and sinister. If anyone was ever more deserving of the sack, I've yet to come across them. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that Harris had done this on purpose to underline the distinction.

Kenny Farquharson wrote in yesterday's Scotland on Sunday of the importance of playing nice during this long referendum campaign:
Our politicians have a responsibility to acknowledge this danger and commit to conducting themselves in a way that minimises such antagonism. With the eyes of the world and the eyes of history upon us, each side should bear in mind that no matter which vision of Scotland’s future wins out in the end, it has to be a united Scotland that gets on with the business of making it work.
Gerry Hassan suggested that those on the Nationalist side should do more to understand those coming from the other point of view. And I'd add that a bit of reciprocation is also necessary.

We all have to live with each other when this is over. This referendum can't be allowed to fracture and polarise our society, our communities, our families or our friendships. We can't allow our lives to be poisoned by intemperate and personally offensive language.

Whether Tom Harris' latest stunt is contrived or not, Joan McAlpine, guilty in my view of much worse and unrepentant, should not still be in a job as close to the First Minister as she is. Salmond's condoning of her behaviour is a strong signal to others who hold the same view that they can do what they like without fear of sanction.


Gedguy said...

Let's be honest about her remarks; it was taken totally out of context and spun to make it sound as if she had done an attack on the Scottish peoples. The reason why the 'Unionists' have done this is that they have never come up with any good reason why Scotland should remain in the Union. Have you ever heard, from any Unionist party, any good reasons why we should stay?

Caron said...

It was not taken out of context. She clearly said that the leadership of the other parties were being anti Scottish for the crime of wanting to see a fair, clear and unbiased referendum.

That sort of language is well and truly unacceptable. The SNP didn't do very well when this sort of negativity was normal for the Party. If they keep on with this sort of tone, and condoning McAlpine's bitter, hate-filled words, they will not win many friends.

Only the SNP could portray an offer to give them the powers to make the referendum beyond challenge as some sort of insult.

cynicalHighlander said...

"LibDem's "attack dog" silenced, so why does Willie Rennie still have a job?"

Only the SNP could portray an offer to give them the powers to make the referendum beyond challenge as some sort of insult.

Total nonsense in a 'democracy' and only fits a dictatorship ideology as is the UK.

RevStu said...

"She clearly said that the leadership of the other parties were being anti Scottish for the crime of wanting to see a fair, clear and unbiased referendum."

Of course, she said no such thing. You're dishonestly misrepresenting her remarks as WELL as the basis for them - what you call a "fair, clear and unbiased referendum" and what Joan McAlpine or I might think constitutes one are not necessarily the same thing.

But even within your own somewhat partial viewpoint, you identify the difference - she said the other parties were BEING anti-Scottish, not that they WERE anti-Scottish. Those are two very different propositions.

I'm not the least bit offended by a Downfall spoof, except how lame it is to be still making one in 2012. But Harris has died by the same sword he lived by - manufactured outrage and misrepresentation. (If even that - all I've seen the SNP say officially was that it was "silly and negative", not that it was a disgusting trivialisation of the Holocaust or anything.

Sorry, but while McAlpine's comments were unwise, they were no more than that. Harris' brightly-exposed hypocrisy, not his utilisation of Hitler, is what made him ultimately a liability. He would NOT have been sacked if Labour didn't think that - why else is Diane Abbott still in a job?

Gedguy said...


You are correct in stating that the her remarks were directed at the LEADERS of the Unionist parties as opposed to the medias' take on it. What she said on Twitter was: 'Interfering in referendum is anti-Scottish as is refusal to compromise on popular desire 4 powers to Scotland'
I can not find, anywhere, apart from your blog where the word 'crime' was mentioned. Therefore, even you are putting a spin on it. So let's look at the facts instead of reading something into her twitter piece that she did not mean nor say.
If you check out the UK's treaties with the UN and various other UN backed organisations [which super-cedes UK law] it explicitly states that a country that wishes to cede from a Union should have the right to do so without there being interference from the country that it wants to cede from. It would take a genius of the English language to spin that law into meaning that the UK government is NOT interfering in Scotland's right to hold a referendum. In which case the leaders of the Unionist parties, Cameron, Clegg & Milliband [you can also include Lamont, Rennie and Davidson] are attempting to interfere in the the democratic right of self-determination for the peoples of Scotland. If anything is a 'crime' it is there interference according to UN law.
Having said that I would agree that the UK has a right to try and convince the Scottish peoples to stay in the Union; that is democracy. What they don't have the right to do is demand that it be done their way. If the UK wanted to have a referendum to withdraw from the EU then it would be perfectly acceptable for the French, Germans et al. to try and convince the UK peoples to stay within the EU but they would have no right to tell the UK how, when and what questions to put in. Any UK political leader who attempted to impose the EU's demands on how, when and what questions are put in would soon be told that they are anti-UK. So what is the difference?
Now, if you had said that it was politically naive of her to say this on Twitter [keeping in mind the amount of letters that one is allowed to use on Twitter], then I would agree with you. However, equating her Twitting [if that is the word] with the word 'crime' is going just a little too far.

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely anti-Scottish for Westminster to interfere in Scotland's referendum!

Not Joan MacAlpine said...

That's the beauty of twitter, you have 140 characters to get your views across. If you can't do it in 140 characters, and others have to claim that your comments have been "taken out of contect" because you don't know how to use twitter, then you really should be using twitter!

MakingHistory said...

Caron. It is simply not true to say that Joan McAlpine said that the other party leaderships were acting in an anti-Scottish way because they wanted a fair, clear and unbiased referendum. She said that they were acting in an anti-Scottish way for accepting that the timing and question(s) should be determined in London and not in Edinburgh. There is a clear implication from the unionist parties that a Scottish-run vote would be unclear, unfair and biased. That implication is by definition anti-Scottish .


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