Now many of us in in the Labour Party are conservationists and we love red squirrels. However there is one ginger rodent we never want to see again in the Highlands, Danny Alexander.
So said Harriet Harman in her keynote address to the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Oban today.
I have always had a huge amount of admiration and respect for Labour’s Deputy Leader. Her work on equalities, often banging her head against a brick wall in her Party as Blair’s and Mandelson’s memoirs show, is something I both have a lot of time for and empathise with. Also, I always felt that when PMQs came down to her, Hague and Vince, that it was more thoughtful and meaningful than the usual macho pantomime.
Today, though, she crossed a line. We all indulge in political banter. There isn’t a political activist anywhere who hasn’t at some point said in private some fairly insulting things about other politicians that they don’t really mean and would never repeat on a public platform. It’s a way of relieving the tension of an intense political campaign. Today, Harriet Harman brought that bar room banter onto the main political stage with that really unacceptable comment about Danny Alexander.
I don’t think for one minute that Danny will be crying into his tea this afternoon, but Harman’s comments show up three things:
- Labour have nothing to say. Which is a shame, because there is some stuff that the Coalition is doing that could do with some effective opposition. Sure, it’s doing a lot of good and you can see how the Liberal Democrats are taking the worst of the sting out of the Tories, but there are elements of the welfare reforms, for example, that just aren’t on and need forensic scrutiny. There are good arguments that they could be using, but they can’t find them, and are resorting to personal abuse instead
- Labour think the people of Scotland are stupid. They’ve taken us for granted for too long to the extent that they think as long as they throw insults at the Coalition, people will be satisfied with that. Actually what we need is an informed, inclusive, intelligent debate about how we deal with the cuts in Scotland. While the SNP bury their heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, and Labour are standing around waiting for the Nats to wipe the sand out of their eyes, it’s going to be up to the Liberal Democrats to lead the debate and make suggestions of things that could be cut.
- Labour are frightened of their record, even in their heartlands. They’ve seen the same polls that the rest of us have seen – including the one in Scotland the other week in which 42% of people blamed Labour for the impending cuts. They know they’ve nothing to be proud of and nothing to say for the future so they are left with cheap lines.
Update: At least Harriet Harman has had the decency to quickly apologise. We haven’t heard from the rest of the people in the room who thought it was hilarious.
Update 2: Danny Alexander’s reply – via Twitter – is classic
I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up mess others leave behind. Red squirrel deserves to survive, unlike Labour