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.