Sensitive Politicians

Two-headed eagle: Labour’s Starmer and Sarwar look in opposite directions

Columnist, opinionist Kevin McKenna’s new year squint, the watcher of events for independence here in pensive mood on women’s rights, and looking askance at Labour party’s Scottish branch.


by Kevin McKenna

The advent of social media has acquainted politicians and commentators for the first time with the concept of scrutiny. Many have chafed under this public dissection of their own views. For decades they had all been sheltered from such detailed inspection of their positions. In the pre-Twitter and blogging age they’d only been required to run the gauntlet of public opinion every four or five years at electoral hustings events. Letters editors tended to shield their colleagues from anything that seemed untutored or scrofulous.

Social media changed all that and some politicians and journalists have not fared well in the heat. Those with brittle egos have taken to gas-lighting the public by accusing them of being hate-filled and malicious when they have merely expressed righteous anger in an uncompromising manner. They then flounce off their favoured platforms lifting their skirts ostentatiously as they depart like huffy Widow Twankeys. They express sorrow at the hell-hole of Twitter.

Many of them are paid handsomely for the privilege of conveying their own prejudices and preferences, or for representing us in the Scottish and UK Parliaments. Yet, at the first hint of unpleasantness or beastliness by their readers or voters they would have you believe that their gilded existences have been made intolerable and that Scotland has anger management issues.

Yet, how are the vile, uneducated public supposed to react when it’s lately become clear to them that senior politicians from all parties quite obviously hold them in contempt and take them for idiots? We saw the beginning of this during the first independence referendum when various Unionist politicians attempted to sell the lie that simply by advocating for self-determination was divisive and evidence of anti-Englishness.

Since then, the list of trite and fatuous proclamations by senior UK politicians has grown at a remarkable rate. The start of the year has seen Sir Keir Starmer and his Scottish branch manager, Anas Sarwar declaring that 2023 must be a year of change. Yet neither have ventured to tell us how. Indeed, Sir Keir’s concept of change is merely to become a rather soft-focus facsimile of the Tories. Last month he suggested that there was justification for GPs tagging some asylum-seekers.

The SNP’s current strategy is to orchestrate campaigns of lies and disinformation about critics within the party who choose not to worship at the altar of Nicola Sturgeon. This has had dark consequences for some in the SNP – mainly gender-critical feminists – who now live under the constant threat of physical violence.

As the Gender Recognition Reform Bill cleared its final legislative hurdle just before Christmas it became clear that Holyrood MSPs really do think the electorate are mugs. The First Minister herself reduced three years of intense debate and consultation on the issue to an afterthought. She called it “an administrative detail”. Her deputy Angus Robertson compared the passing of the bill to Nelson Mandela’s lifetime struggle against apartheid. Of all the proclamations made by politicians who knowingly voted to diminish women’s sex-based rights this was perhaps the most foolish. And this for consciously opposing any safeguards in the bill that would not have affected trans rights in the slightest, such as preventing men accused of sexual assault from changing their sex.

Not long ago, female-only spaces – especially those being accessed by vulnerable women – were considered sacrosanct. These included prisons, hospital wards and crisis centres for sexually abused women. Now, any public sector or third sector provider will find it well-nigh impossible to ensure that women seeking their help can be guaranteed the one-to-one care of an authentic biological woman. This wasn’t merely dangerous, malicious and wrong. By deliberately throwing out some reasonable checks and balances to protect vulnerable women this entered the realms of wickedness.

When the author JK Rowling stepped in to fund just a centre where women in crisis can be cared for by other women she was met with a slew of hatred and threat, much of it encouraged by several in the SNP and Labour professional politician class. Richard Leonard, former leader of Scottish Labour, issued a long statement that challenged Mr Robertson’s for the folly of its content. He said he didn’t “believe” the legislation would deny or undermine women’s rights. He was chided by one of his more honest predecessors, Johann Lamont who said: “You may not believe it affects women’s rights. Many, many women know it does. And amongst those worst affected are the poorest and most vulnerable women. But hey. You believe.”

The MSP Joe Fitzpatrick was an abject failure as public health minister and was forced to resign in 2020 for presiding over Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis. During the gender debate he said he felt “the pain of thinking about having to be buried as someone else”. This can’t be as bad as the pain from thinking that trumpets like these are regularly promoted to high office in Scotland. What else can you expect but failure on the grand scale?

Most of Holyrood followed suit, uttering the utterly meaningless phrase “trans rights are human rights”. No one wants to deny trans rights. And any right that deliberately undermines women’s rights isn’t a right at all; it’s an abuse. Others, knowing that this legislation is dangerous and threatening, simply acted like cowards to preserve their careers.

Who knew back in 1999 that devolution would be the gateway for a multitude of these wage thieves and opportunists? These are people whose radicalism begins and ends on a Twitter thread. It pursues the path of least resistance. It’s designed to attract middle-class performance artists for whom it becomes a substitute for real action: the type that effects radical change and improvements in the daily lives of poor communities. It’s bogus in every way.

This weekend the formidable former SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter rebuked someone who claimed the SNP had harmed women’s rights more than the Taliban. You kind of take her point. Yet, only one of these governments has deliberately overseen a process of dismantling what it means to be a woman. And it’s not the Taliban.

Many look south to justify themselves and indulge in theatrical revulsion about the deeds of the Tories. Yet, at least there is a proper system of scrutiny and accountability at the top of the Tories. If their leaders are found wanting or dip beneath the standards expected of them then the rank and file members aren’t slow to jettison them. In Scotland, the SNP have discovered the Golden Mean of political power: just keep promising independence. That way, you can get away with anything and are required to achieve nothing.


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9 Responses to Sensitive Politicians

  1. nallyanders says:

    Bravo Gareth, you have laid the moral vacuum at the heart of Holyrood bare.
    I stood outside Holyrood on the 21st Dec and listened to speeches from Johann Lamount- Labour, Pam Gosal & Rachael Hamilton – Tory and Joanna Cherry – SNP United as one in support of 51% of the voting public.
    Those behind us in Holyrood were not listening.
    Labour, despicably led by a Muslim man has consigned his female relatives to self exclude from was once, women only spaces. How can that be in Scotland 2023?
    Even the ammendment to prevent sex offenders and those on remand for rape to be blocked from applying for a GRC was voted down by SNP & Greens. How can we ever forgive?
    We have always known for the most part, amongst the ‘political classes’ that women have been 2nd class citizens. BUT to find out we’re actually 3rd class behind those men who identify as women (as opposed to transexuals, fulfilling the 2004 Act) is a bitter pill to swallow.
    Watch this space. Scottish women are not doormats.

  2. Howard Cairns says:

    I agree. The writing is on the wall if FM is not changed. The SNP will suffer at the next election. Take away women’s rights and you will see the result as happened in Australia recently. Women were ignored by the Tories there. They lost the election and many of their members – some were high flyers such as the Treasurer. Be warned!

  3. duncanio says:

    Thanks GB for presenting this spot-on article by Kevin McKenna.

    His is an accurate depiction of, for the most part, crass careerists purveying pusillanimous platitudes and spouting simpleton slogans.

    My inner Sam Cooke hopes a change is gonna come.

  4. Jan Cowan says:

    Kevin McKenna, with this article, proves he is still an exceptional journalist. Not many of his calibre around, I’m afraid.

  5. ‘Many look south to justify themselves and indulge in theatrical revulsion about the deeds of the Tories’.. (McKenna)

    This is what stands out for me. A favoured pastime of many utterly misguided, online pro-indy, they mistake vehemence towards Tory as loyalty to independence, or more confusingly – or conveniently – towards SNP. Should they not be directing frustrations and vehemence at the target wholly deserving of the criticism – the SNP?
    What will it take for fools being fooled twice, three times and a helluva lot more for the penny finally to drop? It seems these people are being ‘worked’ by Murray Foote, serving rather than scrutinising? They shamelessly and unforgivably hold back Scotland’s progress – especially the ‘smart’ ones with the mega-followers. I doubt the veracity of Bill Cruikshank and his ilk, the long-time Twitter accounts with no contribution to holding the charlatans to account.

    Bill “I’ll block anyone reading Wings” Cruikshank has work to do on social media – of course he does – however as many have pointed out, the genuine activists will pound streets this Summer, when SNP will have paltry, Slab-like, representation when it matters.

    When the majority begin to see the problem, and spread the word – as word will be spread – then the quicker the solution to it.

    Happy New Year, Grouse dude, hope you and yours are good.

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    The problem is not the SNP per se. The problem is the Murells and their little cabal. All party members , politicians especially, change loyalty for the new leadership, or resign if they don’t like it. I repeat: the problem is Sturgeon and her husband. They hijacked the SNP and with it Scotland’s hopes.

  7. I can’t see it as cut and dried as that, Gareth. Sure she has a hold over many, but many also had a chance to be rid of her during the ‘Salmond’ inquiry. It would’ve taken but a few valiant individuals to expose the plot, whereby destroying the malevolent couple, but not only did they remain quiet, turning a blind eye, but some enabled the malfeasance and willingly covered-up the criminality. She/they represents and leads the party, she ‘is’ the party, the members are also the party, ergo, for me the party is culpable. I honestly can’t see a way back for the SNP, it’s too rotten, too far down the road.
    I look forward to the week – a long time in politics – when an event takes place that renders SNP as insignificant in Scotland as Labour. It’s certainly headed in that direction.

  8. Grouse Beater says:

    SNP seats were not at risk during the Salmond trial.

    Only since the SNP insisted on pushing through the GRR Bill (with a few notables absent) has their been a sufficient backlash from voters to cause disquiet in the Holyrood ranks. This was amplified by the palace coup in which Stephen Flynn overthrew Blackford and appointed his own Commons team. What will become of it, is another debate.

    The departure of the Murrels is the key to fresh leadership, and perhaps new talent with statecraft skills joining the fray. When I say statecraft, I mean they will welcome ALBA candidates to join forces. And with the old gone, the rank and file will adhere to the new policy of the new leader, as every party has done down the ages … if they want to keep their seats and show loyalty.

    Removing the SNP in the face of the current successful Tory assault on Scotland with a guar antee of independence replacements is suicide. At the very least, every SNP MSP in Holyrood is a seat lost to our unionist enemies. We want people who know how to move UDI – a completely legitimate route.

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