Thursday, September 11, 2008

What A Load Of Rubbish

Bring back Wendy. That’s all I can say after a shoddy and shabby performance by Cathy Jamieson at today’s First Minister’s Questions.

It’s debatable whether matters of internal party discipline are really suitable fodder for FMQ’s. However, despite the injunctions of the Presiding Officer, I’m inclined towards the view that you should be able to raise whatever subject you like and to take the plaudits or brickbats which then result.

Brickbats, sad to say, is all Cathy Jamieson deserves today. She opted to raise the ‘issue’ of SNP Cllr Jahangir Hanif, recently suspended after a video emerged of him firing an automatic weapon in Pakistan, and comments made by the SNP’s John Mason MP on the affair.

John Mason appears to have made the perfectly reasonable observation that some of the criticism of Cllr Hanif had a distasteful whiff of racism about it. However, this has been presented subsequently by the Evening Times and Ms Jamieson, inter alia, as an allegation from Mr Mason that anyone criticising Cllr Hanif’s behaviour was therefore racist.

Of course, he had said no such thing, to the Evening Times or anyone else. But that hasn’t stopped one Tory MSP who should know better, from having a short circuit of the brain and likening his comments to approval of beheadings and female circumcision. Nor has it stopped a Labour Party still licking its wounds after the Glasgow East by-election, from promoting one side of a rather ugly family dispute in an attempt to discredit Cllr Hanif.

Some points which may be worth observing:

  • Cllr Hanif is currently going through a messy divorce.
  • The video of Cllr Hanif firing the weapon on a family video could only have entered the public domain via a family member.
  • Curiously, the Daily Record managed to obtain a copy of a letter by Cllr Hanif’s eldest daughter to the First Minister and to print extracts on 5 September.
  • Labour, I understand, now has the full text of the letter and is desperately hawking it to anyone who will read it, or better still, print it.
  • Clearly, someone, somewhere, is determined to do harm to Cllr Hanif, be that personal, political or both.
  • Labour, to their shame, have now taken sides in a private family dispute, solely to further a local political objective.

Is this really the best they can do? Exploiting an acrimonious family breakdown so as to throw mud at the Government? Twisting the words of an MP to try and suggest a non-existent allegation of racism against political opponents? It’s so far beyond pathetic, I’m not sure the English language has adequate capacity to express the extent of my revulsion.

Iain Gray has made much in his leadership campaign of putting an end to ‘playground politics’. Right now, from their newly plumbed depths of sewer-rat politicking, even being able to approach the quality threshold implied by ‘playground politics’ seems but a distant aspiration.


Anonymous said...

Very well put.

You may wish to leave comment on Jim Millar and Kezia Dugdale's blogs as they have put up the letter.

It is really sad that Labour are now taking sides in what is clearly a bitter family dispute.

For shame.

Anonymous said...


John Mason wasn't talking about "some of the criticism", as you suggested. His comments were about any criticism of any kind. Here's probably the most ridiculous section of his comments:

"The attacks on Councillor Hanif can easily be construed as attacks on Pakistan itself and on Pakistan's right to order its internal affairs as it sees fit. I would have expected that way of thinking in the colonial era, but I am disappointed to hear it in 2008."

So Mason's argument is that questioning what happened in Pakistan indicates a "colonial" mindset, because it reveals disapproval of actions which are presumably considered acceptable there.

Richard Thomson said...

Rubbish, SU.

"The attacks can easily be construed", in no way equates to saying "all attacks are". Your selective editing thereafter does you no favours either.

Anonymous said...

Eh? I hardly think that citing the two most pertinent sentences is "selective editing"!

A fuller quote is provided here. The essence of Mason's vacuous argument is that criticising anyone for something which is acceptable in another country is "racist" and "colonial".

Councillor Hanif's daughter's letter refers to a place called Durra. It seems likely, therefore, that they were at or near what has been called the "world’s largest illegal firearms market", to which "Islamist fighters" and "Afghan commanders" come to buy locally-made replica weapons - everything from handguns to rocket launchers. Test firing weapons in busy public places seems not to raise local eyebrows.

So John Mason is saying that any criticism of Jahangir Hanif for taking his kids there is "racist" and "colonial", because it belies an unwillingness to accept that the cultural norms which give rise to such an experience are morally equivalent to those of this country.

Caron said...

To be honest, I don't think either party covered itself in glory here.

In the end of the day, who really cares about Jahangir Hanif?

I read the letter on Kezia Dugdale's blog and to be honest, it doesn't depict a pleasant character.

I also am not keen on gun use and firing them around children is completely irresponsible.

Who's perfect, though? And is what went on in that family actually any of our business? I'm not so sure. At what point do private and public life collide?

Tavish got it right today with a question about fuel poverty. Labour and the SNP can slug it out about this in Parliament and in the blogosphere but let's not actually think that the people are that bothered. Some decent help with their fuel bills would be nice, though.

Ricky Simpson said...

Not as near gutter-level as seeking the destruction of a political opponent over a misunderstanding. She was vindicated in the end though.

Coupled with your candidate for Glasgow central (WESTMINSTER) and his penchant for the caliphate (presumably to only would be MP who supports the notion); it could all add up to a rather dangerous narrative.

You think it wont come out when the election is on?

Allan said...

The facts are Cllr Hanif WAS pictured with an automatic weapon. End of. In this country, its not the correct thing to do to be seen as "promoting" gun use.

Richard Thomson said...

SU - running the two sentences together as you did gave a misleading impression of what was actually said. Thank you for posting a link so that people can see for themselves how the quotes used actually ran. You're still putting an unsustainable slant on proceedings, though.

Caron - I'm also not keen on gun use. And you're right – his family affairs, particularly dabbling in one side of a family dispute, are not what any responsible politician should be doing.

Allan – He was pictured as you say. And a suspension was handed out in consequence. That's the 'end of', surely?

Ricky – Shame you weren't so critical of your party colleagues when they were doing all the briefing against that very same party leader. Regicide happens from within, after all.

What has Glasgow Central, or your evident personal dislike of the SNP candidate there, got to do with any of this? Your attempted 'coupling' speaks volumes, I'm afraid.

Ricky Simpson said...

Forgive me if I find the prospect of an Islamist MP slightly alarming.

"Islamism is a set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system; that modern Islam must return to their roots of their religion, and unite politically."

The fundamental of Islamism being a united Islamic nation - exactly what the PPC advocates.

I dislike his politics, not his person.

Regicide happens from within, after all - very true. Alexander was coronated. Leaders without mandates tend to fail rather quickly although your party's rabid partisan nature didn't help.

Pride comes before a fall.

The LIT is a Pandora's box - if it doesn't work (presuming the SNP u-turn on centralisation of the LOCAL income tax and get it through) - the specter of the poll tax will come on swift wings.

I really cant see the UK budging on the council tax benefit - so of course it wont work. If you scrap the tax - the benefit surely goes with it? Is that not logical?

Anonymous said...

Ricky my lad, do you think you should be commenting on an issue involving political representatives/candidates and firearms?

Ricky Simpson said...

Why on earth not?

We may be ruled by a tyrannical minority - but they haven't reversed democracy or stifled free speak yet; and until they do - I will comment on any thing I like,"anonymous".

Jeff said...


Great post and once again you argue your case very well indeed.

I personally would have less patience than you are able to muster and simply delete Ricky Simpson's comments as they detract from quality debating. I am sure only one person would mind.

Anyway, as I say, great stuff.

Anonymous said...


In the past, I have described you as a “capable” and “respected” SNP researcher, and I would like to be able to continue in that view. But your accusation that “running the two sentences together as you did gave a misleading impression of what was actually said”, if I understand you correctly, would put a strain on my appraisal.

Key fact: I ran the two sentences together simply because John Mason did.

I then cited those two sentences because, possibly in conjunction with his immediately preceding sentence, they form the crux of his argument. His pre- and post-ambles, to which I linked without prompting (so no need to posture by thanking me for doing so) do not alter the import of his comments in any way.

Here are the three key sentences again, exactly as Mason wrote them:

“Once we start implying other countries are second rate because they have a different opinion from us, we are surely being racist. The attacks on Councillor Hanif can easily be construed as attacks on Pakistan itself and on Pakistan's right to order its internal affairs as it sees fit. I would have expected that way of thinking in the colonial era, but I am disappointed to hear it in 2008.”

Now, Nour Hanif’s letter says that their father took them to Durra, which she describes as being in the “lawless area” and says that she has read that it is “the world’s largest illegal gun market”.

Durra is near the Afghan border, in Pakistan’s FATA or tribal region. The literacy rate in the FATA is 17%. Only one in thirty girls receive education. Each doctor serves 7,700 citizens. Only 43% of people have access to clean drinking water.

Terrorists operate with virtual impunity and the production of illlegal replica weapons is the main source of income in and around Durra. Knocked up in a totally unregulated environment, in some cases by children, Durra reportedly serves jihadist and other militias, as well as the local citizenry. You can watch a Times of Pakistan film about the Durra arms bazaar at this link.

Do you call that scenario “first rate”? I certainly don’t – and it’s in no way “racist” or “colonial” to do so. Mason’s argument is moral relativism at its very worst.

Anonymous said...

Ricky, good to see you willing to label the Labour Government a tyrannical minority, I concur entirely.

I was, however, referring to whether this is a topic you should really be embroiling yourself in, rather than whether you had the right to free speech.

Interestingly Jim Millar has apparently removed the letter from his site, I wonder if it is because he realises Kezia could find herself in hot water with the law.

Lacks the temperament for politics does Kezia, without a doubt.

Richard Thomson said...

Ricky, I'm not going to adopt Jeff's suggestion of deleting your comments just yet, but I am tiring rapidly of your regular off-topic inanities.

I'm going to leave your last one up so that people can see for themselves the lack of quality in your arguments. However, in future, keep your Islamophobic paranoia away from here.If you want a mindless, unfocussed argument, I'm sure you're more than capable of provoking it on one of your own seemingly short-lived blogs.

Consider yourself yellow carded.

Anonymous said...

The video of Cllr Hanif firing the weapon on a family video could only have entered the public domain via a family member.

I do not see the relevance of this observation. The disclosure of the video was sufficient grounds for the SNP to suspend Cllr Hanif (for contravention of Standard 4, if the press is to be believed). Therefore, it is a legitimate for others to comment upon his actions and the subsequent decision of the SNP. If others believe the suspension to be too lenient a punishment, that is an argument for them to make and your party to defend against.

I'm sure you would like it to be the "end of". But that does not mean it is improper for others to take a different view.

Richard Thomson said...

In the past, I have described you as a “capable” and “respected” SNP researcher, and I would like to be able to continue in that view.

Perish the thought that you may have been ‘posturing’ just a little yourself when you issued that epithet, SU :-)

Anyway, it would appear that I owe you an apology. The two sentences do run concurrently in the article as you say. However, what can’t be denied is that the views given immediately prior to that were more detailed and nuanced than would be gleaned from the quote given in isolation. I’m sure that’s something you’ll be able to recognise, even if I was guilty of jumping the gun slightly.

Nonetheless, none of this stands up the charge being made that anyone thinks all criticism of the Cllr is racist. Given that the SNP has imposed a disciplinary sanction on the Cllr for these actions, something which itself implies criticism, it would be rather odd for anyone in the SNP, far less an MP, to effectively self-condemn in the ways being suggested.

I must say, your views don’t come as much of a surprise to me. However, given that you’ve recently managed to condemn the SNP for giving balloons to children and (horrors!) sometimes speaking to their parents about politics, it would seem that there is pretty limited scope for winning any approval from you for any action taken under any circumstances.

Richard Thomson said...

Anon 8.51AM - with respect, I'm struggling to see the relevance of your own contribution.

No-one's suggesting it is 'improper' for people to comment. What I'm suggesting is improper is the way that words are being twisted, and the way that some people are choosing to exploit a difficult family situation for political gain.