Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Does Labour in Scotland have a racism problem?

This week, Labour in Scotland were embroiled in another race-hate scandal after leading Labour strategist, Better Together campaigner and serial Labour Party candidate, Ian Smart, used an offensive racial slur against people of Pakistani descent, but often used by skinheads and racist against all people subcontinental descent. 

Brought onto STV's Scotland Tonight programme to explain himself, Smart bafflingly  and persistently refused to apologise to people offended by his racist terminology. On the contrary, he admitted that he had made a conscious decision to use the racist slur, which I will not reproduce here. 

Smart claims that he is not a racist. I don't know Smart personally, but I do know racist language when I hear it. As Plaid Cymru's leader on Cardiff City Council remarked to me: "I've been called a [the racist term used by Smart] expletive myself far too many times, sometimes followed by a punch".

If Smart isn't a racist, despite his free and considered use of racial slurs, perhaps he would do well to consider the impact of a public figure's words on people who are racists. This ethnic slur is one which we in Scotland have done much to stamp out of use over the years.

If Smart isn't a racist, he does a jolly good impression of one by using this vile terminology.

He claims he is not a racist. I submit that this offensive racist term rolled off his typewriter slightly too easily for comfort.

The very best that can be said about Smart is that he is quite prepared to use extremely racist comments, forcing victims of racism to relive their experiences, to score political points. This is disturbing, and points to a mentality of hate which should be stamped out of the Labour Party and out of public life.

In a disturbing example of Scottish Labour's pack mentality, the former Premier, Jack McConnell, leapt feet-first into the debate, bizarrely attacking pro-independence supporters for Smart's comments, before admitting to me that he hadn't even read Smart's racist language before defending him.

As Smart's brother Alan pointed out, calling his brother "worse than [a racist]", when Enoch Powell brought the race card into political debate Edward Heath sacked him the following day.

Johann Lamont has been completely silent - in a shock development... - on what is only the latest race scandal to hit the Labour Party in Scotland.

Currently embroiled in the Better Together campaign alongside the Tories, and campaigning alongside the British National Party, Ukip and the fascist Orange Order, Labour are struggling to assert themselves.

It's not so long since Glasgow Labour list MSP Anne MacTaggart, who is remarkably close to rising Council star Stephen Curran, was disciplined after racially abusing a colleague. The Labour Party said that questions had to be asked: but no answers were ever made public. 

Indeed, even as the Independence Referendum was being debated in the British parliament, it was Labour members, led by the thuggish and sinister Pollok MP Ian Davidson, who demanded that the referendum franchise should be based on race rather than residency.

Summer 2011, even as the horrendous terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya were underway, saw Cathcart MP Tom Harris react with glee, using the attacks to launch a quite horrifying Islamophobic attack which was swiftly deleted as it became apparent that the man responsible was a white Christian.

It would be absurd to attack Jim Murphy (Eastwood MP) for attending a school, even as an adult, from which black students and teachers were formally barred from attending and whose only other notable alumnus went on to head Project Coast, the illegal WMD project of the Apartheid South African régime. It isn't, however, churlish to attack him for being on the advisory council of the Henry Jackson Society (on which more here)

It would be further absurd to conclude that isolated examples of racism and racist language is evidence per se of a problem with racism in the Labour Party in Scotland. However, the more that racism goes unchallenged - even sheltered - by its leadership, and the more that Labour gets into bed with sinister, racism-tinged organisations like Better Together and the Henry Jackson Society, the more difficult it will be for Labour to rid itself of their taint. 

It is not sufficient, it is not acceptable, for Labour to be a non-racist party. They must strive to be an actively anti-racist party.

And the best way to show that is by jettisoning Smart for his use of racist language. Sadly, it seems that Lamont has neither the power nor the desire to do so, and the Labour Party drags its reputation down that little bit more.

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