The Labour Party in Scotland have made something of a hobby out of "abuse" in Scottish political discourse. They whine, incessantly, about it, and are desperately trying to make it an issue which the public cares about.
Barely a day goes by without Slab MSPs, stenographers and supporters
being told to choosing to write some pitiful, patronising piffle about how perfectly innocent Slabbers are just sitting at home, peacefully bombing Iraq, cutting the £0,10 tax rate, or using racist language against Poles and Pakistanis, and all of a sudden they receive a tweet (these seem to disappear awfully quickly, and screenshots are surprisingly almost never captured by the quaking victim). Every so often, these stories make it into the newspaper (often, by coincidence, after a particularly bad news day for Labour in Scotland), accompanied by the inevitable photograph of Daily Mail columnist Kezia Dugdale wearing the Sad Face and holding up a mobile telephone.
Poor Johann Lamont, God love her, even accused Alex Salmond of spending the time in between running the country and fighting a referendum campaign setting up social media accounts to "abuse" her. The pitifully inept former Labour "leader", whom last year, Labour members were still insisting was senior to Ed Miliband in the Labour pecking order, before she was unceremoniously sacked, claimed that "all the bullying that goes on, wherever it comes, is done by order, by design. By him."
The "abuse" line is trotted out to silence debate. When Labour, in a malicious fraud, trotted out a member of their Shadow Cabinet at a joint Labour/Tory rally and lied that she was "just an ordinary mum", the lie was discovered. However, to even point out that this was a false representation of her political activism was condemned as "abuse". Rage-filled attacks were made on Campbell Gunn for "bullying" the Lally concerned by, er, e-mailing journalists and pointing out that far from being some kind of political innocent, she was actually a very senior member of the Labour Party in Scotland who was appointed to an exclusive group by the "leader" of the day.
Criticism of Labour MSPs for telling lies on television? Yup, you got it, that's "abuse" as well.
This bilge has two aims at its heart: to try and win some sort of moral high ground for Scottish Labour ("yeah, we murdered a million Muslims, but look, someone's just called Jimmy Hood a big fat wanker on Twitter!"), and to act as a desperate, last-gasp effort to take political debate back from the mass engagement which has so horrifed and terrified Scottish Labour into the safe, secure middle class boys' clubs where they feel it belongs.
Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that there aren't some lonely one-handed surfers out there in their darkened bedroom in their mammy's house sending actual abuse to people. And that's wrong. Some of the abuse Margaret Curran and Nicola Sturgeon receive online is disgusting, misogynistic and downright scary. And those involved should stop it; and if they don't, then the courts ought to stop them. (Scottish Labour, of course, would be absolutely horrified if it stopped, and would reinvent it). But to suggest it's an issue unique to Scotland, or - as Labour claim - unique to one side of the constitutional debate, is simply a lie. It's a manifestation of bams having access to the internet (my solution to this would be to ban anonymous accounts on the likes of Twitter).
But Scottish Labour have made this their issue. They've been strident, almost hysterical, on the issue. They need "abuse" to be a new fad for the media because it avoids any criticism of their policies or their behaviour. They talk a good game.
They've talked the talk, and now they've got a golden opportunity to walk the walk and show that they're prepared to take steps to deal with misogynistic abuse.
Yesterday, at a Scottish Labour conference in Edinburgh, David Hamilton, the white, old, male Labour MP for Mid-Lothian, got up on his hind legs, strutted onto the stage, and embarked on a sexist rant that was quite extraordinary, even by the standards of the Scottish Labour boys' club.
Nicola Sturgeon, a 16-year veteran of parliament (David Hamilton has sat in parliament two years fewer), the first female First Minister of Scotland (there have only been 53 other female heads of government in the entire world) was dismissed as "a wee lassie" (she's 44) by the Labour MP.
To shrieks of laughter and wild applause from the sea of middle-aged, middle-class white men in the audience, he went on to mock her appearance. Instead of concentrating on a denunciation of, say, her policies, the 64-year old member of Ian Davidson's parliamentary committee denounced her hairstyle. This was described, variously, as "brilliant" (Blair McDougall), "great" (Iain Gray), "a hero" (Duncan Hothersall).
Scottish Labour has chosen to set itself up as the fearless crusader against "abuse". Here's a clear case of actual abuse.
Today is International Womens' Day. Labour has two options: it can either apologise for Hamilton's misogynistic rant, remove the Labour whip, expel him from from the Party, and send a clear signal that this is how personal abuse of opponents should be punished; setting an example for all other parties to follow.
Or it can be a supine, cowardly gang of hypocrites, with the Good Ol' Boys at the top chuckling away at Hamilton's sparkling banter.
I know which one my money's on.