Wednesday, 2 July 2014

More than a bad apple

Like most of the media - The Courier being, to some extent, an exception - The Scotsman entirely misses the point. To portray Kathy Wiles's posting of the Nazi image as an isolated, if deeply offensive, incident obscures the fact that she has a history of such unpleasantness. And, more importantly, that this history must surely have been known to those who selected her as a British Labour candidate in the 2015 UK Parliamentary elections.

It simply is not credible, taking into account the prominence given to the issue of "online abuse" in the referendum campaign by British Labour and their Tory/LibDem allies, that the chair of Angus constituency Labour party, John Ruddy, or at least one of his colleagues would not have thought to at least glance at Kathy Wiles's social media accounts. And it would have taken no more than a glance to discover that this individual professed some distinctly dubious views on diverse matters, but particularly the SNP, those who vote for the party and independence supporters in general.

One would have to be naive in the extreme to suppose that Kathy Wiles came to the selection process as someone completely unknown to the local British Labour hierarchy. The only possible conclusion is that they knew full well what she was like. And they didn't care.

This whole Kathy Wiles episode is symptomatic of the disease at the heart of British Labour in Scotland and, perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree, the other British parties too. There is a cancerous resentment at the core of unionist politics in Scotland born of an unthinking sense of entitlement being denied, righteousness being challenged and the natural order being disrupted. This has given rise to a malignancy within the British parties - but British Labour most of all - in which a snarling, vicious loathing of the Scottish National Party is seen as normal and even the most splenetic expressions of this irrational hatred are regarded as quite acceptable, if not an actual requirement for acceptance by the group.

This would be regrettable enough in itself. But what we are seeing is a much more disturbing spilling over of this detestation of the SNP into contempt for those who give their vote to the party and, by extension, the democratic system which allows those voters to reject the "right" parties and threaten the established order.

Kathy Wiles may be an aberration in the wider context of a Scottish politics which has, if anything, become much healthier, more diverse, more tolerant and more thoughtful as a result of the referendum debate. But she is far from being exceptional in the context of British Labour tribalism and the odious brand of British nationalism which constitutes a large and growing part of the unionist response to the democratic process of self-determination in Scotland.

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