Zero tolerance applies to all

Once upon a time, Scottish Labour used to take threats of violence against women seriously.

Every time Sean Connery dared to show his support for the SNP and the cause of independence, female Labour MSPs in particular would seize the opportunity to remind folk of allegations made by his now deceased first wife that he was a bully who physically and verbally abused her.  Allegations, incidentally, that Connery denied vigorously.  But argued Labour, there should be zero tolerance of such violence and the SNP should rescind its links with him as a result.

I often felt a little queasy about it all.  The SNP tended to play the man (or in this case, the party) and ignore the issue, that of the prevalence of domestic violence (although it has done more in government than Labour ever did to fund and promote activity to prevent such violence.)  The spats at the time were highly politicised: Labour was trying to diminish Connery’s status and reputation, while the SNP wax anxious not to allow his support for them to be tarnished, and simply refused to acknowledge or investigate the claims.

Fast forward several years to accusations today from Dr Eilidh Whiteford, Banff and Buchan MP, that Ian Davidson, Chairman of the Westminster committee on Scottish Affairs, threatened to give her “a doing.”  Worse, it would appear when attempting to explain his remarks, he insisted he didn’t mean anything sexual.  That’s okay then.

For those unfamiliar with the Glasgow parlance, a doing means “a beating or fight. Might be heard from someone who angry with someone else and to whom they are “Going to give a doing”.”

Dr Whiteford has withdrawn temporarily from sitting on the committee until Ian Davidson is removed from his position.   Labour’s response?  “We are looking carefully at these allegations and will make a full statement tomorrow.”  In the meantime, Ian Davidson, MP for Glasgow South West, continues in his prestigious role.  At the very least, he should be suspended pending an investigation.

It’s not just Labour who should investigate, but also the House of Commons.  Davidson is alleged to have made the threat while occupying the Chair of one of its committees and the Westminster authorities – the Speaker? – also have responsibility to react.

But I’m not holding my breath.  The UK Parliament does not have a particularly strong track record at defending or indeed, promoting women’s rights.  And one of those is to be allowed to go about their business without fear.  Our democratic institutions must be exemplars for society and show zero tolerance for actual, threatened and indeed, allegations of physical and verbal abuse by men towards women.  It will be interesting to see how, or even if, Westminster takes any action.

The same applies to political parties.  Labour MSPs and MPs, mainly women, were quick to call for there to be no place in the Scottish political firmament for Sir Sean Connery until allegations of violence and violent attitudes to women remained unresolved.  Tonight, they have been silent in relation to the accusations about their parliamentary colleague.

Equally, at the time of the Sir Sean stushie, the SNP accused Labour of “pursuing a political vendetta against Sean Connery for some time. We don’t know the motivations of people responsible for this, but it is something I would say is unfair.”  If the SNP considered it unfair then, it must resist the temptation to make political capital from the current situation.

Because protecting women from violence, and its threat, should be a universal aim, shared by all parties.  Any accusation must be treated seriously and investigated thoroughly.  If proven to have substance, charges must surely follow.

Zero tolerance must mean exactly that and apply to all.



30 thoughts on “Zero tolerance applies to all

  1. Pingback: Ian Davidson, the Labour-SNP Divide and the Language of Violence

  2. Pingback: Ian Davidson, the Labour-SNP Divide and the Language of Violence |

  3. This is a curious man. He is clearly a capable and articulate politician when the mood takes him but he seems to have a wee Jekyll and Hyde streak. I’ll leave the amateur shrinks to analyse further.

    What interests me is that he felt the need to clarify the ‘non-sexual’ nature of his remarks but given that he also alleges his remarks were in the past tense, I would have thought Dr Whiteford would have been perfectly aware of whether she had already been sexually abused or not and would not need such clarification!!! Mr Davidson’s own story simply does not bear up to the slightest scrutiny and would in all likelihood be taken to pieces by any prosecutor worth their salt. And I wonder if this course action has been considered.

    I think Dr Whiteford should force the issue by resigning her seat on the grounds that Westminster is clearly not a workplace fit for a women in the 21st century while the likes of Mr Davidson inhabit the place. That would create such a worldwide media story (and perhaps others would join her) that it would have to be addressed and at least force Mr Davidson to resign his seat too and pave the way for Dr Whiteford to contest the by-election.

    The precedent would be David Davies’ point of principle resignation in the last parliament.

  4. Regarding the comparison with Sean Connery’s comments. I remember that stushie quite well. There were comments that he made in an interview where he reportedly said some woman are deliberately provocative and need a slap. Pretty appalling comments I think everyone would agree. When he was questioned about them when the story emerged in 1996 or 1997 I ythink it was he said I don’t remember saying that and I do not believe that now.

    I found that response initially a bit weak until it turned out that the interview was from 1965 so quite possibly he did not remember saying it, it was over 30 years previously. And maybe he was the kind of a@rsehle who thought that way in 1965- he wouldn’t have been the only one – but he clearly said I do not believe that now.

    I think you have to allow people the space to back up if they realise that they have got it badly wrong. So if Iain Davidson said I realise what I said was appalling and I apologise to Eilidh unreservedly and promise I will never say anything like that again to anyone then maybe that could draw a line under it. But all this wriggling around, saying it was past tense etc, saying that he had not meant it sexually !!!! Just makes it worse.

    And I think it just gives a dreadful impression of what a woman might have to put up with if she enters politics. I think there is a gender aspect to it – when people question why more women don’t stand for parliament well this is part of it. They don’t want to put themselves in a situation where they could be bullied. That can happen in any workplace of course but it seems to be worse in the House of Commons which considering this is the place where they make laws about equality in the workplace and so on is just atrocious. If anything they should have a higher standard of nehaviour not a lower one.

  5. I know that we are supposed to wait until any investigations take their course and all that… except that Davidson is reputed to have form in this respect. Whether it’s the “Nazi” slurs, Davidson has not really covered himslef in any sort of glory.

    If he has made these comments, then sorry the wooly appology is not nearly enough.

    btw Burd,did you not think that there were some glaring ommissions and some strange decisions regarding “Scotland’s Greatest Album”.

    • No Davidson has not, and yes he has form for foot in mouth, and unacceptable comments and behaviour. If we are all waiting the outcome of investigations, why the apology indeed.

      As for Scotland’s Greatest Album, watch this space….

  6. If Davidson did say this then his political career ought to be over. He should resign and allow a bye election. We do not need that in political discourse.

  7. “””If the SNP considered it unfair then, it must resist the temptation to make political capital from the current situation.””””

    I disagree. He threatened to physically hurt someone working for the SNP in the context of a work situation.

    If anybody else had done that in any other job they would face serious consequences.

    It’s not a personality attack in the way the Labour party attacked Sean Connery, it’s a political attack against someone performing their duty – someone elected to represent others.

    The threat demeans and attacks all those who voted for Dr Whiteford and it would be wilting of the SNP to just let this disappear. Wilting and weak.

    Moreover, if we allow this thug to continue on victorious then what message does that send to women.

    • i absolutely agree with the last point – he should not continue or be allowed to continue either as Chairman of the committee or as an MSP. With regard to the point about political capital, I was suggesting to the SNP that they alleged the same when Sean Connery was attacked. But I take your point about the difference between Dr Whiteford and the SNP’s most famous supporter – he is not elected, she is, and this is a workplace issue.

  8. I am staggered by some of the people making excuses for this. They are not denying that this is a man who says to a female colleague get out of line and you’ll get a doing. But they are saying ah but … really was he actually threatening physical violence, isn’t she making a mountain out of a molehill. Eh, no!

    • I agree. Even the apology does not seem to deny he said it, just the tense he used and what he deemed to be its intention, which was neither violent nor sexual. The meaning of this phrase is very clear – to everyone it would appear except Davidson

      • Defending his aggression by saying it wasn’t intended as a sexual slur is injury on top of insult.

        I’m normally kinder towards individual Brit nat Labourites who say and do stupid things, I think the SNP was right to drop the situation that a Labour MSP created with his inappropriate ‘dusky’ comments against a young girl in parliament.

        You have to really because they do it all the time but this is thuggery based on intolerance in an official capacity – resign Mr Davidson. Resign as an MP too. You are a slap on the face of decent society.

  9. Well first I would like to comment on what WAS a party political reason for funding violence against women
    Violence and bullying of this type should be unacceptable no matter the age or agenda and particularly if the person is in a position of trust and responsibility
    This issue was also used in Scottish Parliament to allow women’s groups with petition after petition to change family law into a system where men have no real rights to contact with their children
    This situation does not benefit our children
    With the greatest of respect to women (I am one) this money should have been used to reflect the fact that children women and men also suffer through domestic violence

    So look back on the money spent it obviously had no influence on Labour MPs then

    • Lydia, I wholeheartedly disagree about what funding and measures to address violence against women – and children – was for. Violent men who abuse their partners and children should not have access to them or be allowed any contact with them. It is not in children’s best interests for that to happen. And the same applies in reverse gender roles, where the woman is the abuser. All the money spent in this area has been spent to enable abused families to rebuild their lives, to come to terms with what has happened to them. Not nearly enough has been spent or is being spent on doing that frankly.

  10. I can’t imagine any employee at any workplace promising a ‘doing’ to a co-worker and expecting to shrug it off. Why would Ian Davidson think he was special..?

  11. “Allegations, incidentally, that Connery denied vigorously” Google this; “Barbra Walters interviews Sean Connery on slapping women” and get Sean Connery explaining why it’s OK to slap a woman. Interview from 1987..

    • Like I said, that whole episode and how both parties played it made me feel queasy. The SNP ignored the substantive issue and allegation in order to play a political persecution card. Did not reflect well on them at the time, in my view. Having said that, Labour exploited it to the max, to make political capital out of it at the time. It’s too important issue to be treated so trivially.

  12. Couldn’t agree more. It’s not a party political thing, it’s the bare minimum we should expect from a workplace in 2011.

  13. “The UK Parliament does not have a particularly strong track record at defending or indeed, promoting women’s rights.”

    Hot on the back of Cameron’s belittling “Calm down, dear!” came this little nugget:

    Watch for Clegg displaying all the charisma of the bully’s sidekick as he tells DC “Well done” after he dismisses a criticism from his party member with schoolyard sexual slander.

    The rulers of the United Kingdom, (ladies and) gentlemen!

    • And it sickens me.

    • Cameron happily insults this woman (who was furious and walked out eventually) making her a joke in parliament.

      He made a joke of Ferguson.

      He made a joke of McNeil.

      It shows an interior arrogance from an Etonion new-old boy.

      One hopes the last laugh will be on him.

  14. I agree completely with you post apart from the fact that we shouldn’t make a gender thing out of it.

    Protecting anyone from violence, or its threat should be a universal aim, I would have said,
    because if the committee chairman had suggested that he would give another man “a doing”, it would have been equally wrong. And likewise had the chairman been a woman.

    • Indeed, all violence and threats of violence are unacceptable, but as a society we have agreed that men using their power, and mental and physical size, in many cases, to threaten, intimidate and bully women is particularly heinous. Davidson is guilty of this and should be made to go.

      • But with respect, when we make it a gender issue, we are saying that it wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been another bloke. This is parliament. Surely we cannot tolerate at any cost the work of a parliament within the UK being conducted on the basis of who is stronger. Men’s strengths vary too.

        It reminds me in a way of my mother’s disgust at the way that pensioners were treated in the UK. “They fought in the war”, she used to say. And I used to point out, to her disgust, that it didn’t matter if they fought in the war, because if we used that as the benchmark for treating people like human beings, then once they started to die off, the new generation of pensioners could go back to being treated like irritants.

        In any case, women often bully men, and know that they can do this because whilst it is not considered a heinous offence for a woman to hit a man, a man who hits a woman, even hits her back, is a monster.

        I’ve had to deal, in my work situation with a woman who bullied a man in this way (I sacked her), and several others who used a more cerebral kind of bullying.

        It makes no difference in these days of equality. Threatening violence at work is simply wrong; regardless of gender, or age, or position.

      • You are absolutely right. But we are not actually in the days of equality – women are still more likely to be assaulted by a man rather than another woman. Men still enjoy most positions of power, so whenever a bloke in that situation threatens a woman it is a gender issue. Likewise if a woman in power does it to a man, it is a gender issue. Until we pay women the same as men, have as many in leadership and promoted positions, and have removed the threat of violence from so many aspects of our lives, it will remain a gender issue.

        But you are right to highlight that this is simply wrong, whoever was involved.

  15. Not to discount the specific issue of violence against women, whose prevalence and cultural context mean it must be a priority, but personally I’m furious that _anybody_ should be threatened like this in the course of working within our political system. I’d be for calling in the police. Democracy cannot function in such a context.

  16. I hope it does get investigated, and Davidson removed from his position. His “neo-fascists” slur should have been enough to have him removed from the chair in the summer, but this is pretty hideous. If he’d said it to a male MP you would expect him to be removed, and so it is equally true in this case, if not more so.

    Seriously, what kind of thug tells a woman he’s going to give her “a doing”? Perhaps a protest by the Westminster SNP group is in order, or even a bit of female solidarity across the party lines so there can be no question of it being used for political advantage?

    I’d be interested to know Harriet Harman’s position on the matter.

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