07 September 2007

I'm not suffering from Shirley Syndrome, but...

"I'm not suggesting for a second that the SNP are racist, or indeed, Anti-English. What I am saying however is that Alex Salmond needs to be very careful when he makes snide remarks about 'London' Labour and the 'London' Government, that he's not fanning the flames of any existing anti-English sentiment."

So said George Foulkes, in full, according to Kez Dugdale, a damned smart old friend of mine from my student politics days, fellow political anorak, and employee of the aforementioned Lothians MSP. She points out - reasonably, I think - that the press have quoted selectively and it's a mark of creative, and sloppy, journalism to miss out the first sentence.

But there's a problem...

That all-important first sentence is actually a sign of what is to come. George has come down with what I call Shirley Syndrome. Shirley is a neighbour of mine, who has a habit of prefacing her sentences with the phrase, "I'm not being funny, riiiight, buuuuuuut...", at which point she launches into the most brutal character assassination you've ever been the victim of, except, of course, in your other conversations with her.

Then there's the phrase "I'm not racist, but..." or "I'm not sexist, but..." or "I'm not homophobic, but..." and so on. In each case, the 'but' precedes a massive, bigoted tirade against whichever community to which the speaker has taken a dislike.

And so it is. Foulkes decided that because Alex Salmond uses phrases like "London Labour" and the "London Government", to describe a Government and Party whose HQs are based in, wait for it... London, and because there have been cases - which Foulkes rightly condemns - of anti-English violence in the past (though interestingly, few ever note the other side of the coin in the form of anti-Scottish abuse in England, which even I've been the victim of - though it has fortunately only been verbal - and I'm only half Scottish!), the two must be linked. No, George, the phrases are no more linked to anti-English violence than Jack McConnell saying that he was supporting Ecuador in the World Cup Second Round against England, and baiting Nicola Sturgeon for her Party's Leader being based in London. I don't recall Foulkes condemning either of those for stoking extremism.

Anyone who's read Part 3 of my "Case for Independence" series will know my story and where I'm coming from. But I'll let Ian McKee do the talking: "Anti-Englishness and racism is completely contrary to the SNP, otherwise I would not be in it."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

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