5 May 2015

What is the SNP doing to stamp out its problem fringe element?

So the wrecked Buchanan St Labour event yesterday continues to reverberate.

Yesterday in this blog, and on TV last night, this correspondent suggested it was time the SNP named and shamed its extremist fringe. Today it did.

Both Piers Doughty Brown and James Scott were suspended from the party. Both were centrally involved in shouting down the Jim Murphy/Eddie Izzard campaign event yesterday in Buchanan St in Glasgow.

This was getting serious for the party at a crucial campaign stage. Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon said to me yesterday – on camera – that the events in Glasgow were appalling and she condemned them.

But she also said they had “nothing to do” with the SNP. Is that contradicted by her own party’s statement?

The SNP also knew that Channel 4 News had been handed a dossier of photos linking men like Doughty Brown and Scott to the SNP. They had to act.


Jim Murphy and Eddie Izzard in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street

Sustained campaign

The question is why it took them so very long. Doughty Brown, for example, had been involved a sustained and well-documented campaign against Labour candidate Margaret Curran in Glasgow.

On and on it went, well beyond the acceptable norms of reasonable and legitimate protest – the SNP did not suspend him.

As well as today’s commendable action by the SNP, in the interests of democracy many Labour supporters would claim they owe Margaret Curran an apology for failing to act until today and an undertaking to work with the party to keep Doughty Brown within the limits of legitimate protest, I would suggest.

Undesirable element

For now, though, the cat is out of the bag. The SNP has a problem fringe element which is tiny, unrepresentative of the wider support the polls are showing, obviously – but undemocratic.

They’ve made a belated start to stamp it out – but could they do more?

Doughty Brown told me: “The party did exactly what they should do pending an investigation” by suspending him. “The SNP have set an example for all parties in suspending me.”

I have no contact information for James Scott – but if he’d like to put his side of the story to me, I’d welcome it.

And yes, I hear the complaint that Scottish Labour may also have their undesirable element too. One would hope their collars are also being felt tonight.

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13 reader comments

  1. Chris says:

    The anger and frustration with the labour party predates the referendum. Many of us feel the party we have faithfully voted for over the decades pays scant regard to our needs and opinions from council level to Westminster. The tone of the campaign has reinforced the idea that labour wishes only to confront without understanding it’s own failings. Labour has cheerfully taken Scottish votes for granted for too long and this shows no sign of changing. Only recently I watched on Alan Milburn nodding away as a pundit suggested labour should ignore it’s core vote to concentrate on the City elite. I have justified so much labour has done to as I had saw no alternative. But the referendum flagged up that we have a credible alternative and one that shares our values. This is why I believe such frustration boils over sometimes. I hope that if the polls are correct labour understands why they got there.

  2. chris says:

    Alex. As a long term admirer of your reporting, I urge you – while you still have a modicum of journalistic integrity left – to drop this story now. You have gone from being seen as an honest, impartial voice – widely quoted and shared online with your Nicola Sturgeon in Buchanan Street / Hope over Fear rally reports – to becoming a complete laughing stock. All this talk of ‘dossiers’, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘extremist fringes’ reveal you to be, at best prone to over-exageration, at worst extremely gullible.
    This was such a non event it beggars belief you have donated so much time to it. Get some perspective and get back to what you do best. Please.

    1. David Harrold says:

      This was my first foray into the C4 News site and sadly will likely be my last. I was somewhat surprised to see the link on the main news page but utterly dismayed to read the piece – this is a flimsy piece of journalism based on an utter non- news story. Sorry Channel 4 News – you don’t get my vote.

  3. Duncan Fraser says:

    What do you mean “wrecked”?

    It all went perfectly to plan as far as I can see – The protestors who in your own words described themselves as:

    “socialist”, “class activist”, “people of Glasgow”, “Marxist” and “nearly Marxist”

    are now neatly established as representing “The ugly face of Nationalism”

    You’ve been mugged Alex – shame on you.
    Which, is – obviously – nonsensical, but nonetheless, is allowed to stand.


  4. eddie says:

    Where do parties draw the line? Should members be vetted? I am sure everyday members of every party do stuff that their party of choice would distance themselves from

  5. bob mcnair says:

    Well done the SNP for stepping in to show how to react to a very orchestrated Murphy setup. Sure the two SNPs guys shouted back at him and ok suspending them is right with an inquiry later. Murphy loves it when he sets things up and the press follow his deception. In his 100towns in 100days – it was all really about him taking control of the Labour party in Scotland not about Scotland at all because he was confident of a NO vote. As again concerning this affair Twitter accounts indicate the rammy was all a setup but I did see on tv another man asking Murphy clearly about Iraq two or three times and Murphy heard him and answered in that banal way “hello there” or something. Murphy was first to vote for the Iraq War and wanted military intervention in Syria – he has a deplorable record of neoconservatism and yet he gets away with it b. Murphy needs to be voted out of politics before he causes anymore hostility within and without of Scotland. I joined the SNP because of Murphy…..and I am a trade unionist. I hope he gets out voted on Thursday. Labour no more for me and I am in my 60s

  6. James Cassidy says:

    As I don’t watch Channel 4 news I cannot comment on your reporting prior to now. I had heard you were one of the more even handed journalists, but your reporting over the last few days doesn’t bear that out.
    Jim Murphy and his entourage were heckled by around half a dozen activists. Two are reportedly SNP members. How the SNP can be held responsible for legitimate political protest by rank and file members is bonkers! Having seen video footage of the stramash it’s fairly clear that media reports have been grossly exaggerated. One clip shows a cameraman being pulled backwards by, yes, another member of the press trying to take their position.
    Mr Murphy toured Scotland during the referendum campaign and used a PA system to shout down members of the crowd. On this occasion Mr Murphy was beaten down with someone with a bigger soundsystem. Well, boo-hoo.
    All too often politicians appear only at sanitised events packed with happy clappers, perhaps you have simply forgotten what real democracy is. Allowing the people to speak.
    We have a prime minister in David Cameron who CANNOT or WILL NOT appear in public in Scotland, unless it is behind closed doors. Which isn’t public at all. It’s cowardly. And Scotland deserves better.

  7. John McLeod says:

    Alex I have read many of your reporting around the world and have held you in high esteem amongst your peers as someone who tells the truth and reports the facts.
    You have let yourself down with this article which is truly pathetic.

  8. Donald says:

    You seem to have stirred up a horNATS nest! The behaviour in Glasgow was appalling. No politician or guest speaker should be faced by such an orchestrated campaign. I am in Inverness and we have had too many examples of unpleasant nationalist behaviour to accept your suggestion that it is merely a lunatic fringe. General rowdiness is understood but it goes beyond reasonable limits. in Inverness the Non SNP parties were pretty much forced off the High Street last weekend by a sizeable noisy SNP crowd. One person was assaulted and a person is due in court next week. Scotland is being damaged by acceptance, or worse, of the unpleasant actions of Messrs Doughty-Brown, Scott and others.

  9. Wladyslaw Mejka says:

    I see that once more there is a systematic denial going on in relation to nationalist bullying and hectoring during elections. The referendum exposed some ugly truths about nationalists who are unable to accept that there can be views different from their own. Not far removed from the mindset and behaviours of National Socialists in 1930s Germany.
    Credit to Alex for reporting what he saw.

  10. brobb says:

    I can’t understand why Nicola Sturgeon should be held accountable for the actions of 2 numpties on the fringes of the SNP (out of over 100.000 members). Why aren’t these rules applying to every other political party? It might also be useful to consider just how much the Westminster establishment and the media are to blame as well – their hysterical responses to a democratically elected party are bound to create ill feeling among ordinary folk whatever their political leanings

    The same applies to online abuse where SNP supporters are regularly condemned for comments on celebrities and politicians. Where is the balanced condemnation of contributors to the BBC, Guardian, Scotsman etc (to name but a few) or threads about Andy Murray.

    Not only does Nicola clearly condemn any abuse but she also acts immediately by suspending the 2 members concerned – no wonder she has high trust and like ratings. I really don’t mind reading considered points of view even when I don’t agree with them – life would be pretty dull if we all followed the same line – but I do regret the lack of balanced analysis from serious journalists.

  11. Piers Doughty-Brown says:

    I really do think that all this media storm about three guys heckling Jim Murphy, was made in the hope of an SNP defeat, so the media would have had folk to point their fingers at, seems like a lot of space got wasted eh?

  12. James Ford says:

    I was watching a BBC report yesterday about Boris Johnson becoming an MP in Uxbridge. Part of that report showed him being heckled by Labour supporters as he walked down the street, they had literally surrounded him, holding up Labour placards and shouting in his face as he tried to meet voters.

    The report wasn’t about this event, it was just given a passing mention in an overall package. If you search for it there is hardly a mention of it anywhere. No hysterical headlines like “Chaos on the Streets of Uxbridge” or “The Ugly side of Labour” and no call for Milliband to condemn it or suspend those supporters.

    Why is that Alex?

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