A Scottish Labour MP caught up in a row over whether he claimed to have voted against the Bedroom Tax despite having been absent, has claimed he simply “misunderstood the question” and is the victim of a “character assassination”.
Ian Davidson, who represents Glasgow South West, has hit back at claims he misled a protestor at an anti-Bedroom Tax rally after the man asked the Labour MP how he had voted.
Mr Davidson, who was attending the anti-Bedroom Tax rally in Glasgow at the weekend was approached by the man who asked “You abstained from the vote”, the Labour MP replied: “No I didn’t”.
Asked again “You didn’t abstain from the vote?” the Labour MP confirmed his earlier reply and when asked how he voted, replied: “I voted no.”
The exchange was caught on camera and posted online. It has led to accusations that the Glasgow MP deliberately misled the protestor after official House of Commons records showed that he had missed two crucial votes on the Bedroom Tax.
However in a response to a request from Newsnet Scotland for clarification, the Labour MP has insisted that he misunderstood the question, believing the protestor to be referring not to any Bedroom Tax vote, but a wholly different vote on Workfare.
Describing the original story as a “combination of misunderstanding and malice” the Labour MP added:
“I misunderstood the question & others have tried character assassination.
“For the record I am opposed to the Bedroom Tax, that’s why I was on the demonstration, but I made the mistake of assuming that everyone on the demo was on the same side and did not realise that political sectarianism was so alive and well.”
The Glasgow MP claimed it did not occur to him that the protestor was referring to the Bedroom Tax vote because the man had not specified which vote he was referring to.
“…it didn’t occur to me that he was referring to any Bedroom Tax vote but instead to the much more recent, and more controversial, vote on Workfare.”
Explaining his reasoning, he said:
“I made this assumption on 3 grounds: My questioner referred to ‘the vote’ as if there had only been one – this was true of Workfare but not on the Bedroom Tax where there had been many. Abstention on the workfare bill was more recent and more controversial and Labour had split. I had already had discussions with others that day on the workfare bill – no one else had tried to draw dividing lines on the Bedroom Tax.
“I responded accordingly and said, to a subsequent question, that Labour had abstained on the vote – it had on the Workfare vote but not on any of the Bedroom Tax votes.”
He continued: “Again, for the record I have always voted against the Bedroom Tax on every opportunity I have had but, like all MPs, there are some votes I have missed because I have been absent.”
He said suggestions by “some Nationalists” that he had abstained on only one Bedroom Tax vote was “false” and that he had missed “a number of votes, on various aspects of the Bedroom Tax, as well as on the principle,”
He also claimed he had “another commitment” on the day of the amendment calling for the controversial legislation to be scrapped and accused “Nats” of having a “sectarian” agenda which he suggested was their “driving spirit”.
The video of the heated exchange has caused a storm on online media since it was published on youtube. Many critics who have watched the video have suggested it unlikely that being asked, at a major rally against the Bedroom Tax, how he voted, that he would not realise the context obvious.
However supporters have backed Mr Davidson’s version that he was in fact referring to another vote entirely.
The Glasgow MP, who chairs Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee, has courted controversy with his outspoken and at times intemperate outbursts.
In October 2011 he was accused of threatening a female MP with a “doing” if she spoke to the media. SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, the only non-Unionist member of the committee, resigned after claiming the Labour MP issued the threat to her if the SNP MP discussed committee proceedings with the media.
Last year Davidson was widely condemned after he became verbally abusive towards female presenter Isabel Fraser in a live BBC Scotland interview.
More recently he caused anger after claiming Scots who celebrated the Battle of Bannockburn only did so because English people had been murdered.
The Labour MP claimed that commemorations to be held on the 700th anniversary of the ancient battle, which led to Scotland achieving its independence, were being held mainly to celebrate “the murder of hundreds of thousands of English people”.