Labour’s Scottish campaign in chaos as ‘twittergate’ engulfs party



The sacking of Scottish Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan after his abusive twitter messages were exposed has raised serious questions regarding the judgement of senior Labour politicians including Secretary of State Jim Murphy and Holyrood leader Iain Gray.


Hours before MacLennan was eventually jettisoned by Labour as their Moray candidate both Murphy and Gray had publicly expressed support for him.  Murphy had gone as far as suggesting that MacLennan’s apology for the unseemly and disgraceful comments was sufficient and he insisted that MacLennan would remain Labour’s Moray candidate.


That was at 10:50 AM, by early midday however Mr MacLennan was gone and Jim Murphy was left floundering and embarrassed as he desperately sought to distance himself from the man who was now a political liability.  The decision to sack MacLennan was eventually announced by Labour’s London HQ and will be seen as an attack on Murphy’s authority as well as his handling of the issue.


Asked why he had not acted sooner, Mr Murphy said: “I am not a follower of this individual’s Twitter feed, so I had no idea of these comments, and no-one in the Labour Party did.”


This itself raises questions as to why Jim Murphy decided to publicly back a man accused of sending inappropriate messages on his twitter account having claimed not to have even read them?


However Mr Murphy’s claims were called into question following newspaper reports that he was one of many senior Labour figures, including Wendy Alexander and Gordon Brown’s wife Sara, who were following MacLennan on Twitter.  They also appear to be at odds with the official party line which is that they were indeed aware of the remarks but had thought them to be ‘historical’.


It has also emerged that Barry Jarvis, a Moray councillor and member of the local Labour party did indeed know about MacLennan’s comments.  Mr Jarvis said: “I never had any reservations about him at all. I was aware he had a Twitter account, I followed him, I assumed it was all meant in a humorous way, as all these things are.


Moray’s SNP MP Angus Robertson said: “Only an hour before this announcement, Jim Murphy was saying he could stay as a candidate and trying to brush off these outrageous comments. However, he has been overruled and clearly has no authority. Did Gordon Brown tell his Scottish Secretary what to do?”


David Cameron said: “I think what it does tell us is that someone did say some pretty appalling things on Twitter and Jim Murphy, the Secretary of State for Scotland, showed very bad judgment in first of all saying that seemed to be OK.”


The new revelations will fuel speculation that Mr MacLennan’s activities must have been known to senior figures within the Labour party both at Westminster and Holyrood.  Mr MacLennan is also a research assistant for Labour’s Holyrood MSP Pauline MacNeill, his girlfriend’s uncle is Labour MP for Coatbridge Tom Clarke.


MacLennan had made offensive remarks about catholic nuns, pensioners, people from the North of Scotland and ‘slave grown’ bananas.


Other comments included:

“Just won a signed Celtic shirt in a raffle. Want to vom.”


“Jeezo, I’m as dry as a nun’s f***y today”


“Johnnie Walker Red Label is so awful they can’t sell it in Scotland.”


“Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize. Discuss. You’ve got to be f****** kidding me.”


“I f****** hate Paolo Nutini.”


“Better a posh dickhead than an arrogant c*nt”


One of MacLennan’s tweets bragged: “Tonight @ross_macrae taught me the various different versions of “We will follow Rangers”.  This is thought to be a reference to versions of the song that have lyrics altered and replaced with sectarian phrases.


Both Ross Macrae and MacLennan campaigned on behalf of Willie Bain in the recent Springburn by-election and were photographed with Bain and Sarah Brown, the wife of Gordon Brown.  Macrae works for Labour MSP Ken Macintosh, he has now also deleted his Twitter account.  It is not known if any action will be taken against Macrae.


First Minister Alex Salmond said Labour had descended into “a total shambles”.


He added: “Obviously it is the right thing that somebody who insulted all of Scotland’s old age pensioners can’t stand as a candidate.


“The problem the Labour Party now has is it is now emerging many leading Labour figures, senior politicians, Cabinet members, Shadow Cabinet members of Scotland, were followers on his Twitter.


“So they knew the sort of things he was saying. They knew this candidate was insulting the pensioners, insulting the north of Scotland, demeaning Scotland’s greatest national product, but did nothing about it.


“The Labour Party have moved on from being an issue affecting one candidate to now a question of who knew what, when.


“They stand accused not just of total incompetence and disarray, but of complete and utter hypocrisy.”


Mr Salmond went on: “The interesting thing is, it is now emerging the followers on his Twitter were Ed Balls, Wendy Alexander.


“Leading Labour Party figures knew about what he was saying and presumably thought it was all right so long as nobody knew about it.”


Gordon Brown said: “A candidate has made a mistake. It’s unacceptable. That candidate has got to resign.


“I have made it absolutely clear what my views are: we cannot have people standing as candidates for the Labour Party who express these views, so that candidate will not be a candidate for the Labour.”


Labour’s reputation and their Scottish campaign has been badly damaged by these revelations.  They come only weeks after the Steven Purcell scandal at Labour run Glasgow council; questions still remain over whether Purcell was discussed at Downing Street in 2008.