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Tom Harris is a liar

Posted on November 14, 2011 by

We’re going to come right out and say it. Tom Harris MP will not be the next leader of Scottish Labour. This is because while Scottish Labour might be collectively a bit dim, it’s not THAT dim. Despite having by far the highest media profile of the three leadership candidates (which, in fairness, is clearing a not-very-high bar), Harris failed to secure the support of a single Holyrood MSP for his nomination, a situation that would hopelessly undermine whichever unfortunate lackey was chosen to deliver his attacks on Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions.

Opponents of blood sports would shy away from the screen in horror as Labour challenged the FM every week with – at best – a deputy leader acting as a mouthpiece for a Westminster MP. The lack of credibility of an MSP group unable to put forward a single member of sufficient talent to lead would make the party in Scotland a laughing stock, particularly if – as might well happen – the new deputy was a Westminster politician too, such as Ian Davidson or Anas Sarwar.

The SNP, though, will doubtless be hoping against hope that Harris manages to win anyway, because the MP for Glasgow South would represent a massive liability to Labour in many other ways too.

Harris is a prolific user of Twitter (with over 25,000 tweets to date, more than twice as many as famed Twitophile Stephen Fry), and followers of his timeline can observe behaviour that’s less in line with a prospective international statesman and more akin to that of an internet message-board troll. He’s been caught peddling flat-out lies (making no apology when proven wrong), getting involved in juvenile slanging matches, implying that the SNP are racist, and advocating bizarre policy positions that would likely horrify most Labour supporters. Below we highlight just a handful of randomly-selected examples, from the last month alone.

One of the most striking incidents was Harris’ assertion in late October that the Scottish Labour conference had been picketed by “anti-English” SNP members.

When asked to elaborate, Harris described a banner reading “End English rule”, and noted that “the men looked more like BNP than SNP, to be honest” – an allegation it’s difficult to interpret in any other way than an attempted implication of racism, since actual BNP members are not noted for expressing anti-English sentiments. (Harris later attempted to wriggle out of this by saying that the English and Scots are not different races, a statement that’s accurate but disingenuous in context.)

When it was pointed out that there was no evidence of the protesters being supporters of the SNP, let alone members, Harris replied with a condescending sneer:

At this point, though, a more serious challenge to Harris’ account of events arose, when someone posted an actual picture of the demonstration, showing that the banner in question read “END LONDON RULE” rather than “END ENGLISH RULE”, a significantly different message with no racist/anti-English implications.

Astonishingly, even faced with this empirical evidence Harris refused to retract or apologise for his assertions, or delete the offending tweets, dismissing the plainly-visible facts as a “cybernat” smear:

Eventually, under continued pressure, Harris finally grudgingly conceded – two days after his initial allegation – that the banner had said “London” rather than “English”, but without making any form of apology for his previous untruths. Furthermore, he only did so in the context of making another claim, that the same banner had accused (unspecified) Scots of being “quislings” [sic] – something which appears from the photograph to be equally without foundation – and continuing to attack the protesters.

The banner incident isn’t the only time Harris has apparently attempted to imply racism on the part of the SNP and its supporters. While the same exchanges were taking place, Harris tweeted – seemingly apropos of nothing – that the best analogy for the SNP’s independence campaign was the American Civil War – an armed conflict widely held to have been fought over slavery – in which he depicted the SNP in the role of the (racist) South.

(As justification Harris cited supposed “SNP comparisons with the American war of independence”, but this blog is not aware of the SNP ever having made any such comparisons. It seems probable that – at best – Harris has conflated the views of SNP supporters, or people he assumes to be SNP supporters, with policies or statements of the party itself, and not for the first time.)

When Harris isn’t trying to imply racism with cheap sophistry, he resorts instead to evasion, sarcasm and condescension, and quite often just infantile jibes (eg suggesting all online SNP supporters still live with their mothers). When challenged by another Twitter user to defend Labour’s record in government of increasing inequality, for example, he put forward this glib explanation:

This is classic internet troll behaviour – “answer” the question in a way which completely avoids the point being made. Having been asked to defend growing inequality, Harris’ response is simply to acknowledge it – he doesn’t deny the widening gap, but attempts to spin it as a positive case of everyone getting richer, despite Labour’s entire supposed raison d’etre being to reduce inequality.

A similarly childish reply is offered to someone who politely asks Harris to summarise the fabled “positive case for the Union”:

…despite the SNP having done little else for its entire 80-year existence other than explain in detail why it thinks Scotland would be better off independent, whereas nobody has as yet articulated why the Union is a preferable option. In pretending the opposing case is unknown to him, Harris is simply adopting the troll’s “LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” approach to debate, which is also seen in posts like the two below:

Amazingly, despite all the above behaviour (and much more that we haven’t the time to go into here), Harris also continues to insist that it’s SNP-supporting “cybernats” who are solely responsible for the ugly nature of much Scottish political debate.

(Curiously picking on the Herald as his justification, despite that paper’s comment threads being very heavily pre-moderated and almost entirely free of any kind of abuse. Perhaps because if he chose The Scotsman even he’d have a hard time denying the existence of its longstanding army of nasty and well-known pro-Labour provocateurs.)

But it’s on the subject of the constitution that Harris’ true identity as a deliberate troll is most comprehensively revealed. He has, for example, recently taking to repeatedly proclaiming that the SNP are “strongly opposed to devolution” – an extraordinary and bewildering suggestion, given that the SNP campaigned unequivocally for a Yes-Yes vote in the 1999 referendum and are currently (and uniquely) offering to add an option to the independence referendum offering greater devolved powers within the UK.

(The last of those is particularly strange, as it appears to deny the simple indisputable truth that the Tories – the overwhelming majority of the coalition government which rules the entire UK and could dissolve the Scottish Parliament at will if it so chose – are in fact in power in Scotland at all.)

Perhaps the most offensive (and politically idiotic) post in Harris’ entire Twitter timeline, though, is one made at the beginning of this month. A reader suggests that supporters of “devo max”, rather than the pro-independence SNP, ought to be the ones who define exactly what the option would entail, were it to be offered to the electorate, to which Harris jeers in response:

Who are these lunatic extremists that the prospective leader of Scottish Labour dismisses as unable to fill a phone box? Why, just the biggest single section of Scottish public opinion. Polls consistently show that more people in Scotland support devo-max than either independence or the status quo (Harris’ own preferred choice), yet this would-be First Minister treats them with open scorn and contempt.

Should anyone still have been uncertain as to his exact position on the constitution, Harris subsequently went on to make it crystal clear:

Rather boldly, he then characterises this as a view shared by the SNP:

At this point, prospective Labour voters (or the constituents of Glasgow South) might be forgiven for mistaking their would-be leader for a UKIP by-election candidate, angrily insisting that Brussels runs every aspect of our lives with an iron Euro-fist. But just minutes later, Harris makes an abrupt about-turn:

…but follows it with the mind-boggling assertion that France, Germany, Spain and Portugal are NOT in fact independent nations (something that might somewhat upset them were he to say it to their faces). And what’s more, nor is the UK.

Readers may by this stage be utterly bemused as to where Harris actually stands on the subject of national sovereignty, and indeed whether he knows himself. WoSland certainly was, so we asked via Twitter if Harris was also in favour of a single world government. (As would be the logical extrapolation of this position, where no country generally thought of as a nation is actually independent at all, but that this “pooled sovereignty” is a good thing.) As yet, we await a reply.

Our favourite piece of sheer barking madness, though, was when SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn suggested to Harris that Scotland, with a population of 5m, had less influence in the EU than Luxembourg (pop 0.5m). And the perplexing reply from the man who wants to be Scotland’s representative on the European and world stage?

“Invent”? Even after a couple of days of puzzling we can’t quite get our heads round this one. Is Harris disputing that Luxembourg’s population is 0.5m? (It is.) Is he arguing that it isn’t, in fact, a member of the EU? (It is.) Is he suggesting that it isn’t independent? (It is, at least in so far as any other country is under Harris’ unique definition of the term.) Is he perhaps claiming that Luxembourg doesn’t exist at all, and is purely a figment of Jamie Hepburn’s imagination? Did Tom’s cat get loose on his keyboard? Your guess, viewers, is as good as ours.

All of the above represents just a brief snapshot of Harris’ public outpourings, all taken from a period of less than a month (more like three weeks, in fact). Goodness knows what sort of stuff he comes out with in private. And perhaps in a world where Silvio Berlusconi can rule Italy across the best part of two decades, it’s not really so outlandish to imagine a complete loony at the head of a modern democracy.

But even now, even in their catastrophic current state of disarray and near-panic, we can’t imagine Scottish Labour going for it. To be honest with you, we’re not yet absolutely sure that Harris’ candidacy isn’t some sort of elaborate prank. We await the punchline with keen interest.

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10 to “Tom Harris is a liar”

  1. Fraser Gilmour

    I had an interesting set~to with him too a couple weeks ago. Harris was saying tha the SNP were trying rig the referendum, by cheating.on the eligibility rules. I quickly pointed out that the white paper merely states we’ll be using the same eligibility rules as 1997, written by the Labour party for the devolution referendum. I then enquired whether, given his previous statement, he was saying that the Labour Party rigged that referendum.

    As far as i can tell, he deleted all tweets about the topic within 30mins.

    He’s a dangerous loose cannon for Labour, and i REALLY hope he wins 😉

  2. RevStu

    Heh. That’s really interesting, though – he DOES delete some tweets, but has left all the ones highlighted in the piece in place. So he must think those ones are all fine. Wow.

  3. Paul

    I had the pleasuer of a short conversation with Tom a couple of weeks ago on one of the very tweets mentioned above. When I came up with factual information that refuted his point he was very quick to stop but didnt bother to correct himself in any way.
    Sad and pathetic to see the Nats showing contempt for devolution by talking about "Tory rule in Scotland".

    @Tom4Scotland Tories ultimately hold the purse strings, so yes it is Tory Rule even though they are rejected time and time again by Scots.


    @Paulspeymouth And in California, they vote Democrat time and again but sometimes a Republican wins the Whitehouse. Democracy, eh?

    @Tom4Scotland thanks but not sure if California is best analogy, 3 out of past 5 governors were Republicans, so party not rejected by voters

    Tom had nothing more to say after that.

  4. Scotland 'B' Team

    This is the tip of Mr Harris'  odd behaviour.  A friend of my acquaint set up a spoof twitter account and followed Mr Harris, only to find Mr Harris followed him back and taking exception to a whimsical comment proceeded to send my friend a message with a Trojan virus attached. Nice feller.

  5. rodmac

    Excellent article..Unfortunately I thinki you are correct…Harris will not win the leadership.

  6. Yoda

    This man seems in a state of confusion…

  7. Grouse Beater

    Harris Twee.

    His behaviour is indicative of Labour in Scotland, an inability to create a single policy that advances Scotland socially and economically, nothing to protect it from the vindictive policies of London, but can produce plenty of crapology to keep it humble and tied to Westminster.

  8. Robert Roddick

    I’ve always though that Harris was an intellectually challenged buffoon, but a particulary nasty one. These posts only confirm it.

  9. Grouse Beater

    Wings: The SNP, though, will doubtless be hoping against hope that Harris manages to win anyway, because the MP for Glasgow South would represent a massive liability to Labour in many other ways too.

    Careful … strains of a French embassy scandal.

  10. donald anderson

    Trouble is, Labour Unionist thickos don’t know they are imperialists or even wot socialism is.

    His tweets sound like the ignorant Loyalist tweets on the Hootsmon online board every day.

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