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Ugly witches are easy to hunt

Posted on March 04, 2012 by

We’d better have a word about Bill Walker, then. Unionists – scenting a possible party political point to be scored out of some women being beaten up – are already falling over each other in rather distasteful glee demanding public excoriation by SNP supporters of the Dunfermline MSP, over allegations of multiple incidents of past domestic abuse published in today’s Sunday Herald.

Murdo Fraser, for example, ridiculously crowed that it was “curious” how “cyberNats” were “strangely quiet” about the story after “jumping all over” Eric Joyce. Except he posted that tweet at 9.30am on the Sunday that the story broke – a time when it’s probably fair to say most “cyberNats”, like the rest of us, would still be in bed and blissfully unaware of the story’s existence, or at least its specific details.

(When this blog turned in for the night at around 2am, the name of the MSP involved was still unknown, with the Herald having published only a teaser and a cryptic front cover on which the story was given only a tiny narrow strip of space. But it was nice of the Tories’ former deputy leader to apparently be so concerned about fair treatment for the left-wing Labour MP for Falkirk West all the same.)

Let’s be clear from the off – we hope Bill Walker DOES resign, because he was a liability to the SNP already on account of his homophobic views, and we don’t think the SNP has anything to fear from a byelection at this stage. (On the contrary, we suspect they’d welcome one as a chance to deliver a resounding defeat to Labour before the council elections.) But drawing comparisons between Walker and Joyce is absurd, and it’s disappointing to see nationalists rushing to jump on the bandwagon.

Joyce was arrested, held in prison for two days and is currently the subject of a live criminal prosecution. Walker hasn’t been arrested and faces no charges. The events in the Herald story, despite being described as 4 decades of abuse, actually span 20 or so years rather than 40 (the paper’s tacky and misleading clarification of the term, “from the late 1960s up to the early 1990s”, does of course in a technical semantic sense “span four decades”), and the most recent go back well into the last century.

Walker disputes “almost entirely all the allegations that have been made against me”, while we’re not aware that Joyce has issued a denial of any of his alleged actions. Joyce was an MP when he committed his alleged assaults, whereas Walker didn’t become an elected representative until 20 years after his.

So what’s the ACTUAL story here? It’s this: “Man retrospectively accused of assault 20 years ago; later became politician”. That’s it. There are allegations, as yet unproven, which haven’t been and at no point will be the subject of any police action, which the alleged perpetrator denies, and which happened (if they happened) before a sizeable proportion of the current electorate was born. But let’s not let trivial details like that get in the way of a good old lynching, right? After all, we gave up on the old “innocent until proven guilty” thing in this country a long time ago, let alone the notion that people can change and find redemption for their past wrongs.

Doubtless we’ll be accused by hysterical idiots of misogyny and all sorts of other things for even this mildest of objections to the rapidly-developing witch-hunt. So let’s be absolutely unequivocal – we’re disgusted by what Walker is alleged to have done, and strongly dislike the idea of the SNP being represented by such a man. As we’ve already said, we hope he resigns – the party seems to have had no knowledge of his history, and has already acted as quickly as possible to suspend him, so it’s hard to see how it could be held responsible or damaged as a result.

(Indeed, as the party is significantly less popular with women than men at the moment, it’s not completely inconceivable that their swift action could quite reasonably be seen as a positive.)

But democracy and justice apply to unpleasant people too. It’s easy to speak up for the rights of nice folks like Gary McKinnon when they’ve been accused of a crime or unfairly treated, whereas you win few friends or plaudits for defending the rights of the nasty, the anachronistic or the just slightly weird. And in such a way is the rule of law steadily eroded by “the court of public opinion”, aka the idiocy of the mob.

We have no idea what Bill Walker got up to in the past, or whether he repents anything he may have done and has spent the last 20 years trying to make up for it, or whether he’s still itching to give women a quick right jab whenever he sees one. And as we’ve said, his (undisputed) attitude towards homosexuality is in our view justification enough in itself to consider him unfit to be an MSP. But this blog hasn’t called for Eric Joyce to be kicked out of his job while he’s still innocent in the eyes of the law, and we’re not going to do it with Bill Walker either. Shame on anyone who does.

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21 to “Ugly witches are easy to hunt”

  1. Peter A Bell

    The SNP is unquestionably right to suspend Walker. But I wonder if this "Zero Tolerance" may be taken too far. There is absolutely no doubt that domestic abuse is an appalling blight on society. Violence is unacceptable anywhere. Violence in the home strikes at something fundamental to our very humanity.

    But just as fundamental to our humanity is a sense of justice. And that means that we do not condemn without knowing the full facts. It means that we take due account of all the circumstances. And it means that we accord appropriate weight to acknowledgement of culpability and genuine expressions of remorse. None of which in any sense serves to diminish or rationalise the offence. It does not alter our attitude to that offence. But it may affect our response.

    It seems to me that the dogma of  "Zero Tolerance" tends to set aside the processes of personal judgement and thus threatens to undermine principles of fairness just as much as domestic violence threatens the sense of security that defines a home.

    We might also mention the fact that those who propound the dogma of "Zero Tolerance" tend to be highly selective in its application. But that may be another topic.

  2. RevStu

    Indeed. "Zero tolerance" is a highly suspect creed wherever it's practised. That doesn't mean there's any acceptable level of domestic abuse, but blind fundamentalist dogma is always a recipe for injustice.

  3. Tearlach

    Although the SNP being a broad church is usually seen as a "good thing", the allegations against Bill Walker do highlight one problem, although the party seems to have done everything it could as quickly as it could in order to sort this problem out.
    The issue here is that a selection process containing the question "and when did you stop beating your wife" would – at best – start so many many other hares running, as to make a due and fair candidate selection much more difficult, and more open to judicial review.
    Having said that I suspect that SNP researchers will be delving in to the divorce papers of any future candiates who may have been married more than once in any future selection process, although LPW does suggest that the Herald may have overstepped the legal mark in publishing the allegatuions against Mr Walker……

  4. Alan Clayton

    So opposition to same-sex marriage 'is' homophobia?

  5. RevStu

    Yes. Yes it is.

  6. Kenny Campbell

    Zero tolerance should not mean zero justice. If we can ruin careers on the basis of hearsay then no one is safe.  If he has been guilty of this and either admits it or is found guilty then he isn't a fit and proper person to hold the position of MSP.
    There at least needs to be an investigation internally , even if the police are not pursuing a criminal case.  Trial by newspaper is not the correct process.
    I suspect we're seeing the start of a much less cosy period in Scottish politics as we get closer to the wire. The establishment will leave no stone unturned to save the precious union.

  7. Ewan Dow

    There's two points to the Walker scenario here and ironically the smaller of the two is the most important in terms of whether he can remain a Party member or not I believe.
    Obviously the issue regarding the abuse or not of former spouses is the biggest and commentators above have covered that area well but for the record can I say I don't think anyone who is guilty of domestic abuse is fit to be a member of a political party putting forward the vision of a inclusive equal positive Scotland.  However the time for Bill Walker being expelled from the Party on that basis was when these events took place – it didn't as the Party presumably didn't know about them.
    The second issue and whilst in the view of general society a minor issue, but for those of us with knowledge of SNP rules its probably the bigger one and that's the fact that Bill Walker lied on his application form to the Register of Approved Candidates prior to the 2007 council elections.  Every Party member submitting an application form to the SNP's election committee (or in 2007 the local government assesment committee) is asked if there are any issues that may cause the SNP problems should they come to light  – that's the jist of the question anyway.

    Now either Walker owned up to the grounds of divorce cited, not once but twice in his past, and the relevant body of the SNP felt he could still be approved as a suitable candidate or he didn't declare it.   Going by the media statement issued yesterday in the name of Alex Salmond, Walker kept this information quiet and therefore mis-led the SNP to his suitability to be considered as firstly a council and then subsequently a parliamentary candidate.

    On the face of it he has committed a clear breach of the Party's code of conduct and in my opinion one that is serious enough to warrant his expulsion from the Party.

  8. RevStu

    Interesting point, Ewan, and one that certainly seems to provide a valid possible route for Walker to be expelled from the party regardless of the truth or otherwise of these particular allegations. True or otherwise, the existence of the unchallenged allegations on the record would certainly have been a potential issue he should have alerted the party to. If he didn't, I reckon he'll be for the boot, and as well as being the right thing to do that could turn the situation to the SNP's political advantage.

  9. Ewan Dow

    Had a wee double check of the wording of the questions on the application form and they clearly ask if there are any issues in a candidates background which would interest the media.  The candidate is invited to answer yes or no and expand upon a yes answer.

    Again going by the press release from the Party yesterday it appears that Bill Walker failed to answer yes (or at least mention the possibility of this specific background information coming to light) when applying to be a candidate prior to 2007 which if correct would definitely be a case of him misleading the SNP.

    I mention 2007 as from then on candidates on the approved register continued as approved throughout the period 2007-11 so Walker wouldn't have been re-vetted for the Holyrood elections in 2011.
    If the above is correct my view, as a former member of the the SNP's disciplinary committee would be that he has clearly breached Clause 4 of the Party's Code of Conduct:  "Every member owes a duty to the Party to refrain from conduct likely to cause damage to or hinder the Party's proper pursuit of its aims in accordance with its constitutionally laid down policy and direction".  Failing to alert the Party to something in your background that leads to the media frenzy of the last 24 hours would certainly fall into that category!

    The key thing here is that even if the allegations of domestic abuse were to be proved to be correct then as the Code of Conduct wasn't in effect when the events detailed in the Herald yesterday took place no action could be taken by the Party.   Politically to take no action in that event would be a disaster so action has to be taken, particularly given that Walker only denies "ALMOST all the allegations"  Perception therefore being that some if not all must be true
    The only disciplinary route open to the SNP is a charge of failing to honestly complete a candidate application form.  Now I'm not the National Secretary (thankfully!) or a member of the disciplinary committee now but if I were Willie Henderson that's the avenue I'd pursue and draw this horrible situation to a close quickly. 

  10. Ronald Hendren.

    Quite a lot of the people who have left postings here seem to be saying that because Bill Walker objects to homosexuals being given permission get to get married in the same way as heterosexuals are able to, he is homophobic. I don't agree. A lot of you also seem to be suggesting that if a person applying to be accepted as a candidate proves to have been married more than once then he or she should have that acceptance denied. I regard that as preposterous. From here it looks to me as if many of you would prefer a candidate who is an openly 'gay' homosexual and who will have naturally have had previous partners, to a heterosexual man or woman who has had perhaps two or three spouses. I find that sort of reasoning disturbing and frankly unhealthy.

  11. Peter A Bell

    Ronald Hendren. says:
    From here it looks to me as if…

    When you say "here", what planet are you referring to?

  12. Ewan Dow

     A lot of you also seem to be suggesting that if a person applying to be accepted as a candidate proves to have been married more than once then he or she should have that acceptance denied.

    I've read and re-read all the posts above and can't see anyone making that point.

    Who is it you are refering to Ronald or have you not read the press this past 24 hours and don't actually know what everyone else is taking about? 
    Don't you realise that the problem here is not that Bill Walker has had three previous marriages before his current one but the fact that the Sunday Herald claims to have proof that domestic abuse featured in all three of them – Court papers in the first two and a statement from the third wife.
    The other problem is that despite being asked to advise the SNP if there were any issues in his background that might cause the media to take an interest and cause problems for the Party he failed to disclose this history and let the SNP decide whether that allowed him to be a fit and proper candidate – in short he appears to have lied to become a SNP Candidate.
    Hope that helps.

  13. Peter A Bell

    Ronald Hendren. says:
    March 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm
    Quite a lot of the people who have left postings here seem to be saying that because Bill Walker objects to homosexuals being given permission get to get married in the same way as heterosexuals are able to, he is homophobic. I don't agree.

    Whether you agree or not the fact remains that the "reasoning" behind objections to same-sex marriage is that homosexuals are inferior persons whose civic entitlements are less than those of "normal" people. Doubtless you will have contrived some euphemism for this. But I, for one, reserve the right to call it what it is – homophobia.

  14. douglas clark

    Dear Roger,
    Have you actually read this thread?
    To help you out here is a summary in wee words
    First post below the line:  Lets see justice.
    Second post: agrees with first poster
    Third post: points out that the selection procedure may be a bit flawed.
    Fourth post: queries whether supporting same sex marriage is indeed homophobia
    Fifth post: confirms that it is
    Sixth post: Asks for us not to jump to conclusions on heresay
    Seventh post: Deals with the impact (ha!) of Mr Walkers domestic abuse behaviour and nowt else.
    Eighth post:: Claims that everyone is talking about Mr Walkers homophobia. And that a triple marriage is enough to debar an SNP candidate. (Oh! that was you)
    Ninth post: Questions the planet the eighth poster is on.
    Tenth post: Re-iterates the point he made in the seventh post.
    Eleventh post: Makes much the same point as I am making here in the twelfth post.
    Is that all cleared up nicely for you now?
    Can I suggest you adopt my own attitude to homosexuality? As long as they don't make it compulsory leave them to it.  But they are as entitled to make their way in this world as you or I. And you have no right to stop them getting married or adopting kids or anything else they want to do. Unless it actually consrtains you, which it clearly doesn't.
    On the other hand, you have no idea what disgusting things men and women get up to together. All these squelching noises! I wouldn't let (most) of them get married either, what with their carnal lust and whatnot. Send them to separate desert islands in shark infested waters! Oops, even I can see the flaw in that.
    Women have a phrase for men that want to interfere with their reproductive cycle. It is "Get your rosaries off my ovaries".
    Seems you should adapt and adopt that idea.

  15. douglas clark

    Or, indeed Ronald 🙁
    And the word appears to be constrains, but that might be overly exciting. Better with  consrtains which is, well, just wrong.

  16. Indy

    The reason he has been suspended is not because the SNP can either prove or disprove the allegations. That is not something which is within the competence of the SNP unless they go out and hire a private deyective.  Which would be silly.
    The reason he has been suspended is,as Ewan says,  because he did not disclose any of this when he was vetted.  All candidates are asked to disclose any information which could be of interest to the press. They are asked that in person as well as on the form. They are asked to do that on a confidential basis – having something to disclose does not automatically mean their application to be on the list of approved canddates will be rejected. But people are expected to be honest and up front about whatever skeletons they have in their closet.
    It would appear from the story about Bill Walker that he did not do this. There is no point now in him saying he wants to put his side of the story.  He should have put his side of the story to the Election Committee at the time he was interviewed. Most of us will draw our own conclusions about why he did not do that.

  17. Doug Daniel

    From here it looks to me as if many of you would prefer a candidate who is an openly 'gay' homosexual and who will have naturally have had previous partners, to a heterosexual man or woman who has had perhaps two or three spouses. I find that sort of reasoning disturbing and frankly unhealthy.

    Well Ronald, what I would prefer is to have someone who doesn't beat people up when they don't do what he says, instead of one who does, which is what we currently have. I don't care who they share their bed with, or indeed how many people they've shared it with. 
    Although personally, I find it strange that a man who claims to want to uphold the sanctity of marriage seems to have such a blasé attitude towards it. Perhaps he ought to be a bit more sure about things before popping the question? At least the gay straw man you've introduced into the debate doesn't marry people at the drop of a hat and then bash them round the head.
    Seriously, what makes more of a mockery of marriage: is it two gay people wanting to marry so they can commit their lives to each other, or is it serial divorcers?

  18. Ronald Hendren

    Well this was good fun. 'Here', incidentally Mr. Bell, is Planet Praxis. You are welcome to call but please leave your heterophobia at the door.
    Have any you people read Steven Pinker's seminal work , 'The Blank Slate'? No, I didn't think so, otherwise so many of you wouldn't be coming up with all that baloney about people and their presumed 'rights' in society. The predictabilitiy of the greater number of these postings have been dull to read. In my mind's eye most of you remind me of those stalls you used to get at fairground shows that had a lot of clowns' heads all gazing up with blank stares and their mouths open, moving in boring robotic mechanistic synchronism from left to right and back again to left. And so they would go ad infinitum (or until you got bored and just went home). The aim of the game was to try and throw a ball into the mouth of a clown. You guys were easy meat.

  19. Ewan Dow


    The cry of the lesser known eejit – "it was all a wind up!"
    So let me see if I get this correct.  You make a post that shows you're incapable of actually reading or understanding what other folk on this debate have been talking about and then when this is pointed out resort to insults rather than an honest 'hands up, I made a mistake' and then engage in the debate type approach.

    Any chance you could call 0141 572 6900 and ask for Joanne – she could do with someone to make her look like an intellectual heavyweight and you seem perfectly up to the task Ronald.

  20. Ewan Dow

    That should have been Johann – just shows how impressive she's been as Labour Leader – can't even spell her name right! 😉

  21. Peter A Bell

    Ronald Hendren says:
    March 6, 2012 at 11:48 am
    Well this was good fun.

    The glimpse into the inner workings of your mind has certainly been interesting. In a clinical sense.

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