Wednesday, 26 October 2011
QUESTION NOW FOR LABOUR OVER ACTION
Commenting on the purported 'apology' by the chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee over inappropriate comments to Dr Eilidh Whiteford, the Banff and Buchan MP said Mr Davidson was implicitly acknowledging that he had made inappropriate remarks, but failed to recognise the inherently threatening nature of his comments.
Dr Whiteford said:
“This was an empty apology from Ian Davidson who clearly, still, does not recognise why his comments during and after last week's meeting were inherently threatening and unacceptable.
“We know now that at least one other member of the committee heard his remarks, and understand that another member passed him a note regarding his comments. I accept that some members of the committee did not hear the remarks, given that they were, as Mr McGovern seems to acknowledge, made in a casual, throwaway manner. For me, this only served to reinforce their menacing nature, a menace that was compounded by Mr Davidson's subsequent comments immediately following the meeting.
“There is no context in or out of Parliament where such comments are acceptable, and I am surprised that anyone would try to minimise, brush off or try to justify the remarks made by Mr Davidson.
“I am not prepared to be threatened and intimidated, and until Mr Davidson takes responsibility for his behaviour I regret that I will not be returning to the committee.”
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson welcomed the publication of a letter, endorsed by thirteen academics and equality organisations, backing Dr Whiteford’s stance.
Mr Robertson said:
“Ian Davidson’s behaviour was inappropriate in any circumstances, but it is especially unfitting from the chairman of a parliamentary committee.
“One of the ugliest aspects around this has been the way people around Mr Davidson have immediately sought to attack Eilidh Whiteford for having the courage to speak out.
“In contrast, it is encouraging that organisations and individuals outwith parliament have been swift to condemn Mr Davidson’s remarks and, given his own reluctance to take responsibility for his behaviour, the question is now for the Labour party over what action it will take.”
The text of a letter signed by a number of academics and organisations – and posted on the Scottish Womens Budget Group FaceBook Page (http://www.facebook.com/budgetgroup) - can be found below
Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP for Banff and Buchan has withdrawn from membership of a Westminster Select Committee over the threatening and sexist remarks of the Committee Chair, Ian Davidson MP.
The remarks from Mr. Davidson were exposed by Dr. Whiteford and witnessed by other MPs and Committee officials. Mr Davidson’s alleged threat to give Dr. Whiteford “a doing”, and his subsequent – and bewildering - clarification that his remark was “not intended as a sexual threat” underscore the extent of persistent sexism rooted in political and parliamentary culture.
According to the newly launched “Counting Women In” campaign, men outnumber women 4:1 at Westminster. There are only 5 women in the Coalition Cabinet. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has repeatedly highlighted the slow pace of change. Women are not only under-represented in elected politics, this incident shows they are also under-valued and disrespected.
The allegations from Dr. Whiteford go well beyond party politics and our reaction and condemnation is not party-aligned. This incident is the latest evidence of the dominance of a sexist and antiquated political culture that underlies our political and economic institutions. So long as sexism is left unchallenged, and ‘casual’ references to violence are left unchecked and unsanctioned, women will continue to be held at arms’ length from the political process.
Dr. Whiteford has made clear she has spoken out about the incident on the basis that it is unacceptable behaviour in any circumstance, and in recognition of the many women who experience intimidation and threats of violence. It is in that spirit that we support Dr. Whiteford’s stance.
Prof. Ailsa McKay, Glasgow Caledonian University
Angela O’Hagan, Convenor, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
Dr. Fiona Mackay, University of Edinburgh
Prof. Liz Bondi, University of Edinburgh,
Dr. Marsha Scott, Engender
Jenny Kemp, Co-ordinator, Zero Tolerance
Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive, The Fawcett Society
Susanne Ross, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
Morag Gillespie, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
Bhabani Nayak, Glasgow Caledonian University
Emily Thomson, Glasgow Caledonian University
Andy Aitchison, University of Edinburgh