Grouse Beater 142


I have signed the below Open Letter against the expulsion from the SNP of the long term blogger Gareth Wardell, known as Grouse Beater.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SNP AND THE WIDER SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT

In writing this joint statement we, the undersigned – bloggers and other influencers in the campaign for Scottish independence, affirm our commitment to independence and to the unity of the independence movement in its entirety. It is not our aim to cause discord or to encourage members of the SNP to cancel their memberships. We hope only to raise our concerns and to ask that the Disciplinary Committee and the leadership of the SNP reconsider their decision, and we hope sincerely that the contents of this letter will be taken seriously and in the spirit in which they are intended. Yesterday the decision was made by the Disciplinary Committee of the Scottish National Party to rescind the party membership of Gareth Wardell, the well-known and much respected author of The Grouse Beater blog.

This decision was made as a result of an article he published addressing the issue of the GMB, a London-based trade union, acting in Scotland to deny people their democratic rights. Owing to the author’s reference in the blog to the Nazis’ attitude to trade unions in the 1930s and 40s and his quotation of the term “the Jew” – in the context of citing Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf – the leadership of the GMB union accused him of making an antisemitic attack on Ms Rhea Wolfson, who, unbeknownst to Mr Wardell at the time of writing, is herself Jewish.

We agree without reservation that antisemitism and all forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are always wrong. The campaign for Scottish independence is an open and inclusive social and political movement which welcomes the participation and activism of everyone who believes independence is the best option for the future of our country. However, after much discussion and careful consideration, we do not accept Mr Wardell’s contribution was indeed anti-Semitic or racist or discriminatory in the least. It is our firm belief that his words were deliberately and opportunistically taken out of context and weaponised against him and the entire movement in a concerted attack by the union, members of the Scottish Labour Party – to which the GMB is affiliated, and elements of the anti-independence tabloid press.

Frustratingly, this unjustified accusation was taken up by and supported by a number of high-profile people in the SNP – most notably Ms Fiona Robertson the SNP’s national women’s and equalities convener. In an article published on her own blog titled: Holding Ourselves to Our Own Standards, she made the claim that “most people… are not people who have enough background experience of anti-Semitism to make that judgement.” Yet she herself, without any qualifications in racism or antisemitism in particular, is – apparently. Misquoting and wholly misrepresenting Gareth Wardell, Ms Robertson went on in her piece to offer a somewhat problematic definition of antisemitism and from this establish her case that Mr Wardell was sending out a “dogwhistle” to anti-Semites and racists: The explanation is as follows:

if you are writing about a union leader who is Jewish, bringing up Hitler’s view on unions – that they were dangerous because Jewish people controlled them – and then specifically talking about the Jewish union leader implies a link. Otherwise there is no reason whatsoever to start quoting Hitler. It essentially says ‘Hitler believed that Jewish people controlling unions was bad, and this person is Jewish and is controlling a union in a way I don’t like.’ The link between those two dots is ‘so maybe he had a point’.

“Bringing up Hitler’s view on unions,” even when speaking to a Jewish person, is not in and of itself anti-Semitic. This is at best a tenuous grasp. Gareth Wardell at no point claimed unions were dangerous “because Jewish people controlled them.” This much is a serious misrepresentation of the point he was making. On this Mr Wardell was clear; that this was Hitler’s view, and that the Nazis used this pernicious belief in order to undermine and attack trade unions – which Mr Wardell describes as one of the “cornerstones of democracy.” Ms Robertson concludes this argument by suggesting that Mr Wardell’s conclusion is that “maybe [Hitler] had a point.”

This assessment, sadly, suggests only one of two things; either Ms Robertson has failed to understand the article she is critiquing, or malicious intent. The Grouse Beater article implies no such thing. It is reasonable to conclude, given the position of Fiona Robertson in the SNP, that her opinion has become the uncritically accepted opinion of the party’s leadership and has therefore informed the judgement of the Disciplinary Committee and its decision to expel Gareth Wardell from the party. We, the undersigned, hold that both this judgement and the decision to cancel Mr Wardell’s membership of the party are unwarranted and utterly unacceptable. This decision undermines freedom of expression within the party and the movement, and seriously damages the trust that we depend on, that the party will not dispose of us in order to satisfy a perceived need in the political leadership of the movement to appear above reproach.

Signed (28 November 2018):

Barrhead Boy
Craig Murray
David Hooks (PoliticsScot)
Gareth Wardell (Grouse Beater)
Jason Michael (Jeggit)
MacAlba
Mr Malky
Tommy Sheridan
Tradasro
WeeDetour

I can see no room in the article to doubt that Gareth – with whom I have fairly regular disagreements – was quoting Hitler’s views on Jews and the Unions not in approval, but plainly as a bad thing and a terrible warning from history. I cannot say that his article was elegantly written or especially well expressed, and it is unclear why he decided to bring Hitler into the argument at all.

But it is only in the prevailing atmosphere of witch-hunt that a man with no history of racism or fascist thought, would be condemned over a single instance of muddle, which has to be construed in the worst possible manner to be ajudged anti-semitic. It is the eagerness of the SNP leadership to participate in this witch-hunt, against an ordinary member, which is to me a matter of the deepest concern.

This is particularly serious in the light of numerous mainstream media articles which repeat the quote from Hitler with the clear, and entirely unjustified, inference that Gareth was quoting Hitler with approval. The SNP should not seek mainstream media approval at the expense of supporting one of the worst of all slurs against one of its own grassroots members.


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142 thoughts on “Grouse Beater

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  • John Brown

    I fully endorse the views expressed in this open letter. I intend to raise this issue with & request reconsideration by the SNP NEC.
    It is my view that a proper & balanced consideration of the facts has not been undertaken. It is likely that if the new internal disciplinary policy and procedure had been used this calumny may not have occured.

  • Ian

    The SNP disgust me with their feeble, craven attitude which folds under the slightest pressure from the Israel lobby.

    https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13431/revealed-swinney-shuts-down-israel-palestine-school-resources-after-lobbying-pressure

    “In August of this year, the deputy First Minister ordered Education Scotland to “pause all activity on the resources” until further notice, according to Education Scotland officials.

    Swinney had previously told Education Scotland he was in favour of the development of high quality teaching and learning resources on the issue, despite the repeated insistence of some Jewish and pro-Israeli lobby groups that any educational materials on Israel-Palestine would inevitably lead to anti-Semitism and could not be produced in a balanced way.

    Education professionals, parents, students, academics, Palestinian groups and Scottish Jews for a Just Peace had indicated support for the resources, which had been signed off by Education Scotland as “quality assured” in March 2017.

    Palestinian groups issued a statement criticising the “privileged access” which the Deputy First Minister has given to pro-Israeli groups during the three year process, saying that there was “no attempt to inform the other stakeholders of emerging obstacles” and warned that the resource was in “grave danger of allowing political lobbyists to interfere in the teaching and learning of our pupils.”

    So even discussion of the roots of the conflict is banned in case school pupils might get a balanced view of what has been going on. And so the israel lobby gets to ban discussion in Scotland, interfering in the democratic processes of another country. Pathetic. Look to Ireland for an example of how to stand up robustly to such bullying.

    • Mick McGowan

      This bizarre volte-face by the Education Secretary is simply deplorable, and can only be explained by a meek politician, bending to the will of pro-Israeli government and establishment lobbyists. By his decision to prohibit the topic entirely from the syllabus, John Swinney is effectively saying “move along, nothing to see here”. Not so, if any consideration is given to the views of the United Nations. Based on the setting aside of these educational resources, how long before the SNP decide to pause all activity on the contentious matter of independence for Scotland…

  • Steven Luby

    This is the reason I canceled my S.N.P membership several days after the suspension.
    I’m 52 years old and can’t be bothered with paranoid organizations.

  • Dungroanin

    Hasbara lends a hand in re-establishing an ancient ethnic nation …NOT.

    Just as i was re-reading through Jonathon Cook’s old stuff, about the Groaniad, trying to figure out at which point I thought they lost me (because of the stinky poo they dropped yesterday ) – he explained Hasbara.

    Given that it is an advanced project now, why exactly are they getting heavy now?
    All the MSM is self neutered, a few ‘token’ radical voices are occasionally aired, so it can’t be that. Is it brexit? Are the calculations done that NI will get extra special status? That Scotland couldn’t be denied the same? Has it been strategised that it is time to introduce the AS scapegoat into the heart of the Indyref2 movement?
    Indeed to extend it beyond the propaganda against the all powerful Corbynite as an inevitable election approaches?
    Any helpful insights?

  • Carnyx

    The SNP seem to think the road to independence is to appear to be exactly the same as the London establishment, the same foreign policies, the same shallow moral posturing, do they think they can look good by indulging the smear tactics used against Corbyn? I want independence because I think Scotland can be different, this is an appalling decision.

  • Captain Pugwash

    Well I admire those who stand up for the innocent, and also fundamentally loathe Antisemitism, sexism, racism, homophobia etc, however I can’t really judge the merits of the criticism or defence without reading the article first, so a link might be in order otherwise readers cannot form a judgement…

  • Merkin Scot

    The SNP is losing the plot in siding with the anti-independence GMB and other Red Tories and accepting as true a trumped up charge. Shame on them.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    If I lived in Scotland, as most of my ancestors did on my mother’s side, whilst most of my ancestors on my father’s side came from North Western France, if I lived in Scotland, I might show a little bit more interest in Scottish Independence. I do support the principle, because I believe Democracy, whilst not perfect, is the best form of Government, and the only real democracy, is local democracy. Beyond that we have to entrust our representatives to represent us, and also be diplomatic especially when representing us in foreign lands.

    I find the examples currently being set by the British and American Governments completely appalling. They both seem to think the human race can progress based on a pack of complete and obvious lies.

    I look forward to a live discussion broadcast between Craig Murray and Luke Harding, somewhat like the one I have recently seen involving Aaron Maté and Luke Harding. I think Craig has the skills to make it even funnier and more dramatic than Aaron Mate’ achieved, without Luke even realising. The art of subtlety should not be understimated.

    Meanwhile the same people who gave Craig Murray a very expensive ordeal in court have given Gilad Atzmon the same treatment. He is now skint, but not silenced, but is having to sell some of his musical instruments, which is a pity, because he is a really good musician. I have seen him on several occasions, and read many of his articles.

    “The Cost Of Free Speech” By Gilad Atzmon

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50678.htm

    Tony

    • Deb O'Nair

      “I believe Democracy, whilst not perfect, is the best form of Government”

      The best form of governance is provided when the press are representative of more than one political party’s viewpoint, and the government is not packed to the rafters with corporate shills, multi-millionaires and foreign agents. None of which applies to the UK.

      People voting every four or five years does not make a democracy, especially when they have been rendered stupid by a corporate establishment hell bent on maintaining control. The UK has not been a fully one person one vote democracy for even a hundred years and look at the terrible mess it is in, primarily because the government is not representative of the majority of the people, let alone the minority of idiots who actually vote for it.

      A corrupt democracy working for the agenda of a tiny minority is the worst kind of tyranny in that it destroys any genuine political opposition without so much as a whimper of protest from the majority.

      • Tony_0pmoc

        Deb O’Nair,

        Well, one of the original forms of Democracy in Greece, was based on the jury system, where political views didn’t come into it. I have served on a jury, which to be fair was at times incredibly boring, and at times very interesting, especialy when we couldn’t agree on a verdict, and used to argue for hours, and ask the judge for clarification on a few salient points.

        I admit, I wouldn’t want to be lumbered with such responsibility for several months, or several years as in the case of the Ancient Greeks, but I can see the possible advantages in such a system, significantly reducing the opportunities for corruption.

        Meanwhile this is Gilad Atzmon playing with the Blockheads. Unfortunately Ian Dury couldn’t make it, though he has got an interesting table thing in Richmond Park.

        “Blockheads ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ 9.10.16”

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrnWV39h7Wg

        Tony

    • Graham

      If I lived in Scotland…I might show a little bit more interest in Scottish Independence.’ Why even bother to throw in your worthless two cents’ worth then? If I did not live in Scotland, I might show a little bit more interest in random foreigners waffling about my country on the net. 😉

  • Anne Bruce

    I read Mr Wardell’s article. I have read a lot of them and look forward to them.

    There was nothing anti-semitic about it – ridiculously it appears just mentioning “Hitler” or “Jews” is a no-no these days – and I was angry enough at the SNP’s suspension of his membership to resign my own. His expulsion just confirms my view that the SNP acted unreasonably in their rush to protect their “brand”.

    Initially, it appeared to me that once someone with reading and comprehension skills (usually not lacking in the SNP) had read the article then the misunderstanding would be cleared up and his membership would be restored. However, this was not to be and more’s the pity as I think it reflects very badly on the SNP hierarchy.

    I won’t be renewing my membership.

    I wish Mr Wardell well in his defamation case(s).

  • Bugger (the Panda)

    I have let my SNP membership lapse because of this.

    I am of the Glaswegian tendancy of retaliate first.

    GB in no way was anti Jewish and is his writing is a bit too cerebral for some people who disfavour anything that threatens their bubble of perceived oppression.

    I wonder what would have been the reaction has MS Wolfson been plain Mr Wolfson!

  • jake

    The original GB blog article was clumsily written. Mind you, so was Ms Robertson’s critique of it.
    Meanwhile the main point in Mr Wardell’s article has been conveniently forgotten.

  • Rob Royston

    I’ve given my vote to the SNP all my life, in latter years I had my voting papers hand carried thousands of miles to be signed abroad and then carried by someone else to be posted in the UK so that my vote would count towards my dream of a free Scotland. Why did I bother? It seems that any free Scotland will replicate the Westminster I’ve always wanted to leave.
    I listen to some of the SNP leaders and wonder if THEY voted YES in 2014? When their 56 MP’s hid behind Brexit that was the end, only the die-hards were left to vote for them. It now looks like they want us all to suffer in the hope that desperate Scots voters will give them another few years of the good life.

  • Jo1

    I’ve read the article now and, to be honest, I don’t know what possessed the writer to even mention Hitler or quote him. It was a foolish risk to take, especially in the current climate.

      • Jo1

        Don’t misrepresent what I wrote! You’ve no right to do that.

        I’m certainly not fine with the current climate. I despair of it actually. It’s one where people twist what’s been said into something else altogether. A bit like you’ve just done with my post!

        I would have expected this blogger to not walk into a load of grief. There’s plenty in his article which challenges the GMB without the Hitler stuff even being necessary. It doesn’t even sit or work well in the article.

  • Mist001

    I left the SNP a long time ago. It’s not the party that it once was and it certainly isn’t the party of independence. I believe the people of Scotland have been sold a pup with this shower and the sooner people wake up to this, the better it’ll be for the independence movement.

    I’m not a blogger or anything, just an average guy, but I’m doing what I can to open peoples eyes to the reality of the SNP. They’re either outright lying to people, or the party consists of the most uninformed members of any political party in history and you should see the amount of abuse I receive just for stating facts.

    The problem is though, there’s nothing really around as a viable alternative to the SNP so they basically have carte blanche, as seen in this action against Gareth Wardell. This open letter will simply be ignored and dismissed.

  • David

    I read the Grouse Beater article and agree that it was not anti semetifc. I also gave careful thought to the possibility that the writer had known that Rhea Wolfson is jewish and I found that highly unlikely.

    I feel that a member of the SNP has been hung out to dry due to a media / Labour party / GMB agenda that will never deal with the whole truth in a rational and decent way when there are SNP bad points to be scored.

    So we remove the persons membership, offer them no support in the face of slurs and accusations that only make sense if you believe that two plus two equals five. Sometimes acting with honesty and decency isn’t the easiest way out of a problem where the media mainstream, the Labour party and some trade unionists are creating the noise but it ought to be the only way.

    I’m not going to hand back my membership card but I do feel this has been handled very badly. The last time I felt this was over the dreadful way that Michele Thomson was treated. I think my party needs to learn. Even handed fairness and decency is not always the easiest route but being seen to be doing the wrong thing to a party member by the part of your own membership that is paying attention is a whole lot worse.

    • Stu

      “I also gave careful thought to the possibility that the writer had known that Rhea Wolfson is jewish and I found that highly unlikely.”

      That Rhea Wolfson is Jewish has been well publicised in the media. Given how much he knows about her and his reference to her part in the Labour anti Semitism debate I would say it’s extremely unlikely he didn’t know.

      • FranzB

        Stu – “That Rhea Wolfson is Jewish has been well publicised in the media”

        A google search (today) gives this article (dated 30/7/18):-

        https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13086/rhea-wolfson-ive-been-victim-anti-semitism-labour-doing-right-things-stamp-it-out

        So if GB didn’t find this article I’d be surprised (if he did a google search). In the middle of a piece that shows the hypocrisy of the GMB and Rhea Wolfson in regard to equal pay, GB finds it necessary to tell his readers that Hitler didn’t like trade unions. He then brings in some AH nonsense about ‘The Jew’. Quite why is mystifying – it’s obviously the usual rubbish. But if you assume that GB may well have known that RW was Jewish, then it looks bad.

        There was also no need for this from GB:-

        “Whether or not Wolfson is intellectually aware of Hitler’s outlook is unknown”

        GB’s article criticising the hypocrisy and opportunism of the GMB and RW is fine, but quite why the AH stuff is there seems very odd.

  • Mick McGowan

    The unjustified treatment of Gareth Wardell has been entirely based on the deliberate mis-representation of his views. Sadly, the Disciplinary Committee have failed to disregard the hue and cry of assorted individuals and media mouthpieces, intent on distorting the thrust of the article by highlighting a few contentious words out of context.

  • Baalbek

    “… bloggers and other influencers…”

    What do campaigners for Scottish independence and narcissistic teenage girls on Instagram and YouTube, who covertly flog and market “beauty products” and other “lifestyle accessories” to their cult-like fan base of obsessives who worship them for their physical appearance and skill at applying cosmetics, have in common? Well, they both “self-identify” as “influencers” apparently.

    Why on Earth did the person who drafted this letter choose to use a ridiculous social media marketing term (and a non-word) when there are perfectly good and concise English words that describe a person who advocates and promotes a political position? Activist and campaigner are two that come immediately to mind. Full grown adults parroting idiotic marketing and “tech” lingo in an attempt to sound “dynamic”or “innovative”, or whatever, are simply an embarrassment and need to be gently reminded that they are no longer teenagers and are in fact making massive fools of themselves.

  • Nick

    Although the issue is not remotely addressed in wider terms in the article, it’s fundamentally about free speech or the lack thereof. Hate speech is being defined in new and useful ways to ensure dissent and alternate ideas/voices are quelled. Valid criticism is stifled and stigmatised.

    Orwellian hyperbole? Or will some of us get dragged off one day for a clumsy expression or ill-timed joke. Our better natures are being used against us.

    • Graham

      Mark Meechan, he of the Nazi pug debacle, whilst being a fool, was also slated for…anti-Semitism. Are we seeing a pattern here at all?

  • Sal Newton

    Totally agree with every word Craig. I didn’t know they had actually expelled him from the party.
    If they do not respond appropriately to your open letter I will probably resign my own membership, only newly taken out to support independence following the Westminster walk out.
    I guess all political parties are more concerned with appearance and spin than actual justice!

  • Tony Hughes

    This is a step too far SNP. As a long standing supporter and member I would ask you to reverse this decision as it is not only ott, but simply wrong.

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