With all the fuss and fawning over Jim Murphy recently, it’s been easy to forget that Scotland’s Parliamentary Labour Party – the 41 odd MPs we send off every five years to represent us – is jam-packed with total roasters, of whom Jim is just one. You probably don’t know their names or their faces, but exist they do, fiddling away in the background and generally making life as easy for themselves as they can.
Ranking highly among the roaster non-entities of Scottish Labour is the Right Honourable Brian Donohoe, nearing the end of his fifth consecutive term as MP for Central Ayrshire. During his 23 years on the job, Brian has managed to reach the dizzying heights of sitting on a select committee, serving as a Special Constable with the Transport Polis (in London), helping set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronation Street, and being secretary of the House’s Rangers Supporters Club. He also achieved inadvertent online fame a couple of years back by providing this helpful explanation of what the internet is in the modern age, where you can explore the content, and examine it in detail…
Hapless Donohoe’s lack of career progression hasn’t been for want of effort or loyalty, which was eventually recognised in 2008 when he finally got a wee promotion to Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Transport Minister. Sadly for Donohoe, and perhaps because they realised he’s a complete fucking plonker, he was in the post for just 16 days. Our brave MP didn’t let this minor setback get him down though and has kept up an impressive consistency in desperately trying to make a name for himself by whatever means possible since.
While occasionally hitting national headlines for the wrong reasons, like claiming shitloads for a sofa, he’s mostly busied himself by flooding his constituency’s local press with an endless ream of media releases all about himself. Pretty standard stuff for a backbench MP, you may think, except in Brian’s case it’s much worse, because as well as being totally useless, Donohoe is a raging bigot, homophobe and racist. A supporter of the Iraq war, he recently hit out at Police Scotland’s investigation into CIA torture flights that passed through Scotland over the last decade, blasting it a “waste of time”. In a state of “despair”, he told a local paper that this was merely a bid by the cops to get themselves “a couple of lines in the newspapers”, which seems like a startling statement to be made by a man whose raison d’etre is er… getting himself splashed across the local press every week.
Donohoe’s parliamentary record is an interesting one. It’s not that his sense of loyalty to the Labour Party is so deep that he never votes against it, for he sometimes does. An ardent opponent of attempts to modernise Parliament, he voted against making its hours of sitting friendlier to MPs with children, and has opposed reforms to expenses. So far, so par for the course for a Scottish Labour MP, but what makes Donohoe exceptional is his unashamed bigotry. Along with a number of his colleagues, he voted against gay marriage in all its forms. As he explained at the time, “I am, of course, against any form of discrimination. However, I also believe that marriage is a term used to describe the joining of a man and a woman only.” Suffice to say, he turned down a wedding invite from a local lesbian couple in 2013, citing a “prior engagement”.
However, Donohoe doesn’t just reserve his hatred for LGBT people. So committed is he to taking a stand against all forms of discrimination, Donohoe has an insatiable appetite for raising the “scourge” of gypsy travellers, that “blight” his constituency by er… living there. Accused of racism a few years back, Donohoe replied that he can’t be a racist, because there is not “ANY connection between ‘race’ and the ‘Travelling People’”, although the Scottish Government appear to disagree, noting that they are a particularly marginalised group and protected by racial equality legislation.
Donohoe has made anti-traveller racism his pet campaign, reviving it at any opportunity for the sake of some cheap headlines. A few years ago, Donohoe even hit up upon a resolution to this “issue”, which he named the “Tamworth Solution” in reference to the methods used by an English local authority to harass and move on gypsy travellers. That there wasn’t wider uproar about a Labour MP publicly boasting of “solutions” to ethnic minority groups – the connotations of which should be obvious – demonstrates the level of acceptability of this kind of hate speech.
It would seem Donohoe hasn’t been able to implement his solution yet though, as he’s still going on about the “scourge” to anyone that will listen. Late last year, he held a “summit” in which a roundtable of local officials (the Justice Minister sadly couldn’t make it, despite Donohoe’s protestations) were forced to spend an afternoon listening to Donohoe prattle on about the problems that land grabbing travellers are causing for the “law abiding people of Ayrshire”, his style not so much dog-whistle politics as an ear-splitting cacophony of UKIP/Daily Express style racism. Donohoe admits he has very little interest in improving the lives of travellers in Scotland, with his press releases indicating that he won’t be happy until he’s overseen a Dale Farm style showdown in which every traveller has been chased out of Ayrshire or forced to assimilate into the “mainstream” and abandon their way of life:
Travellers at the end of the day are not interested in the support, education or social care [authorities] attempt to foist upon them. The reason they are travellers is because they choose not to be part of mainstream life and, more often than not, throw what is offered to them back in our faces at the same time as blighting our areas of beauty with their fly-tipping and waste.
That Donohoe represents a constituency with some of the worst levels of multiple deprivation in Scotland is entirely neglected in his catch-all narrative of blaming the gypsies. His unintentional comedy Youtube antics may have seen him labelled “the most embarrassing MP in Britain”, but his constant hounding of local gypsy travellers and stirring up of racial hatred in his constituency surely gives him the more dubious accolade of being the most reprehensible Labour MP in Scotland – and Weekly Wanker.
“We have to justify our right to exist in the modern world”: A short film looking at forced experiments at assimilating gypsy travellers in Scotland in the 1940s – something Donohoe seemingly wants to repeat today – and their current struggle for human rights in Scotland.