The dictates of conscience

Most SNP members will, I think, know what George Kay means when he refers to a “darker group”. When the existence and activities of this “darker group” are taken together with what many people – myself included – consider to be the highly dubious nature of the allegations against Neale Hanvey this whole affair begins to look far from as clear-cut as Nicola Sturgeon suggests.

The Neale Hanvey affair raises a number of issues – all of them controversial. These include matters relating to the SNP’s internal disciplinary procedures; the activities of pressure groups within or close to the party; broader questions of loyalty and trust; and, of course, the issue of freedom of expression and the limits imposed on it.

All of these issues must be set aside for the time being. Important as they are, they must not be allowed to distract from the most immediate and pressing task – maximising both the number of pro-independence MPs and the SNP vote. This should be the only consideration for pro-democracy voters in the Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath constituency.

Being realistic, however, we have to accept that people can hardly help but be influenced to some extent by recent events. Nobody can tell them who to vote for. But any political party is entitled to expect that its members will support and campaign for the official candidate. They are certainly entitled to have rules against party members supporting and campaigning for candidates other than the official one. You’ll notice that Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t suggest SNP activists go to work for the Scottish Greens candidate. The rules apply to the party leader the same as to everyone else.

Asking SNP members to direct their efforts to helping official party candidates in neighbouring constituencies seems reasonable enough. Until we consider what these elections are really supposed to be about. The fundamental purpose is to elect the individual considered by the largest number of voters in a constituency to be the best person to represent the constituency’s inhabitants at Westminster. Elections have become all about parties and leaders. Which isn’t an entirely bad thing. Political parties are, after all, the means by which citizens exercise collective power in the sphere of public policy. And party leaders have a very important role to play, as Nicola Sturgeon is so amply demonstrating. But that fundamental purpose remains. We vote for candidates to represent our community as well as for parties to represent our ideology or political aims.

Campaigning for official candidates in neighbouring constituencies satisfies the latter, but not the former. It’s a question of how much weight we afford each of these purposes. Personally, I would not be uncomfortable with the idea of campaigning for candidates elsewhere. We do that in by-elections anyway. What would trouble me is not campaigning for a local representative. That seems like forsaking an important democratic responsibility.

Ultimately, we all vote according to the dictates of our conscience. We each must decide our own priorities. Voters in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath simply have more to consider than most of us. For some, it will be easy. The party has declared Neale Hanvey persona non grata. Nicola Sturgeon herself has pronounced him guilty of making anti-Semitic comments despite the fact that he denies holding such views and without any kind of hearing that I am aware of. For some party members, that will be enough.

But what if, having interrogated your conscience, you still believe Neale Hanvey is the best person to represent you and your community in the British parliament? What if you have serious doubts about his guilt? What if you have reason to suspect he has been maliciously targeted by some “darker group”? What if you believe in due process and the presumption of innocence? What if you have a well developed sense of fairness?

I don’t live in the Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath constituency. I don’t know Neale Hanvey. It’s not for me to judge whether he might be the best MP for that community. But, having pondered the other issues, I cannot in good conscience do other than agree with George Kay. There is something not right about this whole affair. And Neale Hanvey deserves the benefit of any doubt.

Furthermore, I am deeply concerned about the way accusations of various forms of bigotry are used by assorted cliques as bludgeons to silence those who challenge their political agenda. As offensive as anti-Semitism, racism, sexism etc. undoubtedly are, what amounts to heavy-handed political censorship, intimidation and repression cannot be any more acceptable. A stand must be taken against those who would maliciously exploit our revulsion at such bigotry to incite baseless hatred every bit as vile as that directed at various minorities by the abysmally ignorant.

I disagree with George Kay on one point. I definitely have a problem with the SNP taking the action it did. I consider that, having vetted and selected Neale Hanvey, the party owed him a measure of loyalty. Other than that, I have looked to my conscience and I too have come to the conclusion that, regardless of what the personal consequences might be and for whatever it may be worth, I am obliged to give my support to Neale Hanvey.

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20 thoughts on “The dictates of conscience

  1. I too know nothing about Mr Hanvey or his previous history.

    There will presumably be an internal examination to establish the actual facts of the matter since Mr Hanvey has only been suspended rather than expelled (or reinstated).

    We will have to wait for the outcome of this event and the findings of any investigation.

    What I do know is that he must have passed the party’s vetting procedures where any dubious past behaviour would surely have been considered.

    However, judging by the responses of some Mr Hanvey has already been tried, found guilty and is merely awaiting execution.

    Having passed the internal checks Mr Hanvey might feel entitled to the support of the party unless there was obvious cast-iron evidence of serious wrong-doing. As mentioned previously his case has not been assessed nor official judgment passed. His current membership status is merely suspended.

    We are entering the final stages of the GE campaign: I understand the need for a tight ship. I do trust in discipline.

    But I most certainly do not believe in tyranny.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The thing I find most distasteful about this is that the views of (some of) the Jewish Community are considered the final word on what constitutes anti-Semitism.

    Victims (or their representatives) have no part in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused in this country. Their views, along with those of any other interested party, are considered by an independent arbiter or jury who comes to a balanced view.

    Natural justice has been denied both in terms of due process and, in particular, reaching a conclusion in this case. I have seen many Jewish representatives opine that there was nothing anti-Semitic in anything Mr Hanvey did, particularly in the case of the Soros trope.

    Very dangerous precedents are being set here. Grousebeater and now Mr Hanvey have been convicted on the basis of the views of their alleged victims before a fair hearing could be had on whether there was even a case to answer.

    The SNP is developing a worrying tendency to hang those out to dry who the leadership considers too much bother or risk to defend. Loyalty cuts two ways and the very least all party members should expect is a fair hearing BEFORE it takes action against them.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Dark forces for sure, Neale has been the favourite from beginning, I’d be asking why a Green candidate stood knowing it is a very close marginal seat and having 2 Indy candidates this would only split the Indy vote and leave it open for Laird to retain her seat. No one really wanting Indy would ever risk losing a seat to a Unionist party and with all conscience Scott Rutherford should not have stood if Indy meant that much to him. Neale is and always has been my choice because most of us did not hesitate getting behind him because in all the years we have known him, seen the kind of human he is we had no doubt whatsoever that Neale is NOT antisemitic but like many of us, not really known what is deemed antisemitic, especially since the definitions were made even more stringent than ever before. There is no such stringent definition on any other faith, race or sexuality so many actually get accused of being antisemitic when in fact it was meant as a genuine criticism of Israel. I myself have had 3 bans from someone accusing me wrongly of being antisemitic, a perfectly acceptable criticism against Israel’s human rights abuses that even UN have pulled Israel up for, is enough to get you banned on Facebook.

        Now you can imagine how much on egg shells we walk in their being that fine line of what constitutes for antisemitism and what is criticism of Israel. Too many people being shut down, silenced for criticism of Israel as we have criticised the abuse by Saudi Arabia against Yemen, yet it is right and acceptable to criticise them but you are instantly antisemitic if you dare criticise Israel by some people. There are many Jews here and around world, even in Israel who stand up against the abuses in Israel towards the people of Gaza and West Bank, our British Jews should never be attacked or abused because of the acts of Netanyahu and his Government in Israel. As I said, it is knowing that fine line between Criticism and antisemitism we have to understand. The lovely people of Jewish Voices for Peace who I get newsletters from, also stand against the Israeli human rights abuses and so much more, well worth reading their website, as you can imagine this Jewish movement for peace is up against some Jewish voices who even want to silence them. For Neale it was a genuine misunderstanding that many of us have made never intending intentionally to offend Jews but I guess we must all read up the newest of definitions and you will see what I mean. Our local Jews are good people who if they accept Neale’s offer, will see face to face that Neale never, ever set out to offend anyone least of all our Jewish Fifers.

        As I said, majority of us who were voting for Neale had no problem voting for him as an Independent, in fact I left SNP so I could vote for Neale out of principle. Neale is one of the most honest, decent and hard working politicians we have had, as leader of SNP in our council for a while he worked his butt off, that is what we have seen from Neale no matter what his position has been and that is why whoever was determined to stop him from standing, obviously was not putting our constituency first and foremost because Neale is the MP we need to stand up for us in Westminster, he is cut from the cloth of the wonderful Roger Mullin and I for one am so glad the intentional want to remove Neale has backfired on those who wanted rid of Neale and stick our constituency with the appalling, useless Labour Lesley Laird. I would say that is their karma. If chosen as our MP, Neale will not let us down, he never has in the past and won’t in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If you cannot understand why the yes movement must not be associated with antisemitism and antisemites, there’s something broken in your head, Peter.

    Hanvey admitted to sharing antisemitic material. He admitted sharing Kremlin-written conspiracy theories about George Soros, classic antisemitic tropes authored by a government that occupies small countries like ours. He doesn’t have the judgment to be an MP, he is a liability to the SNP, he is a liability to the Yes movement. Pretending ignorance of this and chuntering about views being ‘repressed’ so you can justify backing a walloper your party kicked out with good reason is beneath you.

    It’s 2019.


      1. ‘We shouldn’t still be doing witch-hunts.’

        This isn’t a witch hunt, it’s accountability.

        Neale admitted that he spread Kremlin written antisemitic propaganda and claimed he didn’t recognise it for what it was. We have spent years disassociating ourselves from the nationalism of the nazis. I have spent years convincing my muslim, hindu and jewish friends that we are not a threat to them, that we don’t just tolerate their presence in Scotland but celebrate it because they make our country better.

        The movement can’t afford to be associated with the stain of antisemitism or those who apologise for it. We have to recognise how bumping our gums about sinister ‘dark conspiracies’, campaigning and voting for people who have admitted to spreading and being unable to recognise racist material plays into the hands of those who say this is a white nationalism.

        We have a responsibility to live up to the ideals that we have claimed. We should be focussed on repairing the damage that Neale has done to our movement’s relationship to the Jewish community, damage he has done against the party’s code of conduct. Throwing them under the bus out of ‘solidarity’ towards the man who has spread tropes that endanger them should be as repulsive to you as it is to me.


        1. There was no “Kremlin written antisemitic propaganda”. You obviously haven’t seen the article in question and haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. Neale Hanvey foolishly signed the ‘apology’ the party demanded. Now, gullible bladders like you have been manipulated into a frenzy of indignant outrage and frantic virtue-signalling. If you had any self-awareness you’d realise how utterly foolish you appear.

          I will not respond to any more of your ill-informed shite.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. “There was no “Kremlin written antisemitic propaganda”. You obviously haven’t seen the article in question and haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. Neale Hanvey foolishly signed the ‘apology’ the party demanded. Now, gullible bladders like you have been manipulated into a frenzy of indignant outrage and frantic virtue-signalling. If you had any self-awareness you’d realise how utterly foolish you appear.”

        I have looked at the article in question. Sputnik is a Russian propaganda outlet owned by the Russian state that spreads disinformation and conspiracy theories — many of them racist, or deeply antisemitic. Like the one that Hanvey shared and whose problems extend beyond the images it was labelled with. If you’re not familiar with the outlet and the problems of the outlet, you need to change that.

        I have also looked at some of Hanvey’s other statements, statement’s which are in clear violation of his former party’s code of conduct on antisemitism.

        You attack my lack of self awareness while tub-thumping for a man who is stained by anti-semitism. You appear to have no comprehension of what that looks like outside the clique of the online independence commentariat: a commentariat that is increasingly looking like a liability to the pro-independence movement. There’s a reason why he was dumped. You have to look at the big picture, and the big picture isn’t one daft man in Fife who spread hatred of Jews and is being held accountable for it.


      3. The reason you’re angry, Peter, is because you are wrong on this. I say that as someone who has broken bread with you and is upset that someone who prides on himself and listening and thinking isn’t thinking about this.


      4. “I say that as someone who has broken bread with you and is upset that someone who prides on himself on listening and thinking isn’t thinking about this.”

        I won’t be posting again. I’ve laid out the facts and you’ve refused to acknowledge them. We can’t make a better country with this attitude and it’s not an attitude I’m prepared to engage with any longer. I have doors to knock for Stephen Gethins where I’ll be trying to minimise the damage Hanvey has done to Gethins’ campaign.


        1. You have laid out precisely no facts. All you have conveyed is your own mindless prejudice. And, trust me on this, fool. It’s a lot of years since some petty bigot was able to make me angry.


  4. ‘Very dangerous precedents are being set here. Grousebeater and now Mr Hanvey have been convicted on the basis of the views of their alleged victims before a fair hearing could be had on whether there was even a case to answer.’

    Even though he’s a damned fool, Mark ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan suffered an even more ruinous ignominious fate, mercilessly hounded out of employment and prosecuted for what basically a heavy-handed, sick joke. He was driven further into right-wing arms by the lofty, sneering, heavy-handed treatment he received at the hands of the censorious Scottish establishment, who found a representative of the Jewish population to be offended by him, and attack him. And this sort of underhanded censorship and political repression, on behalf of under 1000th of the Scottish population, needs to STOP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is getting worse, silencing at the least little criticism of Israel especially when anyone and everyone can racially abuse Scottish people and Scotland even though we are recognised as a race and in Scotland if we feel we have been racially abused, the abuser will be investigated and if found racist, charged. We take it on chin because we know our Police are busy but in truth there should not be such a tight protection of one faith where it is getting beyond a joke and probably causing more problems than it should, when people of other faiths are being jumped on for daring to criticise a brutal Government in Israel for the human rights abuses this is telling us that in Britain, Judaism is more important than any other faith and when Islamaphobia seems to be ignored in the Tory party, by media and by some Jewish people who are only interested in watching out for anyone to be caught criticising Israel and what I feel conflating it with antisemitism. That is certainly not helping relations between faiths. It should be rules for all against any kind of abuse though not as tight as these new definitions that is strangling us into silence but that is what Israel wants. when Jewish Voices for Peace and UN condemn Israel’s human rights abuses, then why are there so many who seem to think its right for Palestinians to be abused or just couldn’t care less about the terrible lives of the people in Gaza. Neale is getting condemned by someone who has never met Neale, is not interested in Neale or the facts because he is just wanting to silence us all, bullying us into submission that we must never, ever speak because he is pretty much telling us Judaism is above all religions and no one must breathe the wrong way or we’ll be accused.

      Far right facism is the real enemy of the Jewish people, they are the REAL abusers yet Eulen is determined to alienate people in Scotland by trying to keep us lowly Christians in our place. He should be worrying that people around the world are turning on Jewish people like in US, in Germany, Hungary etc mostly from the fascist right, Jews should not be made feel scared again but people like Eulen are helping damage the relationship between Jews and non Jews because of his nasty attitude towards Christians who don’t do as they are told and stay silent about Israel. Folk may start to think all Jews are like him. This can only grow worse as the more Jewish people are coming down hard on people to silence them wrongly accuse them with no room for benefit of doubt. I’d like to remind Eulen that Scotland is a Nation of all faiths and Judaism is not the main ruling faith, there should be no faith thinking it is better than another. Thankfully he does not chose our MP and the fine folk of kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath who have known Neale for many years and seen his worth will chose him because unlike Eulen and a few other Jews who condemn Neale, we know a good man, a man that made an error of judgement but we don’t through him away because we are not perfect ourselves but we are not bad people so why let Neale go when he is the best MP for our constituency. I cancelled my membership because SNP through Neale under the bus without a second glance, bowing to these very tight definition rules yet they must know of Neale’s excellent record working for SNP all these years. I for one am getting sick of Scots being made to know our place, first it was race now its faith.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Peter

    The days of the SNP being the vehicle for independence are done…at least in this incarnation. (just my personal opinion and I really hope I am wrong)

    We have seen too many signs of a party quickly transitioning from where the YES cause was its driver to that where being in government is now its driver. Power in the UK is designed to wear down opposition or absorb it. Sadly, the SNP have waited too long and the “settle up not settle down” mentality is gone. Nearly everything for the last 1 & 1/2 years has been about playing the Westminster game instead of letting England go and taking the gift to free Scotland once and for all. Just think back and remember how many announcements NS made about announcing the roadmap for the next referendum….all coming to naught.

    I fear that not only will “SNP as YES” limp on as a ghost of its former self, it will actually become counter productive to YES. Basically trapping them in a forever “Hold” position, exhausting all energy. It’s like the Section 30 will become YES’s “Waiting for Godot”

    I suspect, if this is the case, people will look back at the Michelle Thompson treatment by the party as the tipping point. It was where those with conscience acquiesced for expediency and this moment showed a perfect blueprint for elements to purge those who didn’t align with their own personal interests.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ironically, I just got suspended on Twitter for making comments about this case, and the Denise Findlay one. I am not even minded to try and recover it. The hell with it. They can keep it. Waste of bloody time anyway.

    NOTE: I have taken the liberty of correcting Denise Findlay’s surname to avoid confusion. – PAB


  7. If I lived in Kirkcaldy I would vote for him, but I am glad of the efforts his former party workers are offering here in NE Fife where Mr Gethins really must defeat the idiot Chamberlain … but anyway … I agree absolutely with your analysis and of your responses above. I will not be bullied into believing that sharing memes is morally equivalent to oppressing or discriminating against a particular religious group. Nor will I accept the moronic charge that because news is reported by Sputnik or RT, it is designed specifically to spread antisemitism and bring down the forces of right and democracy. It’s all very puerile and infantilising. The worst of it is the ever present connection with the greatest crime of the twentieth century; the implication that every minor, even only allegedly, antisemitic trope, opinion or statement should be in any sense comparable to the industrial slaughter of nearly six million people purely because they were Jewish is an insult to intelligence.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I know enough people who tell me Neale is a good guy and an excellent candidate.
    I also trust the people I know who tell me about the campaign by those in the SNP against anyone who supports the Woman’s Pledge.

    Vote for Neale, campaign for Neale and help clear out the cancer from our Party.

    Liked by 1 person

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