Harriet Harman and Labour’s ginger problem

“My mum always told me to steer clear of redheads” – Frank Dobson, 20 March 2000

Oh dear – some people don’t learn, do they? Harriet Harman should have remembered her history before she opened her mouth at the Scottish Labour party conference today. When duff London mayoral candidate Frank Dobson – remember him? – made an anti-redhead joke after Chris Evans gave £100,000 to Ken Livingstone’s campaign, Evans turned around and doubled the donation.

So for Harriet Harman to dismiss a political rival as “a ginger rodent” earlier today was a bit bloody stupid.

To do it in Scotland was suicidal. Worse still was the army of sycophants and creeps in her audience, pissing themselves like it was some kind of Wildean gem.

And if she thinks Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander is a ginger rodent, then what does that make her former colleague and expenses cheat Hazel Blears?

But hey, I know that should I ever end up pursuing a political career, and I come up against the po-faced former equalities minister; she’ll think using my hair colour as an jibe against me will be fine. Of course, the fact that she’s a pasty-faced warmonger whose visage will be gracing my Hallowe’en mask later is neither here nor there, of course. (See, not nice, is it Harriet? See how this kind of crap undermines what you say you’ve been fighting against for most of your career?) But her comments betray a lack of basic respect – hey, if Danny Alexander’s gay predecessor David Laws was still in the job, maybe she could have made a crack about him being in bed with George Osborne? It’s about on that level. I now know that Harriet Harman doesn’t want my vote. Fine, she wasn’t getting it anyway.

It’s anger that makes us say stupid things, though – we’ve all said catastrophically dumb things when the red mist descends. Wiser heads shut up and think before spouting off. But I’ve been taken aback by the raw fury that Labour members feel towards the Liberal Democrats for cosying up with the Tories – as if a party dumping its principles as soon as it gets a sniff of power is something they’ve never been involved with.

Maybe if they stopped, bit their tongues, and thought a bit about why they got kicked out in May – and perhaps even worked out a few policies of their own – maybe Harman wouldn’t have put her foot in it so badly. But instead, it carries on as before, desperately hoping the coalition will implode and they’ll slip back in unnoticed. New generation? Same old crap, more like.

We are in nasty times, though. From Harman’s playground insult to Tories cheering George Osborne to the rafters for throwing half a million people out of work, the atmosphere is getting ever more spiteful, tribal and poisonous. In the real world, protesters have been shutting down Vodafone stores over it getting away with dodging its tax. But in the hermetically sealed world of Westminster politics, insults are easier than answers or meaningful protests. Even David Cameron was at it yesterday, gloating at “delicious” BBC cuts.

It’s not just us gingers that Harman slighted with her comments yesterday, it’s all of us who want to see this coalition properly taken to task for what it’s doing. Her and her cheering sycophants are no better than George Osborne and his cronies applauding job cuts.

This is no distraction from a real story – this is the real story, how politicians have taken to trading witless insults instead of showing any real leadership in troubled times. Shame on the lot of them.


  1. Pertinent and interesting analysis – except for the fifth paragraph. It’s a real pity you’ve criticised Harman’s descent to personal abuse by, er, descending to personal abuse.

  2. Isn’t the issue more that her remark’s a touch insulting to rodents?

    (Curious thing, ginger insults. Brought up in Scotland, and they simply didn’t exist. Most surprised when I moved down here and, after a while, a friend started making comments about his ex – the fact she was a gingg-er (yes, pronounced like that) was clearly an issue. And I simply didn’t know why.)

  3. It’s what the BBC seemed to think last night.

    I’ve tweaked the fifth par to put “whey-faced warmonger” into context.

  4. I wouldn’t take it that far. It’d be nice to see her apologise properly, or for her leader to condemn her words. But they’re so bound up in their red mist that they can’t, and they’ll just pretend it’s some kind of sideshow.

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