Parties adopt Kennedy Commitment to disagree well with open and respectful debate

Earlier today I  joined Willie Rennie in calling on all parties in Scotland to commit to a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and to lead a respectful campaign.

In the course of the Scottish campaign to date a brick has been thrown at Scottish Liberal Democrat HQ and the new Labour Leader Anas Sarwar has been racially abused outside Holyrood.

It just isn’t how politics should be done.

It was also worryingly reminiscent of an attitude in the 2015 campaign which resulted in the unacceptable campaign of intimidation against Charles Kennedy. And if the reaction to BBC Alba’s recent documentary about Charles’ life showed me anything, it was that this sort of behaviour is as unpopular now as it was then.

We must never go back to those old divisions.

With social media playing an increasingly prominent role in elections, politicians can show they have learned the lessons of the past and send a clear message of the value we hold in open, honest and respectful debate.

Our democracy is at its best when it is open, inclusive and free from intimidation or abuse. That is what Charles believed. He understood the importance of disagreeing well with political opponents. So the Kennedy Commitments put these values into practice:

Publicly challenge and denounce derogatory, untrue, or hateful messages on social media.
To disagree well and treat my political opponents, journalists and the public with respect.
Run an honest campaign that does not permit character defamation, libel, or slander against political opponents.

If there is anything that politicians of all colours can agree with, working together to create tackle abuse has to be one of them.

It is a huge credit to the convening authority of Willie Rennie – as Scotland’s longest serving Party Leader – and to the memory of Charles Kennedy, that very early on today, all Parties had responded positively to this initiative. They have together taken a wise decision, in the interests of voters, journalists and their own Party colleagues. Scotland has lead the UK in progressive political cooperation before – and this shows how it easy it is to do so again.

* James Gurling is a member of the Federal Board and was brother-in-law to Charles Kenendy.

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One Comment

  • John Marriott 27th Apr '21 - 10:00am

    When I was living in West Germany back in the 1970s, it used to strike me how polite West German politicians were when they were in debate, compared, say, with those we used to see and hear on TV and radio back home. I am also reminded of George Galloway’s appearance before that Senate Committee in Washington DC when he tore strips off gobsmacked Senators. Or how about some of the goings on in the Australian Federal Parliament? A good example would be the ‘misogyny’ debate between Gillard and Abbott of a few years ago. (“Look in the mirror”)

    Of course playground behaviour is undignified and is often employed when one side has, to all intents and purposes, lost the argument; but, boy, it can be FUN!

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