The most disturbing thing about Frank McAveety’s accidentally broadcast comments to a clerk, during a break of the Holyrood Petitions Committee which he chaired, is the one no one has yet interrogated.
As well as expressing his admiration of the looks of a woman in the public gallery, the Labour MSP said to the clerk: ‘We’ll maybe put out a wee word for her’.
What does this mean?
Who exactly would have ‘put out a wee word for her’?
It certainly puts a new gloss on the notion of ‘petitions’.
This comment smacks of pimping, of colonialist supremacism of the: ‘have that slave washed and brought to my tent’ variety.
Are we now to wonder if Chairs of parliamentary committees at Holyrood routinely scan the public gallery for objects of lust and ‘put out a wee word’ for them? And is it even possible that civil service clerks are being asked to perform the function of intermediary?
Will we start getting ladies of a certain persuasion – or pragmatic lobbyists – laying themselves out for the picking in the public gallery of the national parliament?
The ‘wee word’ we would put out is the imperative of distinguishing almost ritually between the absolute integrity of the public functionary and the private person – whatever, in each individual case, that may be.
While we’re on the subject, let’s note the slack and misleading headlines employed across the national media in reporting McAveety’s actions following the public debate on his remarks. These have ranged form ‘McAveety resigns’ to ‘McAveety goes’ – appeafring to indictae that Mr McAveety has stood down as an MSP.
This is not the case. He has merely resigned as Chair of parliamentary committees – and this has been reported variously as resigning the chair of each of the committees he served or of resigning only the chair of the committee at which he was recorded making these remarks – the Holyrood Petitions Committee.