Wednesday 19th February
I go to the BRITS practically every year as a guest of the BPI because of my interest in music issues and the fact I am the only former professional ‘rock’ musician in the House of Commons. Over the years I have picked up most of the industries agenda in the House of Commons and led the debates on the creative industries and things like intellectual property. I also, to the chagrin of my MP colleagues, put together the only Parliamentary rock band in the world, the aptly monikered, MP4. The BRITS is the corporate music industry’s big night out and it is immensely popular, watched by millions of (mainly) young people. Since its move from Earls Court to the O2 invited MPs are shepherded into a corporate box like some sort of political pen with a few music biz bods and journalists to keep us amused and on our best behaviour.
Usually it is just a good night out and a chance to meet up with old colleagues and the many friends I have made in the sector. Not this year.
In accepting the award for best British male artist on behalf of David Bowie, Kate Moss, in reading out a prepared statement from Bowie told us that he wanted Scotland ‘to stay with us’. An incredible intervention that I almost missed because I was in a conversation with the BBC’s Ian Watson. Everybody of course fixed their gaze on me as the only nat in the village and there was a general ‘did she really just say that’ gasp of amazement.
Went down to the after show party and all the talk was of the Bowie intervention with music biz chums reliably informing me that the cause of independence was now lost after the great man’s intervention. The No’s aren’t exactly bulging with glamour and star studded endorsements so this was a fantastic coup for them. Where Scotland’s music community is overwhelmingly Yes, the UK’s is, to a woman and a man No, in that general ‘what have we done to upset you so much that you want to leave’ type of way’? And there is then a general feeling of satisfaction at tonight’s turn of events.
Somehow end up being in the company of Tory chairman, Grant Shapps and the always affable Labour MP, Stella Creasey. I think we just about manage to conclude that Bowie’s statement is ‘noteworthy’. Eventually find the BPI’s chair, Geoff Taylor, and asked him if he knew that this statement would be made? Geoff had no idea, and no-one had thought to ask Kate Moss what was included from Bowie. So tonight the Nos got one of the best pieces of advertising they could buy and it wasn’t even in the adverts!
On social media the remark is everywhere and twitter went mad. The Nos predictably went on the abusive cybernat stuff as it started trending on twitter but it in fact showed the funny side of the indy ref at its best. Some really funny stuff started to come out and his songs were parodied under the hashtag #bowiescotland. There was ‘Jock, I’m only Dancing’, ‘Ziggy played Stranraer’ and my favourite ‘The man who fell to Perth’. Fantastic stuff and really funny. Got no idea what possessed Bowie to get involved in Scottish independence but it is was actually turned out to be really amusing.
Wednesday 26th February
There’s another bedroom tax motion in the House of Commons today and again it comes courtesy of the Labour Party. Our Scottish Labour friends are still sore about us exposing them for failing to turn up at the last bedroom tax vote and are now particularly sensitive about the issue. That’s why I was there with my clipboard and pen to count them out as they came through the lobbies. Most of them didn’t like it, but it was soon resolved with some good natured banter. Some of them even congregated round the Aye lobby to wait and watch me concede that they were, in fact all there, as they were. That was until the Labour MPs, Jim Murphy and Tom Harris came through.
Now, Murphy and I famously don’t get on. I reported him to the Standards Commissioner when I was first elected because there was a suspicion he was using Parliamentary materials for party campaigning, something clearly forbidden, but a charge that he was later cleared of. He in response organised a coup to stop me getting the chair of the All Party Music Group. Honours even then, or so you would think. But Jim didn’t get over it and instead indulged in one of the longest Parliamentary grudges in Scottish political history resolutely refusing to speak to me ever again. I then, usually just try to avoid him, and him me.
When he came through the lobby he muttered something at me which I didn’t quite catch and I just said lightly in response ‘nice to speak to you too Jim’. He then went absolutely berserk! Running over to me he was right in my face continually shouting ‘fuck off, fuck off, fuck off’ at me almost covering me in spittle. He then went to join his Labour friends standing at the other lobby. I went after him and asked ‘what was that all about’ and he did it again in front of his Labour colleagues even more aggressively. At one point I thought he was going to take a swing at me. He then stormed off leaving me shaken and furious with Labour MPs looking on in bemused horror.
I quickly convened a small group of fellow MPs including Angus Robertson, Stewart Hosie and Mike Weir and asked them what I should do? We discussed whether I should make a point of order or go and see the Labour Chief Whip. I decided I didn’t want to make a public fuss but I didn’t want to let it go either. Murphy is one of the Nos that consistently goes on about on-line abuse – apparently real life verbal abuse and intimidation is alright – so I simply tweeted the encounter and it was soon round all the journalists and other MPs. Guido Fawkes put it up immediately and sought out the Labour ‘witnesses’ finding that ‘they couldn’t make out what was being said’!
An appalling incident and just shows a dreadful thuggish side to Scottish Labour and particularly this very angry man and his quite obvious unresolved issues.