Labour claims MP’s punishment for gay slur is ‘confidential’
Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary has refused to discuss what action was taken against an MP who used “racist and homophobic” language.
Lesley Laird, the party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, was quizzed by the BBC about the action taken against Scottish Labour MP Hugh Gaffney.
Hugh Gaffney, the Member of Parliament for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, was rebuked by officials over remarks he allegedly made to a Labour Students Burns Night gathering.
According to sources, the 54-year-old is reported to have made a joke about Robert Burns not being “bent”.
He said of Burns: “He started off being a farmer/But he really was such a charmer/Going for ales he frequent/Telling the lads and lassies he was not bent.”
The MP also used a slur to refer to Chinese food, joking that he could “be at home having a Ch**ky”.
The party said the MP would face disciplinary action over the comments – but Ms Laird refused to discuss what form they would take.
Pressed on the issue, she claimed it was “confidential”.
She said: “The facts of the case are known, the matter has been dealt with, and the matter is now closed. I won’t be adding anything further.
“We’ve already acknowledged that Hugh will be attending diversity training… I’m not going to get into discussing individual situations.”
Pressed further during the interview with BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, she said: “As I confirmed last week, the matter is closed, and I think most people would recognise that from a disciplinary point of view, these matters are considered confidential.
“The matter of the event is known. It has been dealt with, and is now closed.”
Asked what action Jeremy Corbyn had taken, she said: “I’m not going to disclosed any further. I’m here to discuss a matter that is live in my constituency.”
She added: “From my perspective, the facts are known, it has been dealt with and the matter is closed.”
Gaffney has since apologised for the comments.
He has since apologised for the comments.
In a statement, Mr Gaffney said: “Last week I attended a Labour Students Burns Supper In Edinburgh.
“At that event I used certain language relating to the Chinese and LGBT communities that was wrong and completely inappropriate.
“I want to offer my unreserved apologies for what I said; my remarks were deeply offensive and unacceptable.
“I will be taking part in equality and diversity training at the earliest opportunity.
“I will do everything possible to make amends with both the Chinese community and the LGBT community.”
A Labour party spokesperson said: “Hugh Gaffney MP has been reprimanded for using inappropriate and offensive language.
“He has apologised unreservedly and referred himself for equality and diversity training. The Labour Party is clear that this language is unacceptable.”
Scottish National Party officials have since called for him to be sacked.
The SNP’s Humza Yousaf said: “This is utterly awful. A simple apology and diversity training does NOT cut it! In fact it is a slap in the face to suggest this absolves him.
“Hope [Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard] takes serious action against Hugh Gaffney. At very least he should be suspended from the party & whip withdrawn.”
Labour official Anas Sarwar added: “[This] is sadly another example of why we need to recognise that everyday racism is a reality.
“I published an 8-point plan yesterday on how Scottish Labour can lead by example… Deeds not words.”
Labour was recently forced to suspend another MP who made homophobic comments.
Jared O’Mara, the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Hallam, had made the posts on a music forum in the early 2000s.
A user known as ‘gingerjared’ referred to gay people as “fudge packers” and “poofters”, also alluding to anal sex as “driving up the Marmite motorway”.
Labour initially refused to suspend Mr O’Mara over his comments.
After his comments were reported, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, who was previously Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said she would be “happy” to sit alongside Mr O’Mara.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, she claimed that there are “many” people and voters with similar views.
She said: “Yes, I am happy to sit alongside him, because those comments he made 15 years ago.
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“I’ve met many people in my life that had had homophobic, misogynistic and even racist views, quite frankly, I’ve knocked on doors where that’s been the case.
“Jared has said he held those views 15 years ago, but he changed his views because he recognised those views were absolutely abohorrent and wrong. He changed those views, and he is not the Jared who made those comments 15 years ago.
“I think it’s important for listeners as well, because people do change those views at times.
“It’s important that they recognise that, they apologise, and they correct that behaviour.”
O’Mara was eventually suspended when a string of other comments and allegations about his behaviour came to light. He remains an MP, sitting as an independent.