Taking a big risk

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Only one possible explanation can justify Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to ­appoint Lord Watson as an education spokesman (Your report, 19 September). It is that he wants to demonstrate a point about rehabilitation of offenders, to show that those who genuinely repent should be given a second chance. If so, this is a gesture in the worst possible taste.

Almost exactly ten years ago, the peer was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of wilful fire raising. Sheriff Kathrine Mackie said that a social inquiry assessment had concluded that there was a significant risk of Watson reoffending.

He resigned his seat at Holyrood, causing a by-election in Cathcart, and from his role as a director of Dundee United FC. I am sure that only the arcane, obscure regulations of the House of Lords prevented him from being dismissed from that chamber.

At the time I remember reflecting not just on the fate of public men but also on the split personality some of our leaders can show. As a tourism minister in the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in the Scottish Parliament in the early noughties he was an impressive administrator and eloquent speaker. There could still be no excuse for his behaviour which put at risk the lives of so many people.

In his first days as leader the public are still giving Mr Corbyn’s unconventional approach the benefit of the doubt. He may well have been advised that Lord Watson’s rehabilitation is genuine.

But for the sake of the reputation of his own party and what remains of the integrity of public life, he should seriously reconsider this appointment.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court