Tory accused of racism after telling fellow Scot: Get back to jockland

A CONTROVERSIAL Tory MP has been accused of making "racist" comments against Scotland when he told a fellow MP to "get back to jockland".

The intervention by Wiltshire North MP James Gray, who made the remark to Glasgow North East MP Willie Bain during environment questions in the House, has been taken as a sign that the Conservative's "respect agenda" with Scotland is "only skin deep".

It comes just over a week after Prime Minister David Cameron told a gathering of journalists that he hopes his party can make a breakthrough in Scotland despite only winning one seat in May after spending 1.2 million north of the Border.

He had tried to reach out in both opposition and government, making Holyrood the first place he had an official visit.

But the incident is not the first time that the Mr Gray, who was born and brought up north of the Border, has been accused of anti-Scottishness.

In 2005 he was sacked as shadow Scottish secretary less than a week after his appointment when he suggested the Scottish Parliament should be abolished and replaced by Scottish MPs travelling up to Edinburgh to do the business.

It came at a time when the Tories were trying to rebrand themselves as pro-devolution.

The then Scottish secretary, Alistair Darling, suggested Mr Gray had become the first Scottish spokesman not to actually visit the country during his term of office.

The right-wing Tory MP attracted criticism when it emerged he had tried to claim back 60 for a Remembrance Sunday wreath.

It was also revealed that when the former Territorial Army officer's claim for the wreath was turned down he made an official complaint about it to the Commons authority.

Mr Gray, the son of the former minister of Dunblane Cathedral and Moderator of the Church of Scotland, was schooled in Glasgow. He then went on to Oxford University in 1977.

He tried to launch his political career in Scotland but was beaten by Charles Kennedy in the Ross, Cromarty and Skye constituency in 1992. But he was then elected as the MP for the safe Tory seat of North Wiltshire in 1997.

His "get back to jockland" attack came during questions to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier in the week where Glasgow North East MP Willie Bain is a spokesman for the Labour Party.

It was picked up as a point of order by Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty which meant that, unusually for most unofficial interjections, it had to be recorded in Hansard.

Later, making his point of order, Mr Docherty suggested the comment was "racist". He asked the Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans: "What steps can you take to protect members of the House from the racist views espoused by Mr James Gray, and will you now ask him to apologise?"

But Mr Gray was unapologetic about his remarks.

He said: "I cannot imagine what remark the honourable gentleman may have heard, but I am certain that had it been out of order in any shape, size or form, Mr Speaker, who was then in the chair, would have picked me up on it."

He also pointed out that, while he is from Scotland, Mr Docherty is from England. He added: "Further to that, as a Scot born, bred and educated, who never left the borders of Scotland until the age of 21, I think that unlike the honourable member for Dunfermline and West Fife, I have the highest respect and love for my native heath. I would never say a single word against it."

But afterwards Mr Docherty said that the comments showed that the Conservatives had not changed despite Mr Cameron's attempts at creating a respect agenda north of the Border.

"This sort of remark shows that at heart the Tories have not changed and cannot be trusted in Scotland," he said. "While they have people like Mr Gray making these sorts of comments then there can never be a real respect agenda."

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: "Mr Gray's comment in no way reflects the wider views in the party across the UK."

Order, order - incidents that shocked parliament

1783: In the House of Lords, the Earl of Sandwich quoted the rhyme: "Life can little more supply/ Than just a few good f***s, and then we die." The verse was attributed to John Wilkes, but probably written by his friend Thomas Potter. The House resolved to prosecute Wilkes for "a most scandalous, obscene and impious libel".

1984: Tam Dalyell, right, was ordered out for accusing Margaret Thatcher of lying over the sinking of the Argentine cruiser, Belgrano. He called her "a bounder, a liar, a deceiver, a cheat and a crook". Dennis Skinner was also put out in 1984 for insisting that Mrs Thatcher would bribe judges.

1988: Leith MP Ron Brown was suspended from the Commons after he grabbed the House of Commons mace - the symbol of Commons authority - and threw it to the floor during a debate on the poll tax.

1993: The Rev Ian Paisley was kicked out for accusing Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, of lying to the Commons.

1994: Dale Campbell-Savours MP was ordered out of the Commons for accusing a fellow MP of "ripping off" ratepayers. He was banned for the rest of the day.

2002: George Galloway narrowly avoided punishment for calling Ben Bradshaw a "liar", forcing parliamentary proceedings to be suspended. Bradshaw apologised for saying Galloway was a "mouthpiece" for Saddam Hussein.

2005: Adam Price, Plaid Cymry MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr was expelled by speaker Michael Martin from the Commons for claiming Tony Blair "misled" parliament over the war with Iraq.

The rules

THE Speaker did not hear James Gray refer to "jockland" so it is unclear whether this is considered unparliamentary language.

Exactly what constitutes unparliamentary language is generally left to the discretion of the Speaker, who enforces the assembly's debating rules, one of which is that members may not use "unparliamentary" language. That is, their words must not offend the dignity of the assembly.

However, usually unparliamentary language is considered to be a profanity, a suggestion of dishonesty or a direct insult.

In addition to this because MPs have absolute privilege, which allows them to make any accusations they like without fear of being sued for slander, the use of "unparliamentary language" rulings is aimed at making sure that privilege is not abused.

In House of Commons, the following words have been deemed unparliamentary over time: blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, ignoramus, liar, rat, swine, stoolpigeon, tart and traitor.

The words "sod", "slimy", "wart", accusations of crooked deals or insinuation of the use of banned substances by a member have also been considered unparliamentary language. All these have been used by the "Beast of Bolsover", Labour MP Dennis Skinner.