Tom Harris is not a nice man

Peo­ple who know me know that I really don’t like Tom Har­ris, the cur­rent MP for Glas­gow South. Hell, my sec­ond blog post was basi­cally about him being totally awful on the issue of tuition fees (a lie he con­tin­ues to this day), and he rel­ishes in being the tribal kind of Labour MP, espe­cially on Twit­ter. So savvy he is on Twit­ter, that he became Labour’s inter­net adviser.

Until he posted a Down­fall par­ody of Alex Salmond, effec­tively com­par­ing the Scot­tish National Party leader to Adolf Hitler. Yep. After he lost the Scot­tish Labour lead­er­ship elec­tion, he might’ve been a bit angry. Who knows? But he did end up hav­ing to resign the post.

But that’s not all he’s said to pro­voke the ire of peo­ple recently: in May this year, he made a com­ment that a pro­tester that had thrown an egg at Ed Miliband ran way “Like a girl. Throws like a girl too.” Which prompted blog­ger Ophe­lia Ben­son to joke that she was tempted to move to Glas­gow to delib­er­ately not vote for him in 2015. He dug deeper that same day, when he claimed “I was insult­ing the pro­tester!”, miss­ing the point that he used wom­an­hood as an insult. That also has the effect of insult­ing all women, not just the protestor.

Any­way, to tonight. I’m pretty much fol­low­ing the inter­est­ing bits of Lib Dem Con­fer­ence from Sarah Brown and Zoe O’Connell. At a civil lib­er­ties fringe event, I believe, Sarah made a com­ment that Labour leg­is­la­tion, pretty much like Tory leg­is­la­tion, has the adverse effect of pun­ish­ing the work­ing class dis­pro­por­tion­ately (a pan­elist gave the exam­ple of rob­bing a hand­bag gets you six months while rob­bing a pen­sion fund gets you a sus­pended sen­tence). It was about that time that Caron Lind­say (of Caron’s Mus­ings) com­mented about the sad state of affairs of alco­holics get­ting ASBOs, to which Har­ris entered the debate.

ASBOs are pretty much some­thing tai­lored towards “anti­so­cial behav­iour”, which is typ­i­cally trans­lated as behav­iour that the mid­dle class Mail-reading pop­u­la­tion don’t like. Sarah com­mented as much last night, where she said the best way to escape alco­hol car­ry­ing laws that are com­mon in city cen­tres is to “look mid­dle class”. After all, who ever got arrested for car­ry­ing a bot­tle of Bordeaux?

Things got a bit ugly after Har­ris started talk­ing about the virtues of “per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity”, which is always a sus­pect phrase because it implies that poor peo­ple aren’t poor because of the cir­cum­stances of their upbring­ing, dis­abil­ity, dis­priv­i­lege — nah, they’re just too feck­less. To which Tom started argu­ing about the “vic­tims” of alco­hol addic­tion, boast­ing proudly about how he got an alco­holic evicted from his house:

Har­ris doesn’t give a damn if you’re an alcoholic.

Now, this is the impor­tant thing: alco­hol depen­dence is a men­tal dis­or­der listed in the DSM. Telling some­one they need to “take per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity” for their depen­dence is like say­ing that a depres­sion patient needs to “get over it”. And just get­ting a per­son evicted won’t solve any­thing! All it will do is shift the prob­lem some­where else. In every town cen­tre and city cen­tre in the coun­try, there are home­less peo­ple drink­ing them­selves asleep at night on cheap cider in door­ways and alley­ways. It’s a legit­i­mate human­i­tar­ian cri­sis. Surely, as an MP for Glas­gow, which has one of the worst rates of alco­hol addic­tion in the coun­try, he should realise that? It would be seen as sim­ple naivety, were it not for the fact he chose the evic­tion route over med­ical intervention.

It’s one of the prob­lems that has occurred because gov­ern­ments are too respon­sive to pop­u­lar opin­ion: we dis­card what works for a sense of “nat­ural jus­tice”, in a way. In the six­ties, we had NHS-funded halfway houses for heroin addicts. Those were later closed down to appear tough on drug addic­tion. The result is a spike in drug addic­tion that peo­ple are still being arrested for. We’re get­ting bet­ter recently, and we’re start­ing to treat peo­ple with addic­tions as peo­ple. We need to do a sim­i­lar thing for alco­hol addic­tion: try to find a way to cure it through humane and eth­i­cal treat­ments. Reha­bil­i­ta­tion is cer­tainly more humane than eviction.

But, sadly, peo­ple like Har­ris don’t seem to care about it. Entire pol­i­tics, espe­cially tribal pol­i­tics, and espe­cially some nasty areas of the Labour Party, want to appear, to bor­row the old cam­paign slo­gan, tough on crime, but they’re not being tough on the causes of crime. And tough on what the pub­lic see as morally wrong. It’s about time peo­ple got off their arses and started giv­ing an actual damn about dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple and peo­ple in poverty, because oth­er­wise we’re going to see all these prob­lems con­tinue to rise until we walk blindly into author­i­tar­i­an­ism because we’re too stu­pid to think.

Edit: A few min­utes after I posted this I received con­fir­ma­tion that Har­ris wasn’t naive, he was down­right mali­cious in forc­ing a men­tally ill per­son onto the streets when he was aware other options existed.

If you’ve got a men­tal ill­ness, expect Har­ris to be there to get you evicted.

5 comments

  1. […] Tower has also writ­ten up this exchange) Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailMoreRedditDiggPrintStumbleUponRelated posts: (Automatically […]

  2. Sarah Brown says:

    Good piece. Just one point of clar­i­fi­ca­tion: I used the exam­ple of DPPOs (pub­lic alco­hol bans). The shoplift­ing exam­ple was one of the panelists.

  3. […] O’Connell and Tin Tower on evil MP Tom “Dick­head” Har­ris get­ting someone […]

  4. […] lit­tle risk attached to bike theft, it makes it worth­while for crim­i­nals despite the low rewards. Tom Har­ris is not a nice man – And the Pope is Catholic, but it’s good to be reminded that the Labour Party have […]

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