Not So Liberal Alex Cole-Hamilton
After more than a decade as leader Willie Rennie is standing down from the Scottish Liberal Democrats having led his party to political obscurity. While Rennie has become a laughing stock his replacement is not nearly so amusing.
Admit it – you found Willie Rennie’s campaign stunts to be fun, didn’t you? If it was pictures of him wrestling with sheep, sitting on giant deckchairs, playing giant chess, communicating with badgers and penguins, roleplaying as Marty McFly or Santa, we all secretly enjoyed it. Even if enjoying it was playing into the hands of the Liberal Democrats, it was fun. Not that we should forget that the Liberal Democrats have deeply harmful policy history with their Conservative colleagues since 2010, or even the fact their 2019 manifesto proposed more austerity than Boris Johnson. We can continue to call out the Scottish Liberal Democrats, even as the likeable Willie Rennie steps down as leader of the party.
So, what next for the Scottish Liberal Democrats? The results of the recent Holyrood election leave them in a grim position – losing one MSP and 50 deposits. Whilst their vote is heavily localised and fortified, with their strongest voter base in Orkney and Shetland, it is simply not enough to expand electorally. Instead, the party has become the victim of tactical voting; with party supporters lending their vote to Labour or the Conservatives to defeat the SNP. This is most notable with Liberal Democrat voters tactically lending their vote to deputy Labour leader Jackie Baillie.
There is no clear path for the Liberal Democrats, and their next leader is going to need to do a lot of heavy lifting.
This leaves us with rumours of Alex Cole-Hamilton standing to be the new leader of the party, with some suggesting that he will be unopposed. Readers will recognise him for his constant disinformation on criteria to rejoin the EU, or his former weird obsession of Queensferry Crossing and misunderstanding of how bridge infrastructure works. Others will recognise him from the Holyrood Inquiry into complaints made against Alex Salmond, which subsequently leaked sensitive evidence and early drafts of their report to the media. If you are lucky, you won’t know much about Alex Cole-Hamilton at all.
Whilst the Scottish Liberal Democrats may seem irrelevant for now, losing their parliamentary privileges due to only having four MSPs, it is still important to remember the kind of political leadership they represent. Whilst Rennie’s leadership was optimistic in the face of constant defeat, the leadership style offered by Hamilton is one that offers deep misinformation and misogynistic attitudes.
Hamilton’s attitude towards women did not catch the media eye until he was caught on recording using offensive language to a female government minister Maree Todd. When caught, he used his platform to instead blame his actions on Todd whilst only talking partial responsibility.
Blaming your actions on the victim is classic misogyny 101, but this example alone is not enough. However, we can include his sneering and judgemental comments about Nicola Sturgeon’s record on young carers because she did not have kids for herself. Judging women by their experiences with children is draconian, but it is made even more awful when he ignores Sturgeon’s previous miscarriage. His comments were later condemned by the young carers charity Who Cares? Scotland.
Other women took to social media to explain why Hamilton’s commentary reeked of misogyny, but the potential future leader of the Liberal Democrats refused to listen.
More recently, Hamilton used his position on the Salmond Inquiry at Holyrood to attack Nicola Sturgeon, instead of focussing to improve the complaints system at the Scottish Parliament.
Now call me crazy, but you would think that a man who calls himself a feminist would perhaps not use women’s complaints to undermine a political opponent before the inquiry had even reached its conclusion. It is almost as if, and stay with me here, Hamilton did not care about the victims at all.
Speaking of not caring, we should also note the pain and anxiety that Hamilton brought to MSP Michelle Thomson’s daughter – personally delivering leaflets smearing the SNP politician.
Perhaps we’re being too harsh on Hamilton here. Afterall, whilst he has a clear attitude problem with women, we can at least praise him for his constant commentary on how ethnic nationalism is bad. Let’s take his honest and fair comment on the attack on former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and his English background.
There is just one catch – this tweet is now deleted. Hamilton realised that the ethnic nationalism being displayed was not by an SNP MP, but rather a Conservative MP. Hamilton realised he was condemning a unionist colleague and quickly retracted his comment. For someone who claims to be a liberal, it seems rather odd he will not condemn ethnic nationalism from the Conservatives. Or maybe, and again stay with me here, he does not really care about challenging it.
It is not the first time Hamilton has had odd issues with ethnic nationalism. When alt-right Republicans attacked the US capitol building after the electoral defeat of Donald Trump, Hamilton took to social media to instead praise a speech made by Republican politician Mitch McConnel.
It will come to no surprise to anyone that this tweet was later deleted when it quickly garnered the wrong attention.
So far we’ve gathered that Alex Cole-Hamilton is not a principled individual (to say the least), but we should also mention the extent he goes to spread misinformation. We have already noted his lies when it comes to an independent Scotland rejoining the EU, but did you know that Hamilton created an entirely fake newspaper to promote himself?
And no, the “newspaper” did not have any obvious party branding on it. Hamilton has taken the phrase “fake news” to the next level.
Before concluding this article, let us consider another blatant lie and smear told during the 2019 Shetland by-election.
At a glance anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the world of politics can see this is a lie. A classic “never happened” scenario. We should be encouraging more young people to be active and interested in politics to make a positive difference, not smearing them with lies because they happen to be in a different party. The more obvious fact this is a lie is because young SNP activists were not active in Lerwick during that time, but rather in North Brae – 23 miles away.
I think we can all agree that Scotland would be better off without the dangerous misinformation and disgusting misogyny which consumes the politics of Alex Cole-Hamilton.