Given that Jeremy Corbyn is a Hamas sympathiser with an IRA sympathiser as his Shadow Chancellor, I imagine he didn’t think too much about promoting a little-known Scot named Mike Watson. He is a Labour peer, who now takes a place in Corbyn’s frontbench as education spokesman. He is also a convicted arsonist, who quit the Scottish Parliament in disgrace after being caught drunkenly setting fire to a set of curtains during the Scottish Politician of the Year ceremony 2004. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison, which he served in HMP Edinburgh.
Watson’s undeserved rehabilitation says much about how Corbyn is having to scrape the very bottom of the barrel for people willing to serve under him. I was political editor of The Scotsman at the time of Watson’s conviction, and remember it as the lowest point that Holyrood sank to. Here’s how my then newspaper reported it:-
After the private function, staff on duty noticed that Lord Watson appeared drunk and was acting strangely as he was looking for his coat. Fiscal Depute Adrian Fraser [prosecuting] said the accused was also approaching staff and being rude to them as they would not serve him wine. He said that CCTV footage showed the accused entering the reception area and taking something from the fireplace. He then lifted up a lamp from the fireplace and started to point it around the room as if it was a torch. He was then seen bending down for a number of seconds at the curtain that was set on fire, the court heard.
And my favourite line from that report:-
One MSP said: “It is very a sad situation. Most people put it down to drink. It is a salutary lesson in what can happen.”
Oh yes! It could happen to any of us, eh? You know how it is: one pint too many, then next thing you know you’re crawling under curtains with your zippo trying to burn the place down! Happens to the best of us.
Watson had the gall to deny the reports at first, until CCTV footage was released. He changed his plea to ‘guilty’ (claiming he was too smashed to remember anything) and was imprisoned after social assessment concluded that there was a significant risk of his re-offending. He caused £4,500 of damage that night, not to mention the potential risk to those in the hotel at the time.
“Fire-raising is a most serious crime. The potential for serious injury to guests and staff within the hotel, and for very significant damage to the property, was considerable.”
And the sheriff’s concluding remarks to Watson bear repeating now:
“You present a significant risk to reoffending and public safety, I believe a custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal. No other disposal would, in my view, address the concern for public safety”.
After his conviction, Scottish Labour said:
‘Mr Watson has been expelled from the Labour Party. His sentence illustrates that if you commit a serious crime in Scotland, no matter who you are, you must face the consequences. That is right.’
Except, he wasn’t ‘Mr’ Watson. Shamefully, he had been made a Labour peer in 1997 after losing out in a Glasgow selection battle. But back in those days, convicted criminals could not be thrown out of the Upper Chamber – so he has been kicking around ever since waiting for someone like Corbyn, who specialises in befriending villains, to give the education brief to a convicted arsonist. Yes, the education brief.