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Cultural encounters

Brian Taylor | 14:33 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The verdict on Frank McAveety at Holyrood?

There's some anger with him, some sympathy for him, some exasperation that he was foolish - again.

But there is an over-arching view that he had to step down as the convener of the public petitions committee following his sotto voce comments appraising "an attractive girl" who was attending his committee as an observer.

To be blunt, it is the job of the convener to ensure that his committee is running smoothly and efficiently. Not to ogle members of the audience.

Still less should he be offering a brief running commentary to the committee clerk, to the effect that the woman in question was "dusky" and "the kind you'd see in a Gauguin painting".

Adding "there's a bit of culture" only made it worse.

He is an intriguing character, Mr McAveety. A former English teacher and twice, briefly, a Minister, he can converse intelligently about politics and culture one moment - before slipping all too easily into the mode of a laddish rascal the next.

Late arrival

It is as if these two characteristics compete for prominence in his personality, in Manichean fashion.

By common consent, he had done a notably good job at public petitions - expanding the committee's role of linking parliament and people.

But the ex-convener has form. He it was who, as a minister, explained his late arrival in the chamber by claiming he had been at a cultural encounter.

He had, in fact, been scoffing a pie in the Holyrood canteen.

That, supposedly, led to him being billed as "the pieman" in some quarters of his native Glasgow.

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