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October 6, 2022

Politics commentator Iain Macwhirter leaves Herald after ‘offensive and unacceptable’ tweet

By Bron Maher

The Herald’s political commentator Iain Macwhirter is ending his column at the paper after tweeting an “offensive and unacceptable” comment about Liz Truss’ cabinet.

Macwhirter (pictured) responded last month to a tweet about racial diversity among new ministers by describing the group as “the coconut cabinet”.

The Herald announced on Thursday it had concluded its investigation into the matter and that it was “satisfied that there was no racist intent” behind the tweet.

But it said Macwhirter, a former BBC journalist and University of Edinburgh rector, would nonetheless leave The Herald after his final column on Sunday.

Macwhirter, whom The Herald described as “an exceptional long-serving political commentator for The Herald over 22 years”, published the offending post on 7 September.

Queen Mary politics professor Tim Bale had written in a tweet that commentators were “celebrating diversity in the ‘great offices of state’. But it’s maybe worth noting that [Kwasi] Kwarteng, [James] Cleverly and [Suella] Braverman were all privately educated.”

Macwhirter quote-tweeted the comment, asking: “The coconut cabinet?”

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The term “coconut” is sometimes used to suggest a black or brown person is “white on the inside”, and to that effect is often regarded as a way of inappropriately questioning their identity.

Following backlash, Macwhirter deleted the post and published an apology describing it as “unacceptable language” and a “cack-handed attempt at humour”.

Among his defenders was Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who argued: “No one who follows Macwhirter’s work (as I have done for years) could think that he has a racist bone in his body.”

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