Sketch: Brian Whittle vs Kriss Akabusi

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 4 May 2018 in Comment

Parliamentary sketch: A debate on Scotland's success at the recent Commonwealth Games sees Brian Whittle get a tough time

Image credit: CS productions

It was a typical Tuesday afternoon in the Scottish Parliament chamber and Brian Whittle was airing his grievances with Kriss Akabusi. 

Or maybe that’s not right. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that it was a typical Tuesday afternoon in the Scottish Parliament chamber and everyone was sitting around making fun of Brian Whittle. Who knows.

The debate was meant to be on celebrating Scotland’s achievements at the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and as a former Commonwealth Games silver medal winner, Whittle should have been a figure of some respect. Someone to venerate. Someone who could provide an example of sporting excellence, who had performed at the highest level. Someone who the chamber could look up to.

Instead, they started calling him ‘One-shoe Whittle’. They sat around taunting him. Even his own party were doing it. It was all very cruel.

To be fair to Whittle – someone has to be – the Tory MSP for South Scotland had actually started off by trying to introduce some semblance of sense into proceedings, largely through his attempts to list everyone who had won a medal for Scotland at the 2018 Games. It was only later that he turned his ire on Kriss Akabusi.

Now, you’re probably wondering how Kriss Akabusi comes into this. Well, you’re probably wondering a number of things, but the reason Brian Whittle was so resentful of Kriss Akabusi – the beloved sprint champion and former presenter of children’s TV show Record Breakers – is that he felt Akabusi was to blame for the torment he was experiencing. As SNP MSP George Adam put it, somewhat nostalgically: “I watched a certain Brian Whittle run round the track wearing one shoe and winning a gold medal in the 4x400m relay. To this day, he blames Kriss Akabusi for standing on his shoe. One-shoe Whittle – whatever happened to him?”

The answer, it transpired, was that One-shoe Whittle was right in front of him. Speaking with the air of a man confronting his demons, he confirmed: “It was Kriss Akabusi who took my shoe off.”

This was twenty years of resentment, playing out in the middle of the Scottish Parliament.

And that’s how bullying works, basically. Tavish Scott had teased him, everyone else had followed suit, and so Brian Whittle lashed out at Kriss Akabusi, who, of course, was not present to defend himself.

Scott had started, in a similar vein to Whittle, by listing every athletic achievement he felt he could lay claim to. “When looking back at the Glasgow 2014 games, I thought about the three athletes from Shetland who were part of Team Scotland,” he said.

To be honest, it was hard to say how much credit the Shetland branch of the Scottish Lib Dems could take from the talent and hard work of some athletes that had literally nothing to do with them, but you can’t blame a guy for trying. And anyway, maybe that’s what the Lib Dem Fight Back (#libdemfightback) is all about. Who knows what else those guys have achieved. After all, if you remove all sense of causation from world events, you could argue that the Lib Dems are behind every major success, globally.

Sadly, that’s not how everyone approached the matter, though, with the SNP’s Mairi Gougeon popping up with an intervention to ask if Tavish Scott agreed “that we all, as elected members, have a role to play” in promoting sport.

Continuing with what was apparently an attempt to be helpful, Gougeon reminded him that “his colleague Willie Rennie ran 170 miles recently, for example, and I am sorry that Liam Kerr is not in the chamber, because we are competing against each other in a triathlon in Forfar in the summer.”

It was true – Rennie had run a ridiculous distance to raise money for SAMH. Would that be something Tavish Scott would consider? Well, would it?

Scott looked oddly sheepish at that point, muttering that he “knew that that question was coming”, before quickly ending his speech in a seeming attempt to avoid any more attention.

So that was Scott good and bullied, but who was next? It turned out it was Brian Whittle again. Anas Sarwar had taken to his feet to pay tribute to “all the team members who did our country proud”, which seemed fair enough. Sadly, for the Tory MSP, though, Sarwar wasn’t finished. “I also want to say how inspirational it is to have a genuine athlete among us in the chamber,” he announced, glancing around at his colleagues. Finally, it seemed, someone was going to give Whittle the credit he deserves.

Or perhaps not. “Of course,” Sarwar continued, “I mean Mairi Gougeon, rather than One-shoe Whittle, who, last week, struggled to get to his seat for decision time.”

Poor Brian Whittle. By then there was no time left, with Minister for Public Health and Sport Aileen Campbell closing the debate. Obviously feeling guilty about Whittle’s treatment, she tried to claim she had cheered on his accomplishments decades before. “In 1986, I was just a wee girl cheering him on, alongside Anas Sarwar, who was an even wee-er boy,” she asserted, to widespread laughter.

Whittle watched on. This wasn’t supposed to have happened. At least he still had both his shoes.

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