Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Devolution
16 February 2012updated 26 Sep 2015 8:46pm

The Alex Salmond dictator game

The Scottish First Minister has been compared to Milosevic, Mugabe, Hitler, and Kim Jong-Il. Can you

By Samira Shackle

Last week, Alex Salmond was criticised after he described a senior BBC official as a “political Gauleiter”, the name given to Nazi regional leaders. However, as one commenter, Jock (and this blog from Wings over Scotland), points out, this criticism was quite ironic given the array of dictators that the First Minister himself has been compared to. Here’s a selection.

Alex Salmond is like. . .

. . .Slobodan Milosevic!

The Labour MP Denis Macshane caused some controversy when he compared Salmond to the Serbian dictator earlier this month. He tweeted:

Scotland “a beacon for progressive opinion south of the border”. This from Slobodan Salmond who supported Milosevic butchery in Balkans.

. . .Robert Mugabe!

The BBC received 152 complaints after Jeremy Paxman compared the First Minister to Robert Mugabe on Newsnight on 26 January. The BBC said that it was “good-natured” sparring between two political operators. Here is what was said:

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Paxman: You say that an independent Scotland would be a beacon of progressiveness — I think I recall Robert Mugabe saying something similar about Zimbabwe.

Salmond: I don’t think, Jeremy, that you are doing yourself any great favours by comparing Scotland to Zimbabwe.

Paxman: I’m comparing you to Mugabe. Implicit in that is the idea that this is a one-party state. Implicit in that assumption is that there is only one party that can rule Scotland.

Paxman is not the only one to make the Mugabe comparison. In a rather less good-natured exhange last November, the Conservative peer and former Scotland Secretary Lord Cormack asked whether “the First Minister of Scotland seeking to emulate Ian Smith or Robert Mugabe” in declaring independence.

. . .Benito Mussolini!

Back in December 2009, the Labour MSP Lord Foulkes referred to Salmond as “Il Duce” — the nickname of Italy’s WWII dictator — during a meeting at Holyrood. Defending his comments, he said he’d made the comparison because the First Minister was “trying to become minister for everything”.

. . .Adolf Hitler!

Tom Harris, the Labour MP, got in hot water at the start of this year when he posted a Downfall parody. The popular meme involves writing parodic subtitles over the climactic final scene of the 2004 movie, and has been used countless times for humorous effect. The Labour Party didn’t see the joke, however, and Harris was forced to resign from his new media post.

He was not the first Labour MP to make the comparison. In 2007, Ann Moffat said:

Proportional representation gave Germany Adolf Hitler and in Scotland to a lesser degree we’ve had the member for Banff and Buchan.

While the SNP demanded an apology, she said she was referring to the voting system, not to individuals.

. . .Kim Jong-Il!

Another Conservative peer, Lord Forsyth, also took a swipe at Salmond, focusing on his wish to give the vote to 16 year olds:

Only nine countries in the world give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote. They include North Korea and Cuba, which also have leaders with a high opinion of themselves.

. . .Genghis Khan!

Kevin McKenna was damning with faint praise in the Observer in May:

The first minister is a splendid politician and has his heart in the right place, which is reassuringly left of centre. Yet he is displaying signs of the early onset of Genghis syndrome, where, having conquered one area of land, he doesn’t know when to stop. In Glasgow, he handed down one of his ukases by virtually telling the Labour council what buildings they should and should not be pulling down. At this rate, he’ll have reached Warsaw by next spring.

. . .Nicolae Ceausescu!

Over at the FT Alphaville blog, Neil Collins referenced Romania’s last Communist leader:

Alex Salmond looks smug as a bug right now. His popularity in the Scottish polls is approaching that of Nicolai Ceausescu when he was running Romania.

. . .Nero!

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie got historical on October 2010, when she said that listening to Salmond was like listening to:

…some latter-day Nero strumming out Gaudeamus igitur on his fiddle while tongues of flame reach out to our universities.

And finally. . .

. . .Lula da Silva!

It’s not all bad. Writing last month, Jason Cowley, the NS editor, made a favourable comparison to the charismatic former president of Brazil:

He is a kind of pale-faced, northern European Lula da Silva and his pro-market social-democratic populism, as with Lula’s in Brazil, is proving to be very appealing to a Scottish electorate that had grown weary of Labour’s client state and its entrenched culture of cronyism.


This blog was inspired by a commenter on this blog, Jock (06 February 2012, 12:16), who posted a list of Alex Salmond dictator comparisons.

It’s just come to my attention (pointed out by a reader below) that Jock’s comment appears to have been based on this blog from Wings over Scotland, so a huge hat-tip to Stuart Campbell at that blog.