Salmond came, he saw…
.. and he blew them away.
I am eating my words, the witterings of a burd that spends far too long in her eyrie fretting over nothing. Shame on me for ever doubting him.
How to explain my angst? Well, this comment to the previous blogpost on Leveson sums it up succinctly: “There are two entirely different angles to this. The first is what actually happens and the second is what is reported.”
Indeed, the whole is too good to leave languishing in the comments thread, so I’ve included it here for wider discernment:
On the former, you have nothing to fear because Alex Salmond has done nothing wrong – NOTHING. Even if he wanted to do a deal with Murdoch, he has nothing in his gift to trade. Murdoch did not get to where he is by doing deals with people who can offer him nothing.
I hope Salmond will tell Leveson that he knew that dealing with Murdoch might be bad for his personal reputation but that his reputation is secondary to what is best for Scotland. If something is in Scotland’s interest then he will pursue it despite the political dangers to him personally.
I consider this similar to the Megrahi release. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so ultimately the issue is what, in his judgement, is best for Scotland. We should all know by now that whatever decisions are made, the opportunists in oppostion will try to spin it for their political purposes.
Which brings me to the latter angle – what is reported. Here the Scottish media’s and Labour’s interests align. A chance to bash Murdoch and Salmond – manna from heaven.
No matter that there is not a shred of evidence of wrong-doing on Salmond’s part. No matter that it is Labour and Tory politicians who regularly gorge on News International hospitality. No matter that a Labour PM’s wife threw birthday parties for Rebekah Brookes. Alex Salmond and Rupert Murdoch shared a cup of tea and a caramel wafer. Bang to rights and to hell with whether such a meeting might have had a benefit for Scotland.
Labour has long been blinded by its hatred of Salmond. Now that he no longer supports it, Labour is also blinded by its hatred of Murdoch. Labour has willing allies in the Scottish media who have a vested interest in rubbishing Murdoch and who are generally ill-disposed to Salmond’s political objectives.
So, you are right to worry Kate but only about what is reported.
Leveson’s inquisitors have proven about as effective as a cat-flap in an elephant house (if I might borrow the phrase). Some of the rubbish that Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband have been allowed to get away with almost unchallenged has been disgraceful but then, as someone below pointed out, Leveson is not putting anyone on trial.
Ed Miliband says he wants plurality in the media. The fact that he thinks that one owner in control of a tabloid, a broadsheet and a sunday broadsheet is too much demonstrates his complete lack of business intelligence. Perhaps he imagines a world in which newspaper proprietors carve up the market equally and all run their publications at a loss just to ensure we have Ed’s defintion of plurality of the press.
Ed’s and Labour’s problem is not the number of Murdoch’s titles but their popularity and, more importantly, that they are currently politically aligned with their opponents.
The longer they try to press this, the worse it will turn out for Labour in the long run. I suspect there are many in the Labour Party that are very uncomfortable about how this is being handled but the short term satisfaction of giving Salmond and Murdoch a kicking will be too much to resist for their leaders.
They would do well to remember the parable of the Gray man who would be King. But they won’t.”
And at yesterday’s evidence session, this is exactly what Alex Salmond did, insisting that at all times in his engagement with the Murdochs (which was meagre compared to the activity of other political leaders, he was right to stress), he was acting in Scotland’s interests. There are some – and I am one – who instinctively recoil against an SNP First Minister cosying up to Murdoch (and any other media mogul) but that’s the reason Alex Salmond is First Minister and folk like me are not. I just wish he looked like he isn’t enjoying it quite so much….
The analysis of the political consequences of Salmond’s success are bang on. Labour has nowhere to go with this, especially in Scotland. Indeed, the tables are now turned. Having advised that his phone wasn’t hacked – but his bank account apparently was – it is instructive to ask the Labour benches (and indeed, the other parties) if any of theirs were. Either they have victims of gross press intrusion in their midst, which begs the question why they were prepared to create a political division where there was none – or they don’t, which highlights how unimportant they were/are in the political scheme of things and they can all thank their lucky stars not to have been subject to grubbing around in theirs and their families’ lives.
The grudging admiration from UK newspapers and journalists has wider significance for the independence referendum, for the SNP and the First Minister. It is probably too much to hope that they all stop patronising and dismissing him – and Scotland’s Government - in equal order; some habits and prejudices are too ingrained.
But they are now left scratching their heads wondering what they need to do to land a blow. Some might even shy away from doing so. Whatever, they are all going to have to rethink their tactics and their role in the coming battle for hearts and minds. It’s too much to expect Damascene-style reversals, but for the next few months at least, the SNP should have a fair following wind. And the party should make the most of it.
The reason why Alex Salmond’s appearance before Leveson mattered was because it was a sideshow which had the potential to derail well, everything.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve had an important speech from John Swinney on the economic benefits of independence, a potentially culture-shifting announcement on housing and proposals set out to start constructing the kind of infrastructure Scotland will need when independent.
Moreover, we’ve had the Health Secretary smoothly and expertly handling a major public health crisis, a draft bill which will fundamentally shift the emphasis of our criminal justice system, and important steps taken towards asserting Scotland’s right to create or at least maintain the kind of welfare state we all intrinsically believe in.
All of them received a smattering of coverage and no more. Yet, these are the clear signs of a government rediscovering its mojo and crucially, aligning all the tectonic plates that they have available to them in devolved government in preparation for 2014.
This is the kind of activity which we should all be discussing and debating. This is government and governance worth talking about.