Scottish Labour grubbing around in the politics of the gutter

There is nothing quite so fierce as a Scottish mammy defending and protecting her offspring – especially if they are boys.  So god help all those who have it in for wee Geoff Aberdein this weekend.

Scottish Labour thinks it has a cunning plan to wound Alex Salmond over the Murdoch stuff by gunning for his Special Advisor, Geoff Aberdein.  It worked at Westminster, after all.  Following revelations at the Leveson inquiry about the extent of contact between Jeremy Hunt’s Special Advisor and the Murdoch Empire’s man over the BSkyB takeover bid, the poor wee SpAD was thrown to the political and media wolves in the hope that some fresh meat would sate their appetites.  Not a chance, it simply whets them.

But the circumstances are different in Scotland.  The reason Hunt is in the firing line, and the reason his special advisor had to go, is because he was supposed to be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity on this takeover bid.  They are in the mire because they have a clear and unequivocal locus in the matter:  he is the one responsible for taking the decision and therefore should have been far more circumspect about the extent of dealings with one of the bidders.  The First Minister had no such direct link.  His special advisor was only offering a few sweet nothings whispered in the Culture Secretary’s ear.  Lame justification or not – the First Minister was only doing his job: standing up for what he perceived to be in Scotland’s interests in terms of jobs.  An awful lot of Scots will shrug and wonder what the problem is.

Mine might be a Murdoch-free household but I’m a rare commodity in Scotland.  Last year, over 800,000 Scots read the Scottish Sun, day in day out.  Over 300,000 bought it on a daily basis, 20,000 read the Times, 50,000 read it on a Sunday and over 40,000 watch Sky TV, email on Sky and make phone calls thanks to Sky.  The launch of the Sun on Sunday?  Achieving a similar readership to its defunct predecessor, the News of the World, of nearly 250,000.  Has anything in the past week caused any of them to change their reading or subscription habits?  I doubt it.

Scottish Labour’s tactics show up the paucity of political nous in the party.  They’ve got so caught up in Operation Get Salmond that they’ve forgotten to think through the details and the increasingly personalised nature of the attacks are counter-intuitive.

I don’t think I’ve ever met Geoff Aberdein nor had any dealings with him.  But thon wee earnest face staring out at us from all our Sunday blatts this morning?  Bless.  Maternal instincts have been churned all round the country, at Labour’s expense.  And if attacking a young man who looks like he still takes his washing home every weekend wasn’t bad enough, the party has dragged Alex Salmond’s family into the row.

A “nyaff on the internet” might not be entirely within Labour’s control but the dissembling on who is responsible for comments on a Facebook group that supports Labour ignores what ordinary folk will take from the incident.  A young Labour supporter thought it funny to wish death on Alex Salmond’s 90 year old father.  The paltry response from official Scottish Labour sources indicate just how off-kilter the party’s political antennae are.

Worse is the briefing going on about the First Minister’s late withdrawal from BBC Question Time on Thursday.  Apparently, Labour doesn’t believe that having a family funeral to go to is a good enough excuse.  It reckons that he could have gone from Scotland to Romford in Essex for filming early on Thursday evening and got back to Kirkcaldy in time for the funeral of his aunt on Friday morning.  The inference is that Salmond used the family bereavement to avoid a grilling on the Murdoch stuff on UK television.

I’m astounded that Labour is allowing this to be cast around.  Is its staff team populated by androids?  Do they think that this plays well with the public?  Has it learned nothing since 2011?

Apparently not.  Scottish Labour had a great opportunity to play this Murdoch business well.  But by choosing to play the man and not the ball, they have not made a single shot on target.  The party appears blinded by emotion – what dominated its pitch in the last week was its visceral and irrational hatred of Alex Salmond.  The man as much as the First Minister.  He might be the ultimate Marmite politician but bringing his family into things is playing in the rough.

The other dominant feature was the barely restrained anger at Salmond and the SNP having stolen its electoral birthright.  Still.

Stephen Noon’s analysis that what plays to the political galleries sits rather more uncomfortably with the public is spot on.   Personalising things to this extent ignores the salient fact that a majority of those who voted last 2011 chose this man and this party to lead their country.  Attack him in this way and Labour is indirectly attacking the voters.

Trying to get folk sacked, allowing supporters to denigrate family members, attacking Alex Salmond for choosing family over politics:  Scottish Labour is grubbing around in the gutter and it smacks of desperation.

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35 thoughts on “Scottish Labour grubbing around in the politics of the gutter

  1. Pingback: Paranoid SNP should welcome scrutiny « Better Nation

  2. Scottish Labour has driven itself beyond the limits of what is acceptable, honest and decent. They’ve abandoned principles, reason and debate and neck and neck with the Scots Lib Dems to a race to the bottom of the gutter. That a great party could have a moral compass so completely and utterly broken, I am amazed that Johann Lamont can find her way to work in the morning. Indeed I am astounded that they have decided that nothing less and complete contempt, spite and belligerent imbecility is the only approach that can work for them. We should ask them how much it is for a return ticket to earth from wherever it is that they live.

    An older work Colleague reminded me today that there was once a Joke about the Scottish Labour party about them being a “Shiver looking for a spine to race up” – That about sums this party up. And do does this quote by T Roosevelt –

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

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  5. I haven’t seen anything in the press from the Labour Party claiming Mr Salmond used a funeral as an excuse not to go on QT – I’ve seen lots of comments on the internet of course, but I saw lots of comments on the internet when Douglas Alexander pulled out of the same show under similar circumstances. Presumably those comments, this time from nationalists, was just good-humoured joshing?

    Anyhoo, what I think you have done in this post is give a reason why politicians should have nothing to do with the (anti)social media. It’s far too easy for any wee nyaff to sign up and plant nasty comments on a party they don’t like’s website. Why would any sensible politician open themselves to such a threat?

    Finally, your words on Mr Aberdein are obviously tongue in cheek. However, for me, it highlights one of our problems in politics in Britain today – all parties seem to rely on young folk with no or little experience of life playing very important roles in the running of our country. Let’s not forget just because he looks like a wee laddie who’d make any mammie proud Mr Aberdein is also a highly paid advisor to the FM. What kind of advice our FM gets from such a young man is of course open to question…

  6. Let’s be careful not to associate the plonker slagging off Salmond Senior with some union conspiracy, otherwise you will descend to the level of those who have a go at the SNP when one of their own plonkers fires away on the internet.

    • Very true. However, the silence coming from the Labour high command today on the matter has been deafening. Unless they were all at the last Old Firm game and celebrating/drowning their sorrows since..?

  7. I would be absolutely gobsmacked if over the past 6 years the FM hadn’t has contact with the organisation seling the biggest tabloid, the biggest broadsheet and the most popular independent TV outlet in the land.
    In fact I would know he wasn’t doing his job.
    He doesn’t have to like some people. He doesn’t have to agree with them. But he undoubtedly has to meet them. As the hypocrites in Labour and Tory well know as they have always been first in the queue.
    We are having Murdoch and Trump elevated to the evil status of Pol Pot.
    This attempt at smear is desperate and pathetic and sadly judging by some comments here some less perceptive people among us have swallowed it.
    God grant me an SNP of strong backbone which doesn’t deflate and start greeting in the face of this sort of nonsense.
    We don’t need the timid tripping us up and getting in the way .
    This is only the start.

    • Dave, you remind me of those within Labour who still defend, and mourn, the loss of Blair. There is a blind loyalty there that is unhealthy. I think Salmond made a big mistake and I have heard many within the SNP believe so as well and are not happy about the damage done. By cosying up to Murdoch Salmond imitated EXACTLY what Blair used to do in the beginning. Salmond took serious risks by associating with Murdoch especially after the Dowler phone hacking revelations had emerged and many of us were in shock at the filthy depths to which News International would sink. You call this “nonsense”, you call it “timid” to object to such associations? You even appear to be defending Murdoch and implying that he doesn’t deserve our contempt. I think you need to think again.

      • Sorry Jo, but if you were in shock about how low Murdoch could go after the Milly Dowler revelations, you’re a bit blind yourself. Murdoch has been a vile specimen of humanity from his earliest days in journalism – Google “Digby Bamford” to get a taste of the man. But he’s there and he employs several thousand people in Scotland.

      • Exactly Stuart.
        Jo seems resolutely determined to miss the point of my posts. I have made no supportive comment about Rupert Murdoch’s character whatsover.
        He does however own the major part of Scotland’s independent media and as such is a very significant figure,
        The fact is that Alex Salmond would have made a very damaging mistake if he had not developed a balanced relationship with him.
        I’m sure the unionists know this as do most sensible people. The story appears to have died a very sudden death today.
        There may be a few in the SNP naive enough to be swallowed in by Labour’s guff and no doubt some electoral damage has been done.
        This is what we have to learn to deal with. It will get worse but whether the smears are working is debatable. This sort of political activity suffers from quickly diminishing return and tends merely to stop people voting.

      • Jo
        You appear to have completely missed the point of my post.
        Alex Salmond havinga relationship with Murdoch was not a mistake. It was a political neccessity.
        As far as I know Murdoch has not (as yet) been found guilty of anything. I have little time for his political views or his newspapers but that in no way diminishes his significance and the importance of his huge organisation taking a relaxed view of our aims. The whole attack on Salmond in virtually all of then media is a complete nonsense. But it is not figuring in the Sun
        Sadly some SNP supporters are having an attack of the vapours here. Get a grip.
        I’ve met them all my life in the SNP. Purists who have no practical grasp of some of the things we have to do if we want to be independent.

    • No Dave, I don’t think I am missing your point. I believe I acknowledged the fact that as FM Salmond needed to deal with Murdoch at some level. But the extent of the contact, in my view, should be minimal, always formal and always minuted so that he remains squeaky clean . Have we not rightly scorned other prominent politicians over the years for being cosy with him? Thatcher? Blair? And now Cameron? You’ve scorned them again yourself in your own post yet you defend Mr Salmond’s association with him. I think that was foolish indeed.

      Stuart
      I was aware of what Murdoch was but I think even by those standards I was not alone in feeling shocked at the Milly Dowler phone hacking business.

      • Nope. You are merely adding fuel to a ridiculous and false over-reaction to a handful of meetings.

  8. Not to get into a “they started it” but the Herald piece and subsequent use of out of context quotes from Labour Hame at FMQ was, I thought, also rather nasty

  9. You’ve two absolutely pinpoint accurate things here (as well as the general correctness):

    1) Behind all this — and much of Labour’s malaise over the last decade and more — is the anger at anyone who is perceived as stealing the Labour birthright of the automatic votes of progressive people. It’s what killed the idea of a Lib/Lab coalition in 2010. It absolutely drives the personal rather than policy attacks on the SNP. I think that much of this is actually self-loathing redirected towards parties who are not only doing what Labour people think is fundamentally right (ie fighting for decent publically funded services and the rest), but *winning votes* by doing so, when Labour had jettisoned so much of that in the interests of electoral success.

    2) Unless you’re one of the blessed inner circle, we’re *all* wee nyaffs on the Internet, to be dismissed as the nutter element. Which is why any individual SNP/independence supporter expressing an online opinion is automatically derided as a cybernat. They simply can’t take seriously the idea that members of the public might have valid opinions, even when that opinion covers a spectrum that does of course terminate in nuttery.

  10. Of course the Labour press have got some great cover stories like “Jack got hacked” oh really,was he that important ? I don’t think so! But it made a great front page for the Sunday Mail and it could hide away any other story with its fake indignation about the c***k McConnell being in the hacking scandal.We really need to get to the whole population,as some will make excuses for this behaviour and stop the decent people finding out the truth,they have covered up so much ,so well,for so long.I just get desperate for the truth.

    • Was he that important? Hmmm, he was only First Minister of Scotland – as important as the current one then.

      Use language like that again and yer barred.

  11. I disagree that “Its different.” for Scotland when it comes to a man like Murdoch. I think Alex Salmond has been naive here and seriously naive at that. This has indeed wounded the SNP and has been a complete gift to Labour regardless of their own close, and personal, relationship with Murdoch. ( I mean, for goodness sake, Blair is Godfather to his child!)

    That said however I feel very disappointed in Salmond that he went beyond the minimum contact required in relation to Murdoch. He really should have known better. I was disappointed in Nicola too listening to her the other night on Newsnight Scotland essentially saying it didn’t matter what Murdoch is if jobs can be had. I disagree.

    If there is one vomit-inducing statement uttered throughout the Leveson Inquiry it is surely, “I swear by Almighty God to tell the truth………” We have seen a succession of liars utter those words, including Murdoch himself and his son, Even under oath politicians and the likes of Murdoch are not to be trusted. But then Murdoch thinks he personally is God anyway. That Alex indulged him in that belief is something I’m sure many SNP supporters are quite dismayed by.

    • It is different, as Alex could have no effect whatsoever on what the culture secretary was going to do,this is all a cover up and if Labour supporters wont see it then we will have more of the same,at Glasgow city Council,that is what it is about covering the bad stuff there,its local not national election lets not lose sight of the reality.

      • Charles it is no different Salmond associating with Murdoch than Thatcher, or Blair, or Cameron associating with him. It is equally unacceptable for him to do it. As they were Prime Ministers so he is First Minister of Scotland and he should have known better than to take the risk especially when the real filth within News International was emerging.

  12. I totally agree with you about the nasty personal stuff about Salmond’s dad. That’s purely horrible. You would hope that whoever operates any website claiming to support a political party would remove such nasty stuff because they do their side no good. However, I don’t think the SNP should be making a big thing about politicians being Facebook friends with people or following them on Twitter. There is quite a positive in politicians genuinely interacting with ordinary people and social networking sites allow them the chance to do that. People like Nicola Sturgeon, Tom Harris and Willie Rennie get it, too – they know it’s not always about broadcasting, but about listening to people and interacting with them. They should not withdraw for fear that someone associated with them will say something stupid. Let’s face it, an SNP Council candidate has said some pretty wicked things during this campaign and if Bill Walker had Facebook, you can be pretty sure that Nicola would not have turned down a friend request from him.

    Where I disagree is that Geoff Aberdein has no case to answer. I agree the situation is different as far as he and Adam Smith are concerned, but he did make a secret deal that the SNP, despite claims of openness and transparency, subsequently sought to cover up. The Lib Dems submitted an FOI request in July last year asking for full disclosure of all meetings between ministers, officials and News International. Why was this meeting not mentioned in the reply if there was such openness?

    Thing is, Salmond has now totally wrapped himself up with Geoff Aberdein, that if the former is found to have acted improperly, there’s literally nowhere for the First Minister to hide.

    Do you think it’s appropriate for the FM to offer to lobby a UK Govt minister on behalf of a corporation you have grave doubts about yourself? Do you really believe he was doing it for Scottish jobs? If that’s the case, why does he seem to be in a minority of one in the SNP? Even Angela Constance, my MSP, with a huge Sky call centre in her constituency opposed the BSkyB takeover bid.

    • It’s not about what you or I, or even Angela Constance, believes Caron. It’s about how this is being presented to the voters. The substance of the rights and wrongs of it has gone missing under Labour’s abject handling of it. That’s what the post is about.

      Re social media – yep I take your point. They could now either turf him or distance themselves more than they have. Again perception is all.

      And the issue re Geoff Aberdein is locus. Was there actually a meeting? Or was it an email exchange that got forgotten about in the disclosure – a disclosure that hasn’t been matched by any other political party in Scotland incidentally. And Leveson is about the relationship between media and politicians not just those in government.

      Aberdein can talk to Murdoch folk as much as he likes about BSkyB, the FM can talk it up to Jeremy Hunt as much as he likes. We might not agree with hinm doing so but he’s perfectly within his rights to do so. His reasons might not wash with us, doubt that’s the case for many voters who want it all to be about jobs right now.

      So again, what we think is immaterial. We are all part of the bubble. It’s about what people “out there” think that counts. And they ain’t buying this one.

    • I think you miss the point here in regards to the Facebook stuff, Caron. We’re always seeing the unionist parties going on about cybernats and demanding that the SNP should be able to control what these people – many of whom aren’t even SNP members – are saying on the internet. Well, if the SNP are responsible for some random person on the internet calling someone a “quisling” for actions deemed to be against Scotland’s interests, then Labour have to be responsible for someone calling for Salmond snr to die for no reason other than irrational hatred of Samond jnr.

      Double standards like this are what annoys nationalists about the media so much, and why we think there is clear bias. If a “Cybernat” had said that about Lamont’s dad, then we would never hear the end of it. We’d get the usual bluster trying to paint everyone who supports independence as thinking the same as this guy, the media making out that the guy was someone of importance in the SNP, Labour politicians wallowing in self-pity, Tavish tweeting till his thumbs bled… This is far worse than calling someone a “traitor” or whatever, because everyone knows you don’t bring someone’s family into an argument. But no, it’s just brought up then brushed under the carpet again. Nothing to see here.

      • Exactly,Doug. Double standards and dishonest plots.
        You are wasting your time if youtry to get the newspoaers to cover the meetings Milliband has had with Murdoch since Alex Salmond’s last meeting with him and the bog fottie of a smiling Milliband holding a copy of the Sun.

        If any evidence was needed about an orchestrated campaign against the SNP it is the way the attack on Salmond is turned on and then turned off again across the media with precision. I’ve just read three newspapers this morning. And would you believe – Alex Salmond’s contact with Murdoch doesn’t feature at all in them. Just like that. Maybe the attack was becoming counter productive. Who knows.
        The most blatant example of this double standards was the famous £800 attempted smear. This was the £800 London allowance AS took over one year -“even when parliament wasn’t sitting” . The allowance at £400 per month wasn’t determined on whether Parliament was sitting or not. It was paid to compensate MPs who came from far flung parts when they stayed in London on political business.
        Alex Salmond with £800 was about the lowest claimant off it – a majority of MPs took the full annual £4,800.
        Even better Jim Murphy took £5,200 that year – he took an extra month because he had missed one month the previous year. He took it even when he was in China. Even better he took it when he was mostly in Scotland – he told us he was mostly in Scotland over that period because he used that excuse to justify “flipping ” his house back again with the many thousands of pounds he got for that.
        What actually gets me is the weak members the SNP has who start to react and tremble and backtrack and attack our leadership when we get hit with this stuff. We are going to get hit and hit and hit till 2014. We’d better get used to it.

  13. Scottish Labour is incapable of any of this.
    This is the media campaign which Labour troops lamely along in step with.
    It of course has nothing to do with the council elections – who cares if the entirely dysfunctional outfit mismanaging Glasgow is allowed to continue – the task is to stop SNP advance by whatever means possible.
    These are desperation measures but it merely underlines the fact that we have to establish strong and direct communication with the electors and we have to establish firmly in their minds that the media lies to them.
    When that is done the media is neutered and the electors will be on our side against it.
    It isn’t done to date but it is a priority.

    • ” We have to establish strong and direct communication with the electors and we have to establish firmly in their minds that the media lies to them.”

      Dave, I am anything but anti-SNP, but, please, drop the fancy footwork and just get to the ball will you? For clearly even Salmond has taken his eye off it lately.

      What the electors, including many like myself who vote SNP, have seen is Alex entertaining the likes of Murdoch. That sends a very direct form of communication and it isn’t a good message. It simply isn’t possible to respond to that by saying, “Oh its just Labour at their usual antics.”

      For me, association with Murdoch is an absolute non-starter. It is the kiss of death. It is also plain daft to point, as we have, at the dirty dealings between Murdoch and the likes of Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and Co in the past and condemn them and then say it was ok for Alex to court him. It wasn’t. Murdoch’s people have been involved in disgusting conduct up to and including having Police on their payroll and hacking the phone of a missing girl who was actually dead by then. Why would Salmond want anything to do with him beyond the basic, “Hello, I’m Alex Salmond, I’m First Minister and all I’m asking is that your titles give us fair coverage.”?

  14. Kind of like what the SNP did to Wendy Alexander? If they thought she had to go then why not Aberdein and then Pringle. Face it they have in no way been standing up for Scottish jobs. That’s just a pathetic holding line that they remain unable to substantiate. Face the truth, they have become lobbyists for NewsCorp and find themselves in trouble because of it.

    • I don’t necessarily disagree with you but you miss the point of the post. Wendy Alexander was caught up in something that was political – Labour on this occasion is playing the personal. It won’t go down well with voters and smacks of a real lack of knowledge for running this kind of thing. Shows up all the party;s failings in technicolour.

    • Alexi, I think you’ll find the folks who did for Alexander were her own inner circle. They were the ones who fed evidence to the Sunday Herald including internal Parliamentary emails sent by her to them on her husband’s PC.

  15. Profoundly unpleasant – anyone who has recently lost a relative or is potentially about to lose one will find this grossly offensive.

    The saddest thing is it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Power corrupts, the desire for power clearly corrupts absolutely.

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