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.