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.


35 thoughts on “Salmond came, he saw…

  1. The First Minister of Scotland has, under oath, asserted he has proof of serious criminality, but has refused to supply the Police with information about the crime. If he does not cooperate fully with the Legal Authorities he must be arrested, and suffer the consequences of his actions. No-one is above the law in our democracy.

  2. Pingback: So what did you learn at school this week? – Scottish Roundup

  3. “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.”

    Given the situation you refer to there concerns nearly 300 lives lost in appalling circumstances at Lockerbie that statement is truly shocking.

    What was “best for Scotland” was to allow a man’s appeal to be heard and for the original conviction to be tested with the grounds raised by the SCCRC, six of them, suggesting a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. What was “best for Scotland” was for our corrupt justice system to be forced to hear the appeal instead of delaying it for more than two years until it was dropped because a very sick man was told if he didn’t drop it it might affect his chances of being released.

    If you truly believe that politicians attempting to pervert the course of justice or continuing to support a corrupt justice system is remotely “best for Scotland” that is a Scotland I suspect most people would not want to have any part of. The Unionist Parties have been trying to keep the truth behind Lockerbie buried for years, starting with Thatcher. That Salmond chose to allow his Party to assist them in that aim continues to shock many of his own supporters.

  4. Pingback: Salmond came, he saw… | Scottish Politics |

  5. I do wonder what it would take for some of the regular posters here to be even mildly critical of Salmond. I imagine if he had turned up at the inquiry with a prostitute on each arm, smoked crack in the break and had kitten for lunch, some would claim that as he works very hard, he deserves a good day out in London.

    So it turns out that he’s not exceptional, he doesn’t work to higher standards and his feet are made of the same clay-like substance as most other politicians’. He has the common insecurity of all but the truly exceptional leaders, power from the ballot box is fleeting and temporary and it’s difficult to avoid sucking up to power to make yourself seem and feel more powerful. An Eck is for Christmas, a Rupert is for life. Most politicians don’t tell truth to power, they ask if it would like tea and biscuits. Salmond of course is different in that he’s offering shortbread.

    To accept that there was no quid pro quo for supporting the BskyB bid requires a major suspension of disbelief. As I understand it Salmond’s line is that he did not explicitly ask Murdoch for support from the Scottish Sun because it was a matter for the editor. So he said to Murdoch, if we want support for the SNP from the Sun, we should speak to the editor? This is a question as neutral as, “You’ll have had your tea then?” I know, you all know and Salmond knows, Murdoch is a famously interventionist proprietor. Traditionally he has been very close to his UK papers and speaks to the editors on a regular basis.

    I’m sure that the job issue did play a part. However I suspect that had it been major milling company Flourcorp instead of Newscorp, then its charismatic owner ‘Dusty’ Murdoch would have been talking to a Cabinet Minister…..

  6. Two points.

    1) How do we know that Salmond’s phone wasn’t hacked (and why is this such a political hot potato?). After all, Salmond answered “as far as I know…” whilst mentioning that the Met were remiss in revealing their information to Strathclyde Police. This if anything was a distraction from the real issue. Mind you, how much Humble Pie must be being readied at the offices of The Observer?

    2) While Salmond has been vociferous in his defence of his Government in their dealings with News Corporation, this episode still raises questions regarding the naievity of the SNP and their supporters in their dealings with such an infamous figure (and notorious in the influence he and his newspapers wield). Maybe Murdoch was interested in Scottish Independence, I tend to think that he was more attracted to a party that shared his ideas on business taxation and saw potential in an Independent Scotland regulating its own broadcasting media – a market not dominated by the BBC.

    Still, at least Salmond looked like he didn’t need to watch “Clear and Present Danger” for advice, unlike Cameron…

    • “Mind you, how much Humble Pie must be being readied at the offices of The Observer?”

      Apart from a hint in a Tweet I saw yesterday, I haven’t been able to source a name for the ex-Observer journalist referred to at Leveson.

      Blindly, I’d be willing to wager that the journalist was working for a News International newspaper or a NewsCorps broadcasting concern when the bank hack information was passed to the First Minister.

      If the journalist is/was a News International or NewsCorps employee, then you can bet that Labour will try to make hay out of the perception that Salmond is still doing Murdoch work. I’m suprised they didn’t today.

      The debut Sunday Sun endorsement by the FM passed the blame equally among the newspaper industry, yet it is News International’s journos who are being systematically arrested.

      I’ll freely admit that most people don’t give a fig about this, but it doesn’t stop it from being gravely important to the integrity of Alex Salmond.

      Have you heard anything on the grapevine Kate?

  7. Pingback: Members, Oaths & Gravitas | laidbackviews

  8. “I just wish he looked like he isn’t enjoying it quite so much….”

    Clever tactic. I first heard of it from Henrik Larson, ex Celtic player. He was asked why he didn’t roll around on the ground for ages every time he was kicked and try to get a free kick. His response was something along the lines of “I want defenders who kick me to know that they can’t hurt me.” I think Salmond uses a similar tactic, most evidenced when interviewed by Paxman. When compared to Mugabe, instead of beng hurt or offended, Salmond just laughed at him. He’s very good at what he does…

    • Hi there. I appreciate you want to keep raising the issues around the Lockerbie conviction and case but I’d rather you didn’t post off-topic comments on threads. Many thanks.

      • Dear Burd, I dislike off-topic spam as much as anyone, but offensive rubbish such as this has to be countered.

        David, “polygraphs” are a nonsense con trick. Anyone who thinks they prove whether or not someone is telling the truth is deluded. Juval Aviv’s polygraph antics in the wake of the Pan Am 103 tragedy were reprehensible in the extreme. He entrapped and then claimed to have implicated two innocent airport employees, O’Neil and Tuzcu, who were working at the departure gate in Frankfurt. What he alleges not only didn’t happen, but no conspirator with a normal complement of marbles would have contemplated such a plan for a nanosecond.

        Please stop this “google what I tell you to google” spam and engage constructively with the Lockerbie debate in appropriate forums. And let the rest of us get on with admiring Salmond’s masterly performance at Leveson.

      • OK, I’m done. The Burd can deal with that nonsense.

      • Burdy, the Lockerbie issue was mentioned in the post you highlighted in your own post earlier. So I’ m not sure we can say anyone has gone “off topic”. The writer of the original post you quoted is perhaps unconcerned about Megrahi or Lockerbie: some of us feel very differently about that.

        “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.”

        I replied to that section of the post earlier. And those who “keep raising issues around the Lockerbie conviction and case” do so because we really all need to realise how very important an issue it was and how vital it is to ensure no one forgets what happened there and how a corrupt Scottish Justice system, along with every political Party in the UK, yes even the SNP, made sure we got anything but justice. Many SNP supporters remain very unhappy about Salmond’s “performance” over the truth behind Lockerbie because to date it is looking like he was, and still is, supporting his Unionist counterparts in keeping the truth buried.

  9. A complete car crash for Lamont at FMQs today. And you could see the realisation dawning on her with each passing ‘question’.

    And the wreckage was only worsened by the totally disgraceful contribution from Michael MacMahon who sullied a perfectly valid constituency issue by using it to try to score cheap political points which included a blatant lie.

    Then Kez Dugdale tries to resuscitate the corpse of her supposed revelation that some modern apprenticeships have gone to people who were already in jobs. Apparently the Scottish Government is somehow responsible for the fact that Labour’s Youth Employment spokesperson thought that 25000 MAs was the same as 25000 new jobs.

    This could go down in history as the day that Scottish Labour died. Over 5 years in opposition, with their third new leader and all they can do is demonstrate a lack of vision, a lack of humility and a lack of intelligence.

    To all those in the Scottish Labour Party who believe in building a progressive Scotland, please, please, please dump this lot of numpties and get involved in the Yes Scotland campaign where you will find a platform where you can do something positive with your beliefs.

    • Alternatively, you could grill your leaders as to why they are queuing up with Cameron to bury “Fiscal Autonomy” whatever happens in 2014?

  10. Pingback: Salmond came, he saw… | Politics Scotland |

  11. Assuming that Alex Salmond is telling the truth, the question is still left hanging as to how his thought processes worked on this. Did he put to one side any consideration of the arguments of media plurality/conduct because of his perception that ‘Scottish jobs’ were at stake (and, by happy coincidence, because those considerations were the responsibility of others)? Or did he analyse the media plurality/conduct issues and, finding nothing wrong, gave his support on the economic arguments? He seems to be arguing the the first of these alternatives, which seems to be morally questionable. Can support for any issue be justified solely on the grounds that ‘Scottish jobs’ are at stake? I hope not.

    • Apologies for the delay in moderation – caused solely by my not being around much during the day

    • Do you work for johann Lamont by any chance? It would explain a lot. 🙂

      I think it is quite clear from his evidence that Salmond’s representations would have been that the positive impact on Scottish jobs should be taken into account when the decision was being made.

      He at no point said that this should outweigh any other consideration but, as a matter for which he has resposibility, felt it was his duty to lobby that point.

      You will no doubt be aware of Salmond’s stance on Trident? If not you should consider that it his opponents who say that retention of nuclear weapons is justifed because Scottish jobs are at stake.

  12. Vene Vidi Vici indeed.

    Salmond did even better than I expected and effectively gave his detractors nothing to work on.

    I’m hitting conspiracy theory levels of paranoia here, but I did find it quite strange that he should choose Leveson to reveal the Observer bank account information.

    Timing is everything I suppose – and he played a blinder. But I find it distinctly odd that he wrote to the Observer exactly a week after the Guardian had apologised publicly to the Sun over the source of Gordon Brown’s sun’s medical details.

    Then he sat on it for almost a year. ??

    Given that Guardian News and Media, the publishers of the Observer and Guardian, are the arch enemies of News International, and given that Salmond’s best pals with News International, do you not think it’s fair to think that something still smells whiffy?

    • Longshanker hand banker,really you should get a paddle as the wooden spoon you use is just not good enough,but still you do amuse us.
      “He sat on it for almost a year ” two question marks,why? Is it because he is not answerable to you? Even for you the level is so low I need a snorkel.

      • You fail to address the point being raised. Understandable.

        Perception, timing, intent and motive are everything in politics.

        Perhaps you need a loan of a wooden spoon?

      • Please don’t be personally abusive towards other commenters on my blog. Or I will block you. Charles, you make good contributions without resorting to this…

  13. I sent this letter to various newspapers ,I know they would never print it but it got it off of my chest;
    Charles Patrick O’Brien
    Sir,I see the First Minister is giving his answers to why he spoke to Murdoch,and very logical it is as that is his job to bring employment to Scotland.Now something was
    “tickling my brain”. If there was no link between the backing of BSkyB and the Sun
    supporting Mr Salmond and the SNP,I had the thought that the Sun likes to support winners,and as the SNP had won the 2007 election without the backing of the Sun,maybe the editorial staff are the smartest we have as they changed to backing the SNP knowing that the SNP would win again.That left the rest of the media backing the Labour losers,and that must have stung like a thousand bee stings.So did the Scottish media wake up and back the SNP in 2012,no they never woke up and what happened ,SNP wins again,supporting the Losers must be hurting even more and so the assassination of the SNP was undertaken.Will it work probably, but what a price to pay wreck the country because somebody has a big ego. This is what I sent to the newspapers.Hope they like it.
    Like · · Unfollow post · 17 hours ago

    I also wrote a similar piece on my page and on a few other sites.

  14. Labour weren’t just blinded by their hate of Salmond, they’ve been driven insane by it. Heedless of the danger they are going to keep pushing a non-story and it will nastier & nastier as the days go by.
    I say heedless of the danger, because all of Scotland will be watching them, wild eyed, frothing at the mouth, jabbing their fingers and screaming and jeering, like some mad person you cross the street to avoid.

  15. “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.”

    It was funny how certain journalists quickly resorted to surreal tweets due to the lack of juicy gossip coming out of Salmond’s evidence. If bad things had been coming out, they’d have been tweeting verbatim quotes like mad, but they had no interest in doing so when those quotes would have highlighted how wrong everyone was to have assumed Salmond was going to be nailed to the wall over some indiscretion.

    Your last line that I’ve quoted there sums the media up in a nutshell. They don’t understand what to do, even though the answer is staring them right in the face – just report the truth. There’s a difference between holding someone to account and just looking for sticks to hit them with, and clearly when it comes to the SNP and Salmond, the media has always taken the latter approach.

    Newsnicht was a bit of an abomination last night. Rather than simply admit that Salmond has been vindicated, they went with the “unanswered questions” line, perhaps because they had been expecting to do a “Salmond crisis” edition, and couldn’t work out how to fit the reality into their programme plan. Like the “unanswered questions” about independence, these questions had indeed been answered, numerous times. What they mean is they didn’t like the answers they got, so intend to keep repeating the same questions until they get the answer they want. A waste of everyone’s time. Far easier to use weasel phrases such as “a number of meetings” since admitting there were just five meetings in five years between Salmond and Murdoch sounds a bit lame. There’s a lot of this misleading language being used to try and make some mud stick – for example, headlines such as “Salmond questioned on Murdoch relationship” to plant the idea in your head that there is indeed a cosy relationship. It’s just the same as when people are “questioned about X’s murder” – people remember that the person was questioned, but fewer remember that they were completely vindicated.

    As Euan McColm said on twitter yesterday, journalists know fine why the Sun backed the SNP – because the Sun always backs the party that looks like winning. This continued obsession is pretty disingenuous. Still, at least it lets you know who can be relied upon to report the truth.

  16. Many thanks for the post and for the quotation. This just about sums it up and should be read widely by politicians, journalists and the public.

  17. I refer you to my reply on one of your earlier posts on this subject,hate to say I told you so! I’m being as smug as Mr Salmond!
    I’m enjoying your articles, can’t say I agree, but they are well worth a read.

  18. …he gubbed them: Veni. Vide. Vici.

Comments are closed.