Margaret and Jack Jaconelli’s 35-year life in their family home ended yesterday under a brutal assault by over 80 police officers, council workers and 20 riot vans, initiated by Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council.
The Jaconellis are now homeless, but this indomitable, archetypal Glasgow working class family won’t be for long - they will pick themselves up and start again, finding a new home, and making a new life. But one thing is certain - they won’t give up their fight for justice, aided by their lawyer, Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre.
THE SCOTTISH PRESS
The coverage of this story by the Scottish media can be characterised in general as belated, inaccurate and in some case, deliberately and consciously biased in favour of Glasgow City Council. Journalists, if some can even be dignified by this honourable appellation, were lazy and incurious, accepting at face value the many distorted misrepresentations fed to them by GCC’s publicity mill and rumour machine, cooperating supinely in the Council’s attempts to present the Jaconelli’s as greedy and unreasonable.
These people would not have recognised a significant human interest story and the dubious political dealings that surrounded it if it reared up and bit them on the arse. That is the most charitable explanation of their behaviour: there are others.
I suppose if your journalistic instincts begin and end with scanning a press release by the powerful and well-resourced, or having cosy lunches and briefings from their minions, instead of taking a trip to the heart of the problem - 10 Ardenlea Street - and talking to those directly involved, then this is the kind of lazy copy you will deliver to equally uninterested editors.
But many of these news outlets had another agenda - they were Labour-supporting organs, unionist to their core, and an election was coming up. A story that showed a relentless and unfeeling persecution of ordinary Glaswegians did not sit well with the image of the People’s Party, Labour - the party of John MacLean and Keir Hardie, of Red Clydeside, champions of the under-privileged. Such a story might bring home to Scottish voters that Scottish Labour, the puppet regime of Blair/Mandelson'/Brown’s New Labour, in the run-up to May 5th, had been hiding for decades behind the corpse of the old Labour Party, trotting it out, decaying and rotten, but covered in bright paint , to fool the people of Scotland.
This could not be allowed to happen. Bluntly, they hoped to bury the story, and when the Jaconellis inconveniently and bravely put their heads above the parapet to shout that the Labour emperor had no clothes, to shoot them down with a volley of lies, distortions and unfounded accusations.
But not even such a feeble excuse for a democratic press could not ignore a story when it got legs, and they were reluctantly forced into correcting some of their inaccuracies by events.
THE SCOTTISH SUN
It must be said that there have been honourable exceptions to this behaviour, notably in the form of the Scottish Sun’s coverage of the Jaconellis, significantly attributable to a freelance journalist, Paul Drury, who did what real journalists do - went to the source, went to the locations, got to know the people involved, asked real questions, checked and cross checked facts.
Of course the Sun sensationalised the coverage a bit - after all, they are the tabloid’s tabloid and that’s what they do. Unfortunately, in their attempts to point up the egregious disparity of treatment between that meted out to the Jaconellis and the enrichment of the developers who swarmed over the Commonwealth Games site, they may have at times unintentionally harmed the Jaconelli’s interest with their ‘£3.5 million pound Gran’ headlines, unwittingly feeding the Glasgow City Council lie that Margaret Jaconelli was pursuing a huge and unrealistic settlement figure, something that was never true.
But on overwhelming balance, the Jaconellis and their supporters are grateful to Paul Drury and the Sun for acting as virtually the only real counterbalance to the hostile and biased coverage of the rest.
The Scottish television coverage, although not visibly biased, was belated and superficial, and predictably only interested when the saga entered its last, more sensational stages. Newsnight Scotland, often a byword for leaden, dull coverage of Scottish affairs, with occasional flashes of brilliance - usually when Isabel Fraser is in the interviewer’s seat - never touched the story.
Even in the last few days, they have given a much higher profile to the Glasgow University student protest evictions than to the much more significant brutal and over-the-top storming of the Jaconelli’s home. But then that’s the West End, much closer to the hearts of Scottish media types than the forgotten ghettos and people of Glasgow East.
Television, of course, completely missed Margaret Jaconelli’s confrontation, first with Gordon Matheson, Leader of the GCC Labour Group, then with Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party outside the Scottish Labour Party Conference on Saturday last. Only the Sunday Post, as far as I know, ran this story and published the photograph of Margaret and Ed Miliband.
THE POLITICAL PARTIES
Labour in Scotland maintained a deathly silence on this, as well they might have, since Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council under Gordon Matheson are the villains of this sordid piece. The Tories were predictably absent - after all, they are the party of money, privilege and exploitation of working people: Why would they speak? The pathetic Scottish LibDems don’t have their troubles to seek, and stayed well below the parapet.
But the strange behaviour of the Scottish National Party over the Jaconelli case deserves some examination. After a couple of statements of concern by the First Minister some considerable time ago, a brief visit by Alison Thewliss, GCC SNP councillor for the Jaconelli’s, and one or two minor expressions of concern by others, a great blanket of silence fell over the issue.
Using such limited resources as I have, I repeatedly and persistently tried to secure some level of involvement from the Party at all levels. The responses to this have, in the main, been to ignore me completely (the SNP have been terrified of bloggers since the University of Cheese scandal, although they recognise their value) or to offer feeble excuses such as “Well, Margaret hasn’t come to my constituency surgery”, prompting the irascible response from me that this vulnerable, overstretched woman, struggling with her problem, with the terminal illness of her brother in England, the abandonment of her virtually at the door of the courtroom by her previous lawyer, and facing the full weight of QCs, District Valuers, et al, needed her elected representatives to visit her, not the other way around.
The Jaconellis are - or at least were - SNP supporters. Much bloody good it did them, at least up to the eleventh hour, when two offers offers to mediate in the dispute came from the Scottish Government, a fact little reported anywhere in the media. (GCC declined both offers, as they had refused Margaret’s formal request for mediation and ADR.)
I repeatedly told the SNP that this story would get bigger, and eventually break into the media when the inevitable confrontation occurred. I had secured tentative interest from Jon Snow and Channel Four News, but then world events of staggering implications took over their whole agenda. (I have also kept Ken Loach informed through his film production company.)
The SNP should have been publicly and vocally on the right side of this dispute since the start, because it is a uniquely Scottish dispute in the Labour heartland that they need so badly to capture. Doing the right things was clearly the right thing to do here - but they didn’t, displaying all too often the rather uncertain grasp of new media - an occasionally old media - and its significance that too often characterises the Party’s approach.
They are going to have to do a damned sight better if they are to remain in power after May 5th. They still have my full and committed support, but, I regret, my faith is a liitle dented after the Jaconelli failure.