I have tried to give Steven Purcell the benefit of the doubt over recent weeks because I have always felt that he was an essentially honest politician, committed to his native city, Glasgow, and a victim of the pressures of the corruption, venality and sleaze that have been present in the city’s politics for the last half century or more.
But as the facts emerge, and the more negative critics of Purcell and the City Council look as if they may be right, I realise that I may have to eat crow, as I promised the online Scotsman readership, if I am proved wrong.
What is certain is that events in Glasgow constitute a big story – the big story in Scottish politics, but one that has ramifications far beyond Scottish affairs as the general election looms. So I looked to the papers today, and Scotland on Sunday did not disappoint, giving it pole position on the front page and very full coverage inside.
I followed this up by watching the Andrew Marr Show, with some hopes – but not high ones – that this former chief BBC political editor and reporter would give it some coverage and analysis.
What I was not prepared for was his casually ignoring the story in his review of the Sunday papers.
Andrew Marr goes through a selection of papers, and in every case quotes the headline and lead story, but with one notable exception. When he gets to Scotland on Sunday, he smoothly ignores the headline and the main story - INQUIRY CALL OVER 'SECRETS' OF PURCELL and goes on to quote two minor stories.
Such is the treatment of Scotland by this BBC star, their former chief political editor and reporter, now a celebrity presenter for the Beeb.
He manages to ignore the story that is convulsing Scottish politics, that of the spectacular fall of Labour's star, Steven Purcell and the emerging questions over just what the hell is going on in Glasgow City Council - Glasgow, the heart of Labour's heartland, Scotland.
Such are the priorities of the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation as we approach a critical general election for the future of the country and the Union, one where Scotland is the key. Is it any wonder that the BBC wants to deny the people of Scotland the right to hear their First Minister in the forthcoming Leaders' debate?
THE POLITICS SHOW SCOTLAND – ???
I wait eagerly for The Politics Show, also on the BBC, and for its second half, The Politics Show Scotland.
The first part, with Jon Sopel, is even more boring than usual, because this week it is a special, featuring “the main party leaders” appearing before a constituency audience. Gordon Brown leads off – if leads is the word – and he is utterly leaden, boring, and comes across as an already beaten man. My impatience grows, and I endure forty minutes of this, sustained by the thought that the Scottish second half will follow soon, with Glenn Campbell.
At last, the glad words - “and now to the Politics Show where you are …”. But I am confronted with London, which ain’t where I am. Initially, there is no apology or explanation. A southern presenter drones on about London matters, then eventually, a red strapline appears saying The Politics Show Scotland will follow as soon as possible.
After another twenty minutes or so of this, during which I come close to spontaneous combustion, The Politics Show Scotland finally appears, and a rather embarrassed Glenn Campbell makes an apology for a “technical hitch”, and we get about ten to fifteen minutes of two worthy, but peripheral pieces, with a general election imminent - one about Anne Moffat, MP for East Lothian and her ongoing war with the Labour Party, and a piece on the Tory Party’s proposals for independent but state funded schools.
Nothing about the general election, nothing about the Scottish Parliament, nothing about the SNP’s dispute with the BBC over the “main party leaders” debates, and nothing about Glasgow’s political meltdown.
Scottish viewers were therefore denied more than half their allotted time from The Politics Show Scotland, and we can be sure that it will never be compensated for.
Faced with this kind of thing, and a choice between a conspiracy or a cock-up as the explanation, I almost always prefer the cock-up. But whatever the explanation it reflects one thing – the innate bias and complacency of the BBC, and of British establishment figures when it comes to Scotland, Scottish viewers, the Scottish electorate and Scottish affairs in general.
They just don’t give a shit about us, indeed, they are largely oblivious to our existence until events force them to confront the reality – that one of the two “main” parties, the one that is in government for the moment, exists and survives only because of its Scottish power base.
When that goes, Great Britain goes, the Union goes, and the rump of this faded old empire will find it harder to strut its stuff as a global player in international politics, and may have to stop sending its young people to the killing fields.
And Scotland will stand proud and free – free at last, as Martin Luther King once said, and as the genie in The Thief of Baghdad (played by the wonderful Rex Ingram) said as he flew blissfully away from his long captivity in the bottle.
(Did you know that Cleo Laine played a street urchin in that film, with Sabu?)