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Showing posts with label calibre of Labour politicians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label calibre of Labour politicians. Show all posts

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Sunday Post and Lorraine Davidson

The Sunday Post yesterday carried a piece on page 12, encouragingly headlined ‘The SNP are still smiling and ready for the battle to begin’.  This temporarily brought a smile to my face, especially in the light of the positive, objective reporting elsewhere in the paper. That is, until I read the byline for the report, which was clearly meant to be news and not an opinion piece.

It was written by Lorraine Davidson, former spin doctor to Jack McConnell, biographer of the same Labour Leader and former First Minister entitled ‘Lucky Jack’, and who might reasonably described as having very strong past and current links to the Labour Party in Scotland.

But Lorraine has returned to her former profession of journalist, and I am sure would like to be seen as an objective knowledgeable political commentator on Scottish politics, free from bias, and not still in the grip of old loyalties.

But perhaps you can judge for yourself whether she has approached this admirable ideal, from her first seven paragraphs in an article which, I repeat, was presented as objective political comment.

Sunday Post page 12, March 13th 2011

The SNP faithful gathered in Glasgow this weekend for their final conference before facing the electorate.

Alex Salmond’s party are behind in the polls, they’ve broken many of their promises and at the end of a term in government they’ve made little progress towards convincing voters they’d be better off in an independent Scotland.

If that sounds like a disastrous set of circumstances in which to go into an election, it appears nobody has told Mr. Salmond and his followers.

If nothing else, the nationalists are up for the fight ahead.

The economic circumstances have dictated this election can’t be won through bribery.

The SNP have tried to use the downturn to craft a message which gives the impression they are on the side of hard-up voters.

From freezing council tax bills to promising to continue free higher education, the SNP want voters to believe the party is on their side.

The above sounds to me like the kind of  piece that could have been written by a Labour spin doctor, or even Andy Kerr, which I’m sure is not the kind of impression an objective political journalist, or even the Editor of The Sunday Post wants to create.

But I am absolutely certain that it wasn’t written by either of them - not even they would have been so unsubtle.

No, this is Lorraine’s own work, and she must look on it and reflect, especially on the high standards set by some other Scottish journalists, and perhaps draw some valuable lessons from their work.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Alex Salmond on minority government, Megrahi and the calibre of Scottish Labour politicians

ON PREFERENCES IN GOVERNMENT

ALEX SALMOND: Obviously my overall preference would be to win an absolute majority, but short of that, I think that minority government has shown itself to be good for Scotland over the last four years. I’d like to have more than a plurality of one - I’d like a majority of more than one over our leading opponents, but I think minority government has been good for Scotland.

ON COALITION POSSIBILITIES

ALEX SALMOND: You asked me what my preference was, and my preference is that minority government is bestows a number of advantages. Am I ruling out a coalition? No, I’m not ruling out a coalition, but as a preference, we want to win the election, and if we don’t get a majority, then I think a minority government …

For example, if we win re-election, Gordon, (Gordon Brewer - Newsnight Scotland) then on some of the issues which the other parties combined to stop, you would have certainly a moral authority and a mandate to progress. For example, minimum pricing on alcohol … The rest of the parties combined to stop it. My judgement would be - if we win re-election - that is a policy we’ll be able to pursue in the next Parliament, with the support of the people behind us. A referendum on independence for Scotland would be another policy - with our fresh mandate, we’d have the ability to get it through the Parliament.

ON THE CALIBRE OF THE LABOUR OPPOSITION

Gordon Brewer: “Some things you’ve been saying recently, I guess boil down to saying - me and my pals are better than Iain Gray and his pals”

ALEX SALMOND: I’m not - I’d like to fight the election on the basis that we’ve got a cracking record as a government over the last four years, we’ve got a great team to put the next record into operation, and we’ve got a vision for the future of this country as an independent Scotland as an energy powerhouse of the European continent - and that’s how I want to fight the election.

We’re fighting on out record, the team and a vision - I think our team, yes, has more calibre than their team, and I think that most fair-minded people in Scotland would accept that.

Gordon Brewer: “Are you suggesting that Labour, somehow, isn’t competent to run the country?”

ALEX SALMOND:  Oh,  I think there  is a number of people in the Labour Party who don’t seem to me the sort of people I would trust to run the Country. The Health Service - who would you rather have running the health service in Scotland? Would you rather have Nicola Sturgeon or Jackie Baillie? I think most people in Scotland would say they would rather have Nicola Sturgeon.

Gordon Brewer: “I can understand that you would rather not have Jackie Baillie running the Health Service because you don’t agree with her policies - are you saying the Jackie Baillie and others on the Labour front bench are somehow not competent to do what your ministers would do?”

ALEX SALMOND:  “Well, if we take health - and I’ll try not to personalise this - I think the protection of the Health Service and the Scottish budget over the next few years is going to be extremely important. We know that the Labour Party has been, at best, equivocal as to whether the Health Service would have protection, as to whether it would be ring-fenced. I think it was on this very programme that Iain Gray failed to commit to that.

Therefore, a party which can’t protect the Health Service in my view, … shouldn’t be trusted to run the country, and the  health spokesperson of that party shouldn’t be trusted to run the Health Service.

Gordon Brewer: “From the nationalist point of view, the biggest problem  with your period in government, surely, is that the whole point of the SNP is to get independence, and you’re no nearer to getting it than when you became First Minister. That’s pretty shocking stuff, isn’t it?”

ALEX SALMOND:  Actually, the last opinion poll on Scottish independence was the highest for four years -

Gordon Brewer: “These things go up and down - there’s no substantial progress …”

ALEX SALMOND:  The substantial progress that we look for, in terms of achieving independence is twofold -

One, as a gradualist party, we seek to acquire powers and responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament to take us nearer the goal of national independence.

And secondly, as a democratic party, we wish to have a referendum to allow the people of Scotland the right to decide.

You say we are no nearer - I think, to have an SNP administration in a Scottish Parliament is dramatically nearer independence than we’ve been ever before in Scotland,  for  two reasons - one, there is a Scottish Parliament, which we didn’t have for about 300 years, and secondly, as an SNP administration, the party of independence, which we never had.

Ergo, we’re closer to independence than we ever were.

ON THE MEGRAHI AFFAIR

Gordon Brewer: “Do you have any regret about that? Are you really happy that the main thing, actually, probably that any Scottish Administration has done since devolution is let a mass murderer go free?”

ALEX SALMOND:  I don’t agree that it is the main thing that any Scottish administration has done since devolution, but I am satisfied that we took a decision based on good faith and due process. And when you get difficult decisions to take, that is what is the most most important thing to be able to say. Now, if you say to me, Gordon …

Gordon Brewer: “The most important thing is to get them right.”

ALEX SALMOND: Well, I believe we did make the right decision - that Kenny MacAskill did make the right decision according to the due process of Scots law. I believe that absolutely. But I think it’s even more important, incidentally,  for people to know that we made that decision in good faith, and I would suggest to you that everything that’s been published in this last week vindicate the position that the Scottish Government took - that we were taking a decision in due process, in good faith and for no other reason.

I think the revelation this week is that we now know, beyond peradventure, that the Labour Party in Scotland were guilty of the most outstanding hypocrisy I can remember in my period in public life.

Gordon Brewer: “From the point of view of families of victims, both here and in the United States - I mean, the politics of this are neither here nor there. what they want to say to you is, look, you let this man who was convicted of killing family members, out of jail, and he’s now alive - if not well - in Libya a year later. This is just wrong - it’s outrageous.”

ALEX SALMOND:  Gordon, I’ve got nothing but respect for the Lockerbie families, whether they’re in the UK or America, and 19 other countries which were affected by the atrocity. But you are wrong to suggest that all families have the same opinion. I’m not disputing that a lot of families, particularly in America, would have that opinion. I’m merely pointing out to you that many families, particularly in the UK, have a different opinion - who’ve supported the decision on compassionate release.

But I’ve got nothing but respect for the families, and I would always listen and pay attention to their point of view, and you’ll never hear a word of criticism from me of any of the views of any of the families, who are entitled to make their views known.

My criticism is solely designed and aimed at those politicians who attacked Kenny MacAskill and the SNP in Scotland, I believe in the full knowledge that their own colleagues in London were supporting release, not for due process, not for compassionate reasons, but for economic and political considerations.

ON A PUBLIC ENQUIRY INTO MEGRAHI

Gordon Brewer: “Given the whole silly history of this, why not do something positive with this. I know there are problems with jurisdiction, getting witnesses and all the rest, but why not say now - because the families in Britain who support what you have just said on the decision - have also been asking you to set up a public enquiry, so that we can at least try to get to the bottom of what actually happened. Why not say now that you will do that, despite all the problems it might have, it might at least have a chance of getting somewhere?”

ALEX SALMOND:  There would be manifest problems - but can I say to you I think more important than a public enquiry, in my view - which would be necessarily (?)in the full settlement(?) in Scotland be  hugely limited in what it could do - is the full publication of the statement of reasons of the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission made to the courts in Scotland. We’ve already made one attempt to have that published in full.

What I can say to you tonight  is that we’ll be introducing primary legislation to enable that report to be published in full. It was an investigation that took several years, and I believe the full statement of reasons - not answering every question about this affair  - nonetheless will shed substantial light and give information  that the families and indeed the general public are entitled to have.

Gordon Brewer: “So you will legislate in the Scottish Parliament so that those documents will be published?”

ALEX SALMOND:  Correct.

Gordon Brewer: “Will you follow on the publication of those documents … logically would be then to have an enquiry, dependent on what they come up with?”

ALEX SALMOND: I think, Gordon, they should see what the full statement of reasons of  the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission is. I still think there are difficulties with a public enquiry because it would be hugely limited in terms of the documents it could obtain, in terms of the witnesses, in terms  of the  nature and in terms of the international politics. We’ve already seen …

Gordon Brewer: “It’s something you could do, limited as it is. no one else is going to do it …”

ALEX SALMOND:  Can I just point out to you that, say as far as the interchange between the United Kingdom and the United States governments is concerned, then I think that Wikileaks, over the last few weeks, has shed more light on these exchanges, than for example and enquiry would be able  to do, since it wouldn’t be able to summon any of the witnesses, since now we know from Wikileaks what their true opinion was.