The Herald carried a letter yesterday from Paul Holleran, NUJ Organiser calling for the press to hold the Trump organisation to account, a call one might have thought redundant, since the press and media have never let up on Trump since he first appeared on the Aberdeen scene.
Trump, in fact, is a popular target for the press for the following reasons - he is a loud American with a bad hairdo, some risible political opinions, and not the most diplomatic of men. But more significantly, his project on the Menie Estate is a safe distance from the central belt of Scotland, where most of the media is centred, it is in Alex Salmond’s heartland, and because of the history of the project, it can usefully be laid at the First Minister’s doorstep.
But the press and media, with the honourable exception of the Scottish Sun, have carefully either avoided, underreported or misreported and misrepresented a much more egregious scandal involving a large property development in the central belt - the Glasgow East regeneration/Commonwealth Games project, especially as it affects Dalmarnock and its people.
The reasons for this neglect are fairly obvious - there is no single convenient foreign villain, there is little that can be presented sentimentally about rolling sand dunes and ecology, and most importantly, the ‘villain’ is the powerful monolith of Glasgow City Council, a Labour hegemony that up until May 2010 had intimate links with the UK Government, and still has links with a powerful Labour opposition party. The ordinary people of Dalmarnock can safely be sneered at, jeered at and ignored by the complacent Glasgow professional classes - a much safer option than offending the powerful.
This ‘villain’ can call on the Glasgow Police, the full resources of a council workforce and the draconian power of the law when necessary - and they have used all three to crush the hopes of the Dalmarnock families and businesses.
And it exercises powerful patronage through its political and commercial networks. GCC can make you rich; it has made many speculative property developers rich - or richer than they already were - through the settlements it reached with them over land purchase deals, all perfectly legal and a matter of public record, for those who take the trouble to look.
As far as my recollection serves me, the Herald has never published a letter of mine on the Jaconelli case - and I have sent many. I sent another yesterday (text below) - it has not appeared today.
The Herald, however, has no problem in using the services of Gerry Braiden today to attack the First Minister for supporting the Save the Accord campaign, a Dalmarnock disabled centre threatened with closure by GCC, obliquely accusing him of bowing to political pressure, and ‘kowtowing’ to the Save the Accord campaign. Of course, nothing the Labour-controlled GCC do is ever remotely political in the eyes of the Herald, and they fight only with the “sword of truth and trusty shield of fair play”.
A Google search, or Herald site search will give anyone interested a fair idea of how Gerry Braiden reported the Jaconelli case. It would be fair to say that neither he nor the Herald have been enthusiastic advocates of the cause of the Dalmarnock families and businesses, but have always managed to faithfully reflect the position of Glasgow City Council.
UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO The Herald - 14th June 2011
Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser (Letters 14th June) calls for a 'healthy, functioning Scottish press' to hold powerful people to account over the behaviour of the Trump organisation in Aberdeen. I agree wholeheartedly.
But where was the Scottish press when ordinary families and small businesses were being forced out of their homes and livelihoods in Dalmarnock by Glasgow City Council to make way for the Athletes' Village for the Commonwealth Games. Where were they when the Jaconelli family were faced by 80 police, 20 riot vans and masked council workers with sledgehammers as they mounted a last, defiant protest against eight years of derisory offers and legal intimidation. The answer is that they initially gave inadequate and often wildly inaccurate coverage, virtually a slanted re-hash of GCC leaks and press releases, and only at the final brutal end of the siege of Ardenlea Street to behaviour that would have disgraced a totalitarian regime in other parts of the world.
One newspaper, the Scottish Sun, actually engaged with the story, with the facts, and with Margaret Jaconelli and the other families, and actually had a journalist inside the house as the combined forces of municipal power broke into the last refuge of a hard-working Glasgow grandmother and her terrified family and friends.
Unlike the Trump homeowners, none of these Dalmarnock owner-occupiers were refusing to sell their homes or businesses - they simply wanted to negotiate a fair price for having their lives uprooted. But they were denied this and subjected to arbitrary and unrealistic valuations under compulsory purchase legislation, and because they refused to be intimidated into accepting grossly inadequate settlements, are now homeless and virtually penniless, all that they had worked for destroyed in the name of progress. All of this happened in parallel with speculative property developers being allowed to negotiate and reap astronomical profits, in some cases for doing little more than opportunistically acquiring vacant lots and re-selling them for profits that reached into millions of pounds for modest investments of a few hundreds of thousands of pounds.
It's not too late, Paul Holleran, for the Scottish Press to start holding powerful people to account, and they can start in the City of Glasgow, where the HQ of the NUJ is situated, with a much bigger story than the Trump story, and a much more egregious injustice to get their journalistic teeth into. Or are there some people who are just too powerful to be held to account? Is it just easier to go for a cardboard villain from another country with a bad hairdo?