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Showing posts with label Michael Moore MP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Moore MP. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A tsunami of misinformation–polarised politics, journalists and the media

On the same day as the Bradford by-election results were announced – a landslide victory for George Galloway over his Labour opponent, winning by 10,140 votes, overturning a Labour majority of 5,763, with 56% share of the total vote – Paul Routledge, political correspondent of the Daily Mirror headed his column

Imran races to victory

By the time you read this, Imran Hussain will have been declared Labour MP

At 10.30 pm on the same evening, Routledge said -

“Well, I got the Bradford by-election wrong … but so did the voters.”

A case of very sour grapes, Paul?

A look at Paul Routledge's biography on Wikipedia may or may not go some way to explaining this spectacularly wrong piece of political journalism.

Of course, we’ve had this kind of objective political reporting in Scotland for many years now, and SNP supporters have developed at the very least a healthy scepticism over the objective political reporting of the Daily Record, The Scotsman, The Herald, The Sunday Post and Scotland on Sunday over the last decade. That is not to say that things haven’t changed a bit of late, nor do I fail to recognise that a tiny number of Scottish journalists have been consistently fair and objective, while not pretending to be unaligned in their sympathies or their judgements.

I have stated my position on journalists many times. I don’t expect ‘balance’, i.e. giving equal space to two sides of an argument – or moral equivalence - where there is egregious imbalance in the facts. I did not expect balance when reporters entered Auschwitz: I do not expect flat-earthers to be given the same space and air time as cosmologists: I do not expect creationism to be treated as an equivalent scientific theory to evolutionary theory: I do not expect balance when innocent civilians – men, women and children are being murdered in the streets, whether by a middle eastern dictator or a Western Coalition of the Willing.

And so to today in Scotland …


Sherlock Holmes referred to the case of The Giant Rat of Sumatra, and now we have The Giant Rats of the Referendum Consultations, both of them becoming smellier by the day.

The focus today in The Scotsman is the smaller of the two rats, The UK Consultation, with extravagant claims being made about its outcome, based on 3000 responses.

I am deeply uneasy about consultations such as these, although I have up till recently loyally supported the SNP Government’s consultation, on the very shaky basis of my consultation is bigger than yours yah-boo cries to Michael Moore and his UK consultation.

The Three Arse Cheeks (in George Galloway’s new phrase for Labour, LibDems and Tory parties in Westminster) of the Unionist Coalition of Opposition to the Independence of Scotland were clearly going to claim to know the mind of the Scottish People, and since the old silent majority rubbish, beloved by unionists - especially Tories - had played out its usefulness, the silent majority had to be allowed to squeak in an approved line pretty damn quick before the Wicked Wizard of the North, Alex Salmond, had his evil way with the referendum timing and the formulation and number of the questions.

So let’s scan the front page and the headlines in today’s Scotsman, guardians of the spirit and traditions of fearless factual reporting, the voice of the nation, i.e. the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. (Whatever made you think the nation would be Scotland? Silly boy!)

Scots ‘to be asked one referendum question’

Scottish Secretary says straight vote on independence his ‘highest priority’

“Independence is different from devolution” Michael Moore

Two questions into one ballot paper don’t go, says Moore

Tunnock’s view on referendum doesn’t taste so sweet for Alex

The front page story, continued on to page 4,  is by Tom Peterkin, Scottish political editor. Alas, Tom doesn’t appear to rate a Wikipedia entry like Paul Routledge, and I can’t find a biography. A Google search under his name does turn up a lot of critical comments about his journalism, but the both the Scotsman and Tom will probably dismiss as them as cybernats.

In a total, including the Tunnocks’s piece, of over 1000 words, Peterkin gives about 80 words to Bruce Crawford MSP, the Parliamentary business secretary. In contrast, quotes from Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary abound in the article. There are a couple of paragraphs of speculation about the First Minister of Scotland’s position on the second question.

There is also a nice little table showing the results of the consultation, with impressively high percentage response in favour of those things Michael Moore, the UK and the Scotsman are also mainly in favour of.

The Peterkin piece closes with a paragraph that is intensely revealing, with an unfortunate choice of words that unintentionally gets to the heart of the real reason for the implacable opposition of the UK and the Three Arse Cheeks Parties – “the coalition parties” - to the independence of Scotland.

Some in the coalition parties have suggested that a UK-imposed referendum could be the ‘nuclear option’ if it is felt that the Scottish Government is taking too long to go ahead with two questions.”

Michael Moore is the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, and in the 2010 General Election, he retained his seat with an increased share of the vote. In that election, the LibDems experienced what proved to be a very temporary love affair with the electorate. Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk is typically LibDem country. Michael Moore succeeded Danny Alexander as Secretary of State for Scotland: both owe their position quite simply to the uncomfortable realities of Coalition for the Tories, (the Tories didn’t win the 2010 election – Labour lost it) otherwise Scotland would have had David Mundel. For that, and that alone, we may be grateful to Michael Moore.

Since then the LibDems under Nick Clegg have comprehensively betrayed the electorate, their supporters, the students and the poor and vulnerable by propping up the most illiberal Government of recent times. The LibDems were all but extinguished in the Scottish election of 2011, Tavish Scott resigned as leader, and, were there a general election tomorrow, the LibDems in the UK would face a similar fate. Even the electors of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk  might re-examine their reflex LibDem voting patterns.

But this man is given a major platform by the Scotsman and by Tom Peterkin, and the Scottish Government, re-elected for a second term with a massive, unprecedented mandate to govern and hold an independence referendum, is given token and dismissive coverage.

The 3000 response, unverified, un-monitored UK referendum is given uncritical, highly selective coverage, coverage that ignores the block response of the Labour Party: 740 out of the 2,857 responses to the UK Government’s referendum consultation were the identical text from the Labour Party website. (Unless of course, you listen to John Curtice – see below)

Page 5 presents some quotes under the headline -

Hopes and fears, optimism and suspicion – people speak their minds

‘People’ turn out to be five organisations, one group of academics, two individual academics, an email from a member of the public, and Maitland Mackie of Mackie’s ice cream fame.

The five organisations I am fairly certain did not poll their members or employees to formulate their view: the joint submission from academics at the University of Edinburgh presumably did: Maitland Mackie may have sought the views of “70 staff and 500 cows work[ing] in a 'sky to scoop”  design chain”: the email from the member of the public represented a view expressed by only 4% of the 3000 respondents – that non-residents Scots should have a vote in the referendum – was presumably included because it closely accords with the view of The Three Arse and the Scotsman.

On the day after the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence, I entertain the hope that Tom Peterkin and the Scotsman receive jointly the Paul Routledge/Daily Mirror Award for spectacularly failing to predict the outcome of a vote.


There is however some balancing sanity in this total of three pages of less than objective reporting – a piece by Professor John Curtice on page 5.

John Curtice, a man whom I admire, takes a lot of stick from the kind of SNP supporters who also believe that the BBC collectively is the Great Satan, engaged in a conspiracy to frustrate the independence of Scotland. The reason for this is that he deals with numbers, with facts, and it takes a bit of effort and at least baseline numeracy and perhaps familiarity with the basis of sampling and polling opinion to come to grips with his arguments.

(As I write these words, I know that they will be closely followed by comments in the usual vein. I will publish these, providing they are not actually defamatory – as they often are – but I have given up trying to reason with with them, and have said all I intend to on that score. For those who are desperate to have confirmation of their views, they may find a more sympathetic home on Newsnet Scotland.)

I will not attempt to summarise John Curtice’s considered and precise analysis – it must be read carefully and digested. So which government is right on the big question?

It will, sadly, be promptly dismissed by some nationalists because its critique includes the Scottish Government consultation, and that kind of nationalist critic blanks off everything positive in their resentment at any objective criticism of the SNP.

Well, I support completely everything John Curtice says, I believe he is objective, a fine example of what expert analysis and criticism should be about, and I thank him for his formidable contribution over many years to Scottish life and politics and to my understanding of both.

And, no – I have never met John Curtice in my life, and have no connection whatsoever with him, except maybe a shared concern for Scotland, for truth and for factual accuracy.

And grudgingly, I thank the Scotsman for allowing him space to bring a breath of cold, fresh air to today’s coverage of the UK Referendum Consultation – and consultations … And there is a smidgeon of objectivity in their leader  on page 26.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Scottish unionists–and Michael Moore - inch towards their exit strategy

Someone once said that a Scotsman would do almost anything except harm his career. That is certainly true of Scottish unionist politicians – Scotland and the Scottish people have always come a poor second for most of them in their scale of priorities, with the high road to England and Westminster and a place on the gravy train way up front.

In fairness, some have not started out that way: the insidious lure of preferment, high office and money, money, money has come later, then that ultimate flight from all things Scottish - ennoblement, the ermine and the Lords - and freedom from the tedious business of getting elected every so often, not to mention listening to constituents. And the strange satisfactions of the title – Lord Poodle of Auchterselloot

A tiny number have believed in Scotland, albeit within the Union, and have consistently stood up for their ain folk. Wha was like them, but maist o’ them are deid. But among the living I would certainly number Henry McLeish and he is not alone.

But the rest of them are now looking at a career abyss when independence comes – they would say if it comes. The political agenda in Scotland has been totally dominated by the Scottish National Party and its vision and values since 2007: the unionists have moved through stunned denial to vitriolic opposition, but now, faced with the stark reality of the May 2011 election result, to moving inexorably towards a reluctant recognition of the inevitability of change.

It is astonishing to consider that the Scottish Labour Party is only now at the point of electing a new leader seven and a half months after the resignation of Iain Gray. What was left of the Lib/Dems at least got off their erses and elected a leader, and the Tories, having almost rent themselves apart in the process, managed to get someone in post. Neither of these two leaders exactly looks like the kind of leader their respective parties needed if they were to have any hope of restoring their fortunes.

Consider the fate of Scottish unionist MPs after independence.

At a stroke, they cease to be MPs. Those among them who are ministers – a single Tory and some LibDems – will probably cease to be ministers, although being an MP is not a requirement of being a government minister. The Scottish Lords are in a strange no-man’s land. The Queen is still the Queen, and in theory at least they owe their position to her, instead of the sordid reality of a political appointment.

But can they sit in a chamber that no longer has any relevance to Scotland, part of the democratic process of UK Minus?

How will the English, Welsh and Northern Irish people regard the Lairds of Auchterselloot voting on legislation and drawing their expenses?

The Scottish MPs who lose their seats - among them some very significant individuals for their parties - could look to the party managers to find them a safe seat. But who will have them? The good electors of England are unlikely to look kindly on having a Scot parachuted into their constituency, and the risk for the party of putting a Scot up for election in the period immediately after independence would be to great an electoral risk.

It is even less likely that some obscure but worthy English MP is going give up his or her seat to make way for a big Scottish beast. It will be difficult enough in all conscience for Scottish MPs in English constituencies if they face re-nomination and a campaign soon after independence – or perhaps before it.

But some might take comfort in the fact that if an independence referendum in say 2015 resulted in a YES vote, it would take years to reach that bright day when Scotland will again be a nation.

However, another spectre looms for the Scottish unionist MPs …

As yesterday’s PMQs demonstrated very clearly, David Cameron’s coat is on a very shaky nail over Europe. The future of the Coalition looks increasingly uncertain, and the LibDem mice, while not exactly roaring, did emit a cheeky squeak in their recent Commons vote against the Government. Not quite a rebellion, but certainly a fart in church …

If the Coalition falls, especially in the context of global uncertainty, most of the nightmare for Scottish unionists MPs would come early, and the Douglas Alexanders, the Murphys, the Tom Harrises, the Danny Alexanders - and the sole Mundel - would risk being oot on their erses in a general election.

So all of this brings me to today, and that extraordinary manifestation of the Union, Michael Moore, the Scottish Colonial Governor. If there is a figurehead for Scotland in the UK, it is oor Michael. But his job – and his MP status – both end with independence, as does the Scottish Office. In a general election, he might well lose his seat as a Scottish LibDem. Lordships will be hard to come by for such as he in the present climate.

And so to the Herald’s astonished headline - Surprise as Moore says that he is not a ‘Unionist’.

Is the Pope not a Catholic? Is King Billy not an Orangeman?

In the tones of Peter Kay and garlic bread, I say “Not a unionist? Not a unionist?

Be kind to the man – as a kind of Scot, one who will do anything rather than harm his career, he is simply gearing up for his exit strategy, as is Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy, Auld Uncle Tam Harris and all.

Because there is nothing so terrifying as being alienated from your ain folk, and finding that you have nowhere to go. Being on the wrong side at a pivotal moment in your country’s history is not a happy place to be.

But don’t despair, guys – somebody will have you. The new Scotland won’t keep you out – it’s an inclusive, forgiving nation. You may have to spend some time in the wilderness doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, but you have talents and experience and providing your contrition is genuine, Scotland will find a place for you.

But don’t submit yourself to the electorate for say, twenty years or so. After all, we haven’t forgiven Maggie, and she wreaked her havoc on Scotland a generation ago. Scots have long memories …

Friday, 11 November 2011

The New Coalition – Labour Scots in league with the Tories against Scotland

Today’s Scotsman has decided the issue for me. Accepting that Alex Salmond being named Politician of the Year is a Herald award, the fact that the Scotsman gives it a meagre four column inches at the bottom right of an inside page says it all. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer is a maxim that can be applied to media, but the enemy has to matter. The Scotsman no longer does – I had as soon watch Fox News as read it - and I can pick up their token Nationalist articles online. The Scotsman no longer matters to Scotland and it no longer matters to me. After all, for 85p I can buy a newspaper …


As if the benighted and incompetent Tory/LibDem coalition wasn’t bad enough, we now have a New Coalition, one that is even more damaging to the people of Scotland – The Labour/Tory/LibDem anti-independence Coalition. Scottish Labour MPs, terrified of losing their jobs, their perks - and perhaps their Party - after Scotland secures its freedom from the UK, are engaged in a sordid alliance with their ancient class enemies, the Tories (the LibDems are irrelevant) to frustrate the aspirations of Scots to conduct a fair referendum on how they see their country’s future.

This contemptible, self-serving alliance is led from the Labour side by Margaret Curran MP and Willie Bain MP, who have now accepted Shadow posts as Colonial Government apparatchiks, (I’m trying desperately to avoid giving them the name they richly deserve) mirroring the Scotland Office, a body set up to preserve the Union and maintain the Scots in subservience. This is what the thing that was once the People’s Party has come to

From Drop Box


Scotland’s economic opportunities are larger

Scotland’s public finances are more robust

Scotland’s defence is stronger

Scotland’s influence on the international stage greater

Scotland’s welfare system more secure

Cultural and family ties (with the rest of the UK) are closer

(Michael Moore had to read from a crib sheet to offer even this meagre, self-serving little list at Scottish questions in the Commons on Wednesday: he referred to them as being just six of many reasons. Aye, right …)

I have the kind permission of Gerry Hassan to reproduce his eleven reasons for Scottish independence, quoted in a recent article by Gerry, a commentator who thinks deeply about Scotland, Scottish politics and Scotland’s place in the world.

Gerry Hassan's 11 reasons for Scottish independence.

  1. Britain, according to academic Danny Dorling, is the fourth most unequal country in the rich world. The only more unequal places are the United States, Portugal and Singapore. British economic growth is increasingly about a narrow segment of society – primarily concentrated around London and the south east.

    2. Britain, despite devolution, is one of the most centralised countries in western Europe. Then there is the travesty of Westminster governance, a critique of which was one of the main drivers behind Scottish devolution. Since the advent of the Scottish Parliament, Westminster has become even worse.

    3. The nature and direction of English public services: the current English NHS Bill opens up health to parasite American and foreign private companies eager to get their hands on public health monies. This is an extension of New Labour public sector reform.

    4. Then there is the character of British politics. There have been four periods of Labour government since 1945 and only one has succeeded in narrowing inequality: the Attlee government. The other three led by Wilson/Callaghan and Blair/Brown all presided over widening inequality.

    5. The scale of poverty, health inequalities and dislocation in Scotland requires fundamental change: one in four children living in hardship, the worst life expectancy levels in western Europe. Doesn’t the union have to take some responsibility for this? Isn’t there at least the possibility independence could aid the transformational change we need to address this?

    6. One wouldn’t argue for independence solely based on North Sea oil revenues, but a contrast between Norway and ourselves is salutary. The North Sea has oil reserves for the next 30 to 40 years; wouldn’t it be good to see some of its benefits directly benefit the Scottish people?

    7. Foreign policy and international affairs (without reference to Iraq). The British state has for decades become a problem child in the world, a troublemaker in Europe, slavishly pro-American, a hawk on foreign adventures.

    8. Defence: there is the controversy of the nuclearisation and militarisation of Scotland without the consent of its people.

    9. Europe: Britain’s Euroscepticism shrinks its influence in the corridors of Brussels. An independent Scotland would be seen by France and Germany as a Euro enthusiast, and allow us direct representation on key Scottish interests: farming, fisheries, the oil industry and much more.

    10. The Scottish public sphere has suffered in recent years with the atrophying of large parts of our mainstream media. Part of this is global economics and the internet, but part is the media regulatory framework. An independent Scotland would allow us to create an environment where our public broadcasting began to reflect and represent our culture.

    11. Tory governments: for as long as Scots vote Conservative in such small numbers, whenever we have majority Tory governments at Westminster, there will be a crisis of legitimacy. Devolution hasn’t sorted this; it can’t because it is a political, not constitutional issue.