I took issue with John Kelly on a number of observations and facts, and sent a letter to the Herald setting out my core point. It wasn’t published, probably because the Letters page was full of much more topical and vital material on subsequent days, so I have no complaints about the Herald’s priorities and editorial decision.
However, I thought my more extended analysis of the Lamont/Robertson interview might be worth setting out here.
Reading John Kelly's letter I wondered if he watched the same Sunday Politics Scotland broadcast as I did. The anchorman was not Andrew Kerr, as stated by Mr. Kelly, but Gary Robertson, a highly experienced television and radio journalist and expert political interviewer. In just over eight and a half minutes, while allowing Johann Lamont every opportunity to answer questions and make her case, he managed to reveal the gaping holes and contradictions in her position on welfare and benefits, and a misleading an inaccurate campaign leaflet distributed in the Dunfermline by-election by Labour.
It is not the purpose of daily newspapers to hold our elected representatives to account - that is the job of the electorate and, where appropriate, the law. The role of newspapers and the media in general is to tell the truth to power by informing the electorate of the facts that politicians often do not wish the public to know. One of the most powerful tools for doing that is the televised political interview.
A television interviewer’s job is not to act as a a chat show host, allowing his or her celebrity guest to use the 'interview' as a platform for their unchallenged views or as a party political broadcast - the interviewer's role is to explore with penetrating questions the contradictions inherent in all political policy and to elicit answers to questions that the politicians do not want answered, or at least make it starkly evident that the politician is either unable or unwilling to give such answers.
Reading John Kelly's letter I wondered if he watched the same broadcast I did. The anchorman was not Andrew Kerr but Gary Robertson, a highly experienced television and radio journalist and expert political interviewer.
Robertson, on the Grangemouth crisis, asked: "Had you been in Alex Salmond's position, would you have been compromised by being a member of Unite?"and also Lamont’s position on the central role of Stephen Deans in the dispute and police involvement over emails.
She denied seeing the emails, and tried to move away from the issue, denying that the shambles in Falkirk was over the manipulation of candidate selection. It patently was.
Robertson's question on the Dunfermline by-election victory margin and its significance produced an extended reply, with only one minor query from Robertson, and the observation that by-elections rarely change anything, adding that an IpsosMori poll showed 57% electorate support for the Scottish government, and that they seemed to be doing well. Lamont said it "didn't feel like that" to her. Robertson put all his questions briefly, courteously and concisely and Lamont was given every opportunity to respond, which she did at length.
Robertson went on by saying that Labour had said what it was against - independence and the bedroom tax ("eventually") - but what was it for, what was it pro? He interjected - as any competent interviewer would - to try penetrate vague generalities that came in response, asking "What are the issues you are for, then?" Lamont simply persisted with a recitation of problems - all without offering a single policy or what Labour would do about them.
Robertson then moved to the contradictions inherent in the election leaflet put out in Dunfermline, and Lamont's own position on welfare, the welfare budget and her Cuts Commission, contradictions between Labour’s and their key policy adviser Professor Midwinter's views on welfare, council tax, and his position that it was an inefficient use of public funds.
In just over eight and a half minutes - while allowing Johann Lamont every opportunity to answer questions fully and make her case - he managed to reveal the absence of any coherent Labour policy, and gaping holes and contradictions in her position on welfare and benefits.
Gary Robertson did his job superbly well – perhaps that is what really bothered Mr. Kelly.