Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Faint scratching noises as the bottom of the barrel is scraped

As the sons set on Rupert Murdoch’s empire (ⓒGeorge Galloway), perhaps the most unedifying sight in a thoroughly unedifying political arena is the view of Alex Salmond’s apologists attempting to shift blame by pointing at Blair, Thatcher, Brown, Cameron and their past courting of the media godfather. 
On blogs and on networking sites, aides and supporters of the isolated Salmond have been using the ‘they all did it’ argument in frantic attempts to distract attention away from the fact that they didn’t all do it, and in fact no one did it at the same time and in such a way as the dear leader.
Of course it is true that party leaders at Westminster and Holyrood have much to answer for in the shameless cultivating of support from Murdoch’s tabloids. And some people have been warning for some time - back at least to Thatcher in the UK - that this is a subversion of democracy. Often this has been at much risk to their own careers and private life. Indeed, Tom Watson MP has been one of those politicians who has ploughed a lonely and risky furrow in opposing the power of the Murdochs, often in opposition to his own whips office and party hierarchy. The least he deserves is a serious hearing when he suggests methods of lancing the boil, rather than Salmond’s curt dismissal that he ‘does not need any lectures from Tom Watson’. Recent experience - not least the revelations of phone hacking of Scottish politicians and media figures - suggests otherwise.
Of course, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report was prepared by politicians, and will be subject to partisan views. But Alex is a politician and his supporters are no strangers to partisan views. Mind you, I’m not sure how many of them will be too keen on his refusal even to back the majority view of that report and to throw in his lot with the Tory minority in failing to condemn Mr Murdoch’s ‘fitness to run a media empire’, In the absence of a BSB takeover to lobby for, maybe defending Murdoch on this will be a sufficient ‘quid pro quo’?
'Is anyone watching?
For despite SNP activists attempts to fling mud  (apparently being photographed reading the Sun equates to writing messages of support for it and leaking the date of the referendum to it), there is a huge difference between the actions of Thatcher, Blair, Cameron et al and that of Alex Salmond. It is this. Salmond’s activities are taking place now. After the revelations of the Millie Dowler and other phone hackings, after the exposure of editorial complicity in police bribery, and after every leader in the rest of UK politics has realised the damage their associations with NI were doing (even Jeremy Hunt had the grace to hide behind a tree!), Mr Salmond scheduled new meetings with the tycoon, and made it clear he was open for a closer relationship. 
And the lack of understanding, attempts to excuse the inexcusable, to brazen it out, and to fall into the age-old nationalist rant of ‘blame Labour’, is what will cause the damage. Oh, this might be seen as still significantly a debate amongst the chattering classes, but (in particular) the hacking of a dead schoolgirl’s phone will always make sure that the distaste for Mr Murdoch and his editorial placepersons spreads wider than that.
It is a shame that the many good people in the SNP remain so quiet on this one. Party discipline is normally something to be recognised and even applauded, but not when something as wrong as this is going on (as Alan Cochrane said the other day in the Telegraph). The normally sure-footed SNP machine has mishandled this one, and mishandled it badly. The problem with elevating leaders to semi-divine status, is that their feet of clay all too often melt!

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