I don’t normally respond to articles by other writers because we’re all contributing to the babel (although I see some actually get paid for it). But I had a few thoughts on the Brian Wilson column in the Scotsman which continued the Shona Robison-as- Goebbels theme. I’m not sure this is at all fruitful for unionists as I don’t think anybody actually believes it. If you see what she was questioning – an academic leading a politically neutral university research programme while helping to set up a campaign group backing one side of the same programme, any sensible person would think she has a point. I imagine the manufactured mushroom cloud of outrage is what really puzzles the public. No wonder they turn off when the best the combined brains of |Better Together can come up with is an hysterical claim that Nationalists want to bully people into shutting up. (Perhaps Brian could talk to his chum Ian Taylor about threatening those revealing the truth).
Nevertheless the public will also note that all governments are notorious for trying to get their way and try very hard to influence opinion. I was trying to remember who started that. Oh yes, it’s coming back now…New Labour. Wasn’t Brian part of that?
Who remembers Alistair Campbell intimidating journalists not on message…refusing to give stories to reporters who didn’t write what he wanted…humiliating Nick Jones of the BBC who refused to bow to his bullying…as Jones reflects: “Perhaps it was no surprise that among Campbell’s many boasts he did not repeat the line from his diaries, The Blair Years, about not minding if journalists were fearful of falling out his favour because he “wanted to undermine them, divide and rule”.
Perhaps if the British Unionists had the interests of openness and transparency at heart, they’d like to explain why they refuse to open the Cabinet papers from 1997 dealing with Labour’s internal disagreements on Scottish devolution. Brian could write himself and encourage his friend Alastair Darling to do the same asking that the Scots be allowed to see those discussions before voting in the referendum. (It was the SNP which cut the embargo on government papers from 30 to 15 years – obviously the act of a secrecy-mad administration.)
While he’s at it, why not ask the British government to stop preventing release of papers which would allow the Chilcott Inquiry finally to complete its work investigating the war in Iraq? The documents revealing Labour leader Tony Blair’s private talks with George Bush are being kept back so the public – that’s the voters – don’t find out what was said. Who cares about lost lives when reputations are at stake?
Why aren’t Labour calling for detainees of the War on Terror to be put on trial rather than bought off with millions in compensation? Is it because the detainees can prove that British agents attended torture sessions and that authorization for that reached all the way up to…where? Jack Straw?
If it’s bullying to hide the facts you’re after, you might shine a light on Falkirk where, it seems, Ed Miliband, a Labour leader, is now believed to have been previously informed of Unite’s recruitment campaign for Labour members but chooses not to admit it in the light of events. That is why the report won’t be published, to hide Ed’s blushes. Pressure is applied to those who want to speak up and their complaints made to disappear.
I recall even more explicit Labour bullying. According to Murray Ritchie of the Herald, Gordon Brown was so incensed at the paper’s failure to stamp on nationalism that he threatened to have public sector advertising withheld from the paper – a major source of revenue.
On a more recent note, who recalls the Howat Report? The Labour/Lib Dem devolved government commissioned Bill Howat to assess its spending and to report back on how effective it was. He did. They didn’t publish. They put it in a drawer because what it showed embarrassed them. It was only when the SNP took over that a publicly-funded document was brought to light.
Or how about this from 1999….A UK Government minister is to appear in the High Court over his decision not to release information on a controversial dam.
Trade Minister Brian Wilson faces the court next week to answer claims that he is breaching environmental information regulations by refusing to release details about the impact the Ilisu dam in Turkey will have. Friends of the Earth allege that the environmental impact assessment – upon which the scheme is based – was not done properly and want to obtain access to it. The group will argue in court that under 1992 environmental information regulations, Mr Wilson is obliged to publish details of the report. He has so far refused, saying the documents are not the government’s to release.”Mr Wilson seems to regard freedom of information as a question of news management rather than a fundamental right,” said FoE policy and campaigns director Tony Juniper.
All these fall into the category of suppression of information against a wider public interest, either through refusal to release or through enforcement, official or otherwise.
We’re all guilty of hypocrisy. Me too. But I think of all the voices out there, some that should consider self-restraint are those of former politicians with a traceable record in office to set beside their current views.