Do As I Say…Not As I Do

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.

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11 thoughts on “Do As I Say…Not As I Do

  1. Brilliant and i bet there is a lot more you could have picked from.

  2. Leave Brian alone, it’s his turn in the pretend deluge of outrage. His main attack is for the nuclear industry for which he receives remuneration – does he have to declare this when he advocates ‘Tri…WMD. Or is it only the Bulmers who have to declare. They are losing and they are incapable of visualisation of a Scotland free from their machinations. Shame on them, this is more important than their Party.

    • Nice one Derek- it would be really interesting to see those Cabinet papers . I personally doubt if The Labour leadership would have supported Devolution if it hadn’t been for the fear of the SNP

  3. if was a foolish e-mail to send … those of us who go along to these sessions often have to heckle but that is a Dundee tradition – Dundee invented the word ‘heckle’! i gather Shona, on her return from Sri Lanka did actually turn up to the latest ‘5 Million Questions’ on Monday which I missed and which was in the Steps Theatre at the foot of the Hilltown and about welfare reform … don’t know if Brian Wilson was there … the last time i saw him in the vicinity of the Wellgate was when he and Donald Dewar and Gordon Brown launched New Deal in the job centre … that collapsed on Day 1 of course in 1998 when someone asked to see the Executive and Professional Jobs Register only for civil servants to have to jump in and tell Donald D that ‘it was privatised in 1984 and ceased to exist in 1988, Minister’ – and ‘I don’t normally report to you sir … i report to David Blunkett …’ There was then nearly a punchup at Discovery Point where Brown was making his big speech: the Chamber of Commerce hadn’t been invited but turned up nevertheless to picket … the MD of Dundee-based C&J Lang a wholesaler supplying most of the Spar outlets in North East Scotland was particularly incensed as they had jobs to offer the unemployed but HM Treasury had forgotten to invite them … but did invite along Tesco … A Guardian article that morning criticising the targetting of New Deal at only 18-25 years olds led to Dr Brown arriving late … he had to change his speech to include a vague commitment to do something for the long-term unemployed older workers on the hoof so Donald and Brian Wilson had to hold the fort while changes were made for the interview with Hugh Pym in Wellgate Job Centre where the lifts were also out of action so all three Ministers and the press corps and the punters had to climb up 4 flights of stairs …. 15 years on that lift was still playing up and was finally replaced in Jan 2013 after I complained! Some of those attending the Job Centre – on both sides of the counter – remember that disastrous New Deal launch of Labour’s ‘flagship’ and its sinking … but Brown and Wilson have not been seen in the vicinity since needless to say … The most recent incident to hit the press there in Dundee also involved the dodgy lifts … someone allegedly released a noxious invisible substance … tear gas was one rumour … ‘over-reaction’ was the verdict of one of the policeman … but there were five fire engines and a forward control unit called in to attend the scene and the whole area was cordoned off all afternoon while a chemicals unit was called down from Aiberdeen to analyse the air quality in the lift … the matter is sub judice … but the story was that some lad had been sanctioned. Interestingly too the sanction letters come these days from DWP in Wales – Merthyr Tydfal – even if they relate to Work Programme participants attending Wellgate Job Centre missing appointments at Triage round the corner in Albert Square. Triage are nice people locally – but like the local DWP staff quote major problems with the Work Programme which they all hate … following a sanction appeal in Aberdeen too the other weeks Triage staff were being briefed not use their company’s computer system because it wasn’t picking up the calendar entries accurately and they had had to ‘put their hand up’ and apologise in this case in Aberdeen. Ironically all the computers and the phones had crashed that day in the Dundee office so this instruction was a bit academic … It is DWP chaos! Left over too from Brian Wilson and Gordon Brown’s New Deal launch in Dundee some 15 years ago …!

  4. Dynamite, Derek.
    I hadn`t heard that about Milliband, but it certainly would explain some things.
    I ask this question in all seriousness, if Labour had won in Scotland in 2011, as the polls predicted at the time, would Grangemouth have re-opened after it`s shutdown, or would many hundreds of families right now be staring at Christmas on the dole ?

  5. But to get back to ‘5 Million Questions’: these are open public meetings not a research project. At the ones I have attended Chris Whatley does not ‘chair’ them – he gives the vote of thanks … Normally it is David Torrance who chairs the meetings … he is also on the steeting group with Whatley and Dundee Uni’s MIchael Marra (the brother of local Labour MSP Jenny Marra and himself on Labour’s candidate list). Marra was previously a spin doctor for Labour’s Scottish leader Iain Gray – and in that capacity famously guided him from ‘the killing fields’ of Glasgow Central Station into a sandwich bar nearby to escape cuts protestors! He’s a nice guy nonetheless. David Torrance is of course a former journalist of impeccable neutrality except of course for the period when he acted as Conservative spin doctor for David Mundell the only Tory MP in Scotland …. Hey but all is fair in love and war and referendum campaigns! Were these posts advertised in the Wellgate Job Centre? Of course they weren’t – not after the privatisation of the Executive and Professional Vacancies Register (pace Brian Wilson) 🙂 An advance copy of Whatley’s book on the 1707 Union was as I remember made available to Labour’s Wendy Alexander in advance of publication and heavily trailed in her op eds when she was Labour Leader but eventually the rest of us got to see it and yes it is a bit pro-Union compared to say the work of Michael Fry and Paul Henderson Scott but nothing wrong with that. What is interesting too about the way the The Telegraph’s Scottish correspondent Alan Cochrane covered the Shona Robson story too is that Cochrane despite being a Dundonian has never actually turned up to sessions of ‘5 Million Questions’ – unlike BBC’s Brian Taylor for example who chaired the debate between the 2 Blairs from the Yes Campaign and the No Campaign and who was also a panellist on an earlier session on the reporting of the referendum. Brian is of course a Dundonian too. But if Alan Cochrane had been at the session on education policy involving a panel that included Mike Russell, Liz Smith, Gayle Lythgoe, Neil Bibby and Dundee Uni Principal Pete Downes who is the current chair of the committee of Scottish University Principals he would have heard Pete Downes give his view that independence would not really have much impact on the research funding success of institutions like Dundee Uni which can win grants on merit and operates internationally. There was also very strong criticism of the impact of UK immigration policy on recruitment of staff and students in the tertiary education sector and Liz Smith for the Scottish Tories confirmed that she took a very different line on visas from her Westminster counterparts and had said so publicly. It was therefore a bit odd for Cochrane to major on the threat to UK research council funding and connect this to Whatley and Pennington’s comments which were not reflected by Whatley’s own Principal at that 5 Million Questions session. If the scientists too are not worrried either about research funding drying up (Pete Downes is a microbiologist to trade) it isn’t likely that there will be a funding problem post-Indy for historians I wouldn’t have thought surely?!

    • I feel bound to rush to defend Alan Cochrane’s honour, and say that he is not merely the Telegraph’s Scottish ‘correspondent’. According to his byline, he is in fact its Scottish Editor. The fact that Alan’s relation to actual editorial power in that august organ is about the same as as his country’s relation to actual political power at Westminster (i.e. not very much), is an irony lost on perhaps no one but Alan himself.

  6. I knew of the threat to Murray Ritchie from Labour. I didn’t know that it was Gordon Brown that delivered it. Thanks for that snippet.

  7. [Derek] I must have a longer memory than you . For the full period of the Thatcher administration she had a belligerent bullying press secretary……… Bernard Ingram took no prisoners in his dealings with the press and parliamentarian lobbyists . His bruising manner supported without question all Thatcher policies which progressively did so much damage to the economy in Scotland . Nothing was offered by way of replacement to the 100s of thousands who lost their jobs in the heavy industries , shipbuilding and mining .

    Since 2007/2008 and the implosion of the financial centres throughout the world ,created in no small part by complicit Governments and their regulatory authorities , there has been a manipulation of the financial crisis in order to consolidate power and privilege into the hands of an ever smaller grouping of corporate and political elite . This is the dismembering of Democracy in order to favour the few at the expense of the many .

    The result of the elite few having seized more control than at any time in modern political history is the destruction of social policies which have stood the test of time and have , until now , provided governance with
    a more human , co-operative and shared sense of moral responsibility for a more sustainable future .

    In short , this political elite are using the financial and banking crisis to destroy democracy and secure the future for themselves and their cronies . We’ve come along way from the honourable grand old times of Government by the People for the People . And it’s only going to get worse by LibLabCon all committing themselves to further draconian cuts to the social service budgets and further privatisation of the NHS and schools . Don’t for a minute think that these policies will not be enforced in Scotland . They will by the simple means of reducing or remodelling the Barnett formula . Just wait , we ain’t seen nothing yet .

    Scotland has one chance to escape the oncoming draconian measures being planned in Wesminster . That chance for freedom from Westminster neoliberal policies is voting Yes in the forthcoming Referendum . Only
    by seizing the opportunity will we escape all the social nastiness being promulgated by Cameron Clegg and Milliband now trying to be macho and playing catch up .”

    A Yes vote will provide Scotland the opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror on the 19th September next year and be proud . No longer too wee , too stupid , too feart to do anything for ourselves . We would be realising a dream and from that day onwards be able to appoint the politicians of our choice able to give us the first Scottish Parliament constructed to govern “By the people for the people”. Membership of the EU, NATO,
    The UN, The Nordic Alliance , would all follow in due course .Small country perfectly formed !
    However a No vote will will present us with no defence against savage budgetary cuts and in the words of Neil Kinnock ” Don’t be poor ; Don’t be sick ; Don’t be old ” and you could add to this present day litany of misery “Don’t be young ; Don’t be unemployed ”

    M

  8. What I would find very interesting is any information on Brian Wilson’s record of achievement as Tony Blair’s Special Envoy to Iraq. I remember the BBC interviewing him about his plans for Iraq’s reconstruction at the time. However, there doesn’t appear to be much about this golden moment in his career online.

  9. Bernard Ingham was credited by Harold Macmillan’s grandson with inventing the Job Shop when his faither Maurice Macmillan was Employment Minister in Heath’s Government and Ingham was DE’s civil service Press Officer. He wasn’t all bad … and that was a good reworking of an old idea The Labour Exchange which Winston Churchill pioneered (sorry borrowed from Germany) under Beveridge’s influence when he was Liberal MP for Dundee …. just saying … 🙂

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