If a week is a long time in politics then last week must have felt like an eternity for Iain Gray.
The Scottish Labour leader had to endure a painful and very public humiliation at the hands of his London leaders who on the Abdelbaset Al Megrahi issue were doing one thing privately and quite another publicly – and all the while failing to inform Mr Gray.
The revelations contained in both Sir Gus O’Donnell’s report and the official Whitehall documents released last Monday were met with widespread incredulity as the Labour government’s secret dealings with the Libyans were exposed.
And, if we are to believe Scottish Labour, there was no-one more surprised than Iain Gray himself.
Suddenly, the man who had hitherto pounced on any media pronouncement, senatorial press release or journalistic queries on the Al Megrahi issue with the zeal of a jackal slevering over a carcase, suddenly took fright at an unexpected arrival in the form of the Whitehall papers – Dr Jackal morphed into Mr Hide.
A fabulous twisted irony on Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous work given that one analysis of the novel is that Dr Jeckyl is the good doctor of the Scottish enlightenment whereas Hyde was the beast of empire and an example of Scotland’s schizophenia.
Gray went to ground immediately when the story broke, he surfaced for a brief moment at FMQs last week before promptly disappearing again.
It wasn’t just his London based bosses who apparently felt that Scotland’s First Minister-in-waiting wasn’t worthy of being consulted on the biggest issue Scotland had faced in decades. As Newsnet Scotland revealed last week, former Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy was also in on Labour’s secret act of deception.
Scotland’s so called man in the cabinet kept the information on the help Labour were offering to the Libyans to himself. It almost beggars belief that Jim Murphy didn’t communicate anything on Labour’s Libyan dealings to Iain Gray, not once, in what must have been countless meetings, communications and conversations.
Iain Gray himself said in August last year on Radio Scotland, “I find it inconceivable that Alex Salmond wasn’t aware of the processes that the decision was made.” Yet Gray had no idea of the processes involved at the highest level within his own party.
It wasn’t just Mr Gray who was caught cold last Monday. The whole Scottish mainstream media was left scrabbling about when the story broke.
When David Cameron decided to make it the day’s big news item there was no hiding place, not just for the Scottish branch of the UK Labour party, but also for the now widely discredited outfit at Pacific Quay. In one beautifully synchronised moment, BBC Scotland joined Scottish Labour as both endured a moment of powerless anguish at the hands of London.
The Labour double dealing was a story that neither could keep off the Scottish airwaves nor downplay. London had set the narrative you see.
Labour’s duplicity replaced the usual ‘fitba/murder’ opium that Reporting Scotland routinely feeds the unsuspecting masses. With one teatime broadcast last Monday, BBC Scotland did more to expose Scottish Labour’s hypocrisy over Al Megrahi than all the official documents, interviews and newspaper headlines put together.
Here at last was the kind of news that other democracies expect and regularly receive; honest, frank and yes, objective. But this wasn’t BBC Scotland escaping from its Unionist/Labour straitjacket, this was just as clear an example of London control and British state bias as the blackout of the Montenegro story and the silencing of the SNP from electoral broadcasts.
Indeed, the story eventually disappeared faster than Brian Taylor’s reputation and normal service was resumed on Tuesday when Radio Scotland described Kenny MacAskill as being “under pressure” after Richard Baker “demanded” an emergency statement over the Cadder ruling.
Yes, that’s right, one day after the Labour duplicity was exposed ‘Pathetic Quay’ informed the nation that Kenny MacAskill and not Labour’s Iain Gray was the one under pressure.
One sensed that the BBC were trying to limit the damage when that evening up popped who else but Glenn Campbell with the truly awful ‘slopping out’ smear story. For those unfamiliar with Mr Campbell’s unique interpretation of the Megrahi story we recommend clicking here.
By Friday the BBC’s amnesia was confirmed when ‘Brian’s Big Debate’ ignored the topic. Mr Taylor once again proving that no story is too big for BBC Scotland to suppress.
However if you wanted to have a real laugh you simply had to listed to the puerile ignorance of Shereen Nanjiani’s guests on Sunday morning. One, a journalist by the name of Bill Leckie, displayed a breathtaking disregard for verifiable facts by implying that somehow, Sir Gus O’Donnell’s report was proof that there was more to Megrahi’s release than compassion.
Host Ms Nanjiani constrained the discussion to Kenny MacAskill’s decision and presented each of the guests with a loaded question and a platform to attack the Scottish government, completely ignoring the essence of the released documents which was about Labour duplicity. I listened as ignorance and smears were allowed free reign and the studio discussion descended into a farcical fact free frenzy.
Labour were barely mentioned as Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds was traduced, with Mr Leckie opining: “I’ve written from day one that I didn’t think this was anything to do with compassion, I’ve always thought it was business.”
Listen to the show here, the discussion on Megrahi starts off at 49 mins in.
BBC Scotland have sought to present a grotesque caricature of the Megrahi story from day one. This latest attempted ‘remake’ of the episode was par for the course.
With the exception of that brief moment last Monday when they lost control of the narrative, the behaviour of the corporation’s Scottish branch over this issue is one of the most blatant manipulations of news any Western democracy has witnessed from a state broadcaster.
With the exception of Derek Bateman and Isobel Fraser, who are currently shining lights amongst the predictable partisan gloom, it is very clear that things are not improving much at all at BBC Scotland. It’s also clear that they have no intention of sending out a search party to locate and question Mr Gray.