By Derek Bateman
Some mixed emotions on seeing the images of crazed jihadists executing Iraqi police. The revulsion reminded me of old footage of the Nazis shooting civilians on the edge of the graves they themselves had been forced to dig. I don’t think anything hit me harder as graphic proof of the chilling reality of humans gone mad.
Then it contrasted with the weekend experience of watching our people, Scots, enacting ancient rites and ceremonies at Selkirk Common Riding commemorating the war dead and the defeat at Flodden 500 years ago with solemnity and dignity and not a trace of resentment, let alone violence.
Was there also a grim sense of justification for resisting the urge to join the voices arguing for the toppling of the murderous Saddam by all means legal or otherwise? I was on the march against the war, against BBC instructions to staff and listened to Blair addressing the Labour Party the same day, writing off the views of 100,000 Scots before the march was even over.
Oh, the hubris.
But it isn’t just personal rectitude, it’s the realisation that Scotland’s heart was never in this fight, that the people didn’t back it and it was only the war-minded Tories and the party-before-country Labourites who voted in favour of a doomed endeavour whose endgame is now fizzing like a Catherine wheel through Iraq and here, within weeks, we may hear the verdict of the Chilcot Committee. Their findings may be one reason why the much-trumpeted engagement of John Reid in the referendum campaign has been so low key.
Events in Iraq are a reminder that in an independent Scotland we would have made the right decision on this major issue and would not have suffered the anti-British backlash the war engendered. We were right about it then and are right today. Independence is the freedom to make our own decisions without being coerced by London’s and Washington’s interests.
It was John Reid who was Blair’s spokesman for Newsnight and toured the studios night and day acting as His Master’s Voice. One day ‘We’ll get a second resolution’, next day ‘We don’t need a second resolution.’ Right enough, John.
(I also wondered why the Iraqi death pictures were on the front pages. This is surely doing the terrorists’ work for them? Their regime is designed to scare and to make their more threatening than they are by broadcasting images of their work. Why is the western media acting as their proxies?)
It struck me how the awful events unfolding in Iraq contrasted with the sanctimony of leading pro-war politicians like Gordon Brown and Brian Wilson who were in the papers on the same day lecturing us about how dangerous running our own affairs would be for Scotland. They are shameless, don’t you think? When the magnitude of their own actions in causing human misery and widespread death is brought home to the world, it doesn’t occur to them to show a scintilla of regret but to carry on as self-appointed overlords instructing the rest of us how to conduct ourselves in public debate and how to follow their lead in running our democracy. Cybernats are vicious, they say. Well not as vicious as your illegal war, Brian. Not quite as anti-social as kidnapping individuals on the streets and transporting them illegally to be tortured in unnamed prisons, Gordon. Not as brutal as British troops beating to death a hotel receptionist in custody.
Not a word did I read from either of these Labour men of the tragedy of Iraq and their part in its implosion. Perhaps like their messianic leader, Blair, they believe today’s troubles are completely disconnected from the invasion.
What I did read and see though was the childish posturing over Campbell Gunn, a contrived row over nothing, the kind that exposes Holyrood to the public charge of pygmy politics and the only thing the MSPs are any good at – bitching about their own. These are low-browed, short sighted careerists – the journalists too – with no wider vision than who’s got it in for who, who’s up and who’s down in their tightly-controlled little circus tent. This is the triumph of Lilliput.
If they believe that anyone outside their self-important bubble knows or cares who Gunn is, they confirm their own ignorance.
Let’s just check a couple of details. Gunn is a special adviser. His job is to influence journalists so the public gets a better impression of his master and his government. Everything else is fluff. How does he do this? By briefing, whispering, nodding, emailing, eliding, spinning and threatening. How do we know this? Because the role was defined by Alistair Campbell whose position was endorsed by everybody in the Labour government – that’ll include Brown and Wilson then. Did they complain about Campbell excluding certain journalists, object to the improvement in Labour’s ratings as a result? I don’t think so.
They are, like all politicians, part of the scummy world they created and to object to Gunn doing the same job for Salmond is laughable.What did Gunn do? He did his job – when he thought a paper was about to write an item suggesting the Lally woman was just an ordinary mum, he tried to put them right by correctly pointing out she was a well-connected Labour activist and, wrongly, related to Pat Lally.
That’s what spin doctor advisers do – spin information differently and in this respect Gunn was absolutely right. Do the critics pretend that Lally is still an ordinary mum?
The truth about Clare Lally is that, in this context, she is a combatant. In the unattractive militaristic language of political engagement, she is a soldier. She is not a civilian.
She can certainly support Labour, or anybody else, and become a CLP officer and accurately present herself as an ordinary mum. Good luck to her. But when she agrees to be an adviser to the shadow cabinet or helps launch a leadership campaign she steps outside local involvement on to a national, media-focussed stage where she throws off the mantle of ordinary. In the context of the Better Together campaign, an operation almost devoid of visible grassroots support, being able to label people as ordinary is important. In this case it was straight deceit. Her background betrays her. Whatever else she is, she is a Labour Party aficionado and pro-Union campaigner with a party appointment and high level access. Is Pat Kane an ordinary dad? He’s an adviser to the Yes campaign but not in a party as far as I know. He isn’t paid and speaks on behalf of himself. Would you call him ordinary? Hardly, yet he fits the bill better than Clare.
It doesn’t change her ‘ordinary’ home life. But just as Moira Salmond is a housewife we never see in the public eye yet whose identity to the nation is as First Minister’s partner, so Clare Lally ceased to be an ‘ordinary’ mum on accepting a national party appointment.
That’s why the wails of protest are bogus. They all know this but it doesn’t suit the anti-Salmond narrative and so journalists and politicos pretend to the appalled. There is no connection with cybernats so they make it for you. All this convinces me that the Unionist story itself has run out steam. A calm and steady campaign with a healthy lead would scoff at the pygmy pootering yet all across the Unionist spectrum this is what fires them up – a tawdry and synthetic childrens’ play of finger-jabbing and spitting. I fear they give away their panic.
As for Alan Cochrane, the Great Tumshie of Tayside, I have never seen a more toe-curling television performance in which he dragged the Telegraph down to the level of Jackie magazine flourishing his piece of paper. ‘Ah huv the email in ma pouch. Look. Here it is.’ Well, if that’s his reaction to an adviser putting him right, I would think no professional media person in their right mind would ever trust him with information again…as subtle as a clootie dumpling.
The irony here of course is that many of the same journalists turning on Gunn will have used him themselves for help – on detail, government thinking, access to the FM etc when it suited. Now it’s time to stab him in the back. Well done, Her Majesty’s Press.
Incidentally, I’ve written before that I can’t stand the special adviser role. It’s a waste of taxpayers money, they mainly produce poison and it’s what journalists feed off. Why not do the opposite and starve the clowns of information and insight and see how clever and well-connected they really are without being spoon-fed.
(I wonder how many jobs the Telegraph will keep in Scotland if there’s a no vote)