For such a huge story it has moved with amazing haste from the pages and airwaves of Scotland’s news vendors. The decent ones have simply buried it whilst the less discerning have embraced the ludicrous ‘slopping out deal’ smear. Innuendo continues to be favoured over cold hard facts by some newsrooms.
Monday’s report exposing the shockingly hypocritical behaviour of the Labour party who had been secretly facilitating Abdelbaset Al Megrahi’s return to Libya at UK level whilst allowing their Scottish sidekicks to attack the compassionate release of the same man was incredible stuff. Scottish Labour’s Iain Gray and his hapless sidekick Richard Baker owe the people of Scotland an explanation.
18 months ago we were told that such a show of compassion had led to ‘outrage’ across the globe and had ‘damaged’ Scotland’s international reputation. If that’s the case then one can only imagine the outrage and damage that will result from the exposure of the clandestine machinations of the last Labour government.
From their ‘deal in the desert’ to their ‘squeals in the chamber’ nothing demonstrates the rot that has so completely destroyed the once proud party of the working man. It isn’t just the decent socialist principles of the Labour party that now lie twisted and gnarled like the wreckage of Pan Am 103. The episode has also forced the Unionist dominated media in Scotland to briefly hold a mirror to itself and see what a journalistic Mr Hyde it has become.
The stumbling hesitant broadcasts that followed the revelations on Monday afternoon were a testament to journalists unused to having to report on such Labour damaging events. This was not Iain Gray’s Montenegro gaffe, this was a UK wide story and it had to be covered. The narrative had already been set by the UK Conservative government and it couldn’t be changed.
The story made it onto Reporting Scotland; a feat in itself given that BBC Scotland’s flagship programme embraces bad Labour stories with the same zeal that superman embraces kryptonite. It was followed up by Newsnight Scotland, hosted by Isabel Fraser who along with Derek Bateman on a Saturday are singlehandedly maintaining what little remains of the BBC’s reputation in Scotland.
The Newsnight Scotland interview with Labour MSP Richard Baker was quite simply mind boggling. Faced with the day’s very damaging revelations that pretty much proved that Labour had effectively lied on just about every aspect of their involvement with Libya, both before Mr Al Megrahi was diagnosed with cancer and after, Mr Baker scurried for the rock marked ‘ignorant’ and began smacking himself with it.
Mr Baker’s interview can be paraphrased thus:
Q. What did you know?
Q. Did you ever ask?
A politician who openly admitted that both he and Iain Gray were kept out of the loop by London was bad enough. But to then admit that at no point did any of the Holyrood Labour group consult their London bosses on the Al Megrahi issue is simply gross incompetence.
Remember that Iain Gray is the person that many in the Scottish media are trying to ensure is installed as Scotland’s next first minister. Yet on a matter that Gray himself acknowledges was of international importance, and with the reputation of Scotland at stake, he couldn’t be bothered asking what Labour’s stance was and how the issue might affect the UK. Gray fails this leadership litmus test at both Scottish level and at Unionist level.
Of course despite not consulting him on matters of great importance Iain Gray has learned one thing from his old boss Gordon Brown – how to disappear. The man who would be Scotland’s first minister left his hapless sidekick Baker to take the heat.
So, no one was able to pose the following questions to Mr Gray.
- When did you discover that your Labour colleagues in London were plotting to have Al Megrahi released?
- Would you, as first minister, have allowed a healthy Al Megrahi to return to Libya as part of the ‘deal in the desert’ Prisoner Transfer Agreement hatched by Labour PM Tony Blair?
- Why does your Justice spokesman continue to attack the SNP, knowing that your own colleagues plotted Al Megrahi’s release?
- Will you now condemn Gordon Brown and his Ministers who plotted to have Al Megrahi released?
The role played by Jim Murphy in the episode is also being questioned and people are now asking what the former Scottish Secretary knew and when he knew it.
Michael Matheson MSP pointed out that Mr Murphy was copied into the records of meetings and claimed it would have been “inconceivable” for Iain Gray not to have known the Labour Government favoured Megrahi’s release “by any means”.
So many questions, so few journalists willing to ask them.