Thought for the day …


By a Newsnet reader

Most mornings when I travel to work I sit back and listen to the radio.  I’m given to listening in to BBC Radio Scotland – ‘Good Morning Scotland’ to be precise.

The show is compelling listening for many reasons; how many times will fast talking Gary Robertson insist on having the last word in the often cold and forced small-talk exchanges with his co-hosts; how will Kaye Adams navigate the humourless and uncomfortable plug for her show that follows?

Brian Taylor sometimes pops up to tell you just how “intriguing” the latest political manoeuvrings are – they are always intriguing according to Taylor, it’s his favourite word.

Like most independence minded people I have now become accustomed to the peculiar presentation the BBC insists on employing when covering Scottish politics, it’s expected and rarely shocks any more.

However this week I was taken aback when listening to the early morning slot “Thought for the day”.  For those unfamiliar with this brief break from news, weather and traffic, TFTD hears a mini-sermon provided by someone with links to religion or faith.

The broadcast is usually gentle, sometimes thought provoking, but rarely if ever controversial.  That is until this week.

On Friday I listened as someone called Father Rob Warren from the Episcopal Churches was allowed to use this publicly funded broadcasting opportunity to claim, without challenge, that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond had committed a “gaffe” by inviting “recent lottery winners and future SNP donors to a tea party at Bute House.”

I admit to being a bit taken aback and waited for something from the speaker to provide a context, something that would explain this rather subjective remark, but there was nothing – it simply stood on its own.

The “tea party” story was of course inspired by a Labour party complaint and has yet to be investigated, the term ‘tea-party’ is an over egged description of what we all know as a cup of tea and a chat.

Indeed, if past Labour party complaints of Ministerial wrong-doing are anything to go by then this will result in the same waste of time and taxpayers money as all the others, a lot more costly than a few tea bags.

But it isn’t important whether the criticisms of the visit by the Weirs were justified or not.  What matters is that the BBC allowed a segment of a show, usually reserved for faith inspired gentle contemplation, to be hijacked and a wholly subjective interpretation of a visit that took place last September allowed to be portrayed as fact.

What’s worse was that the gentleman himself made it clear that his script had been vetted by the show’s producer.  Whether this was in anticipation of expected complaints I don’t know, but it was clear that the listener was to understand that this particular sermon was sanctioned by BBC Scotland.

Mr Warren did in fairness begin his piece with a reference to a very real gaffe that had tragic consequences for at least one person; the Tory party’s advice for motorists to stockpile petrol in jerry cans – advice rightly condemned by the First Minister on Thursday at FMQs.

However to suggest that a cup of tea six months or so ago is comparable with the UK Government’s monumental blunder that led to panic buying of fuel and could have caused severe disruption (or worse) is ridiculous.

It begs the question just why was the reference to the politically inspired Labour complaint inserted in the first place – it is nowhere near the widely accepted definition of a gaffe.

Gaffes in the world of politics are those episodes of blundering ineptitude that parties or figures cannot deny, such as Gordon Brown’s infamous “bigoted woman” moment in the 2010 UK election campaign or Iain Gray’s Subway moment in the 2011 Scottish campaign.

In short, the gaffe is something that is not in dispute.

If Mr warren had wanted to, he could very easily have cited a very real gaffe from First Minister’s Questions on Thursday when Johann Lamont blundered not once but twice, getting two SNP pledges completely wrong and provoking howls of laughter – even Brian Taylor was forced to acknowledge the moment in his report, although BBC colleague Sarah Paterson failed to mention the moment in her own summary on Radio Scotland.

This was unusual because Ms Paterson had once labelled a “spectacular gaffe” a moment last year when Alex Salmond momentarily forgot the name of the leader of Edinburgh Council.

Granted, it isn’t the worst example of BBC Scotland’s over fondness for allowing the independence movement and or the SNP to be seen in a bad light.  But if a tiny religious slot, in a programme that is already giving cause for concern, can be misused in this way then it does not auger well for the next two and a half years.

So here’s my thought for the day – let’s not politicise ‘Thought for the day’.

Hear the broadcast for yourself (1hr 22mins)