Coward’s Way

If your response to the news of Michael Moore’s departure was, like mine: So what?…you might be interested in this tale of how the mighty Moore fought tooth and nail for the Union.

Listening to Scottish Questions from Westminster on your behalf – right there I have justified the licence fee – I sat open-mouthed two years ago as Moore was asked by one of those English backwoods Tory buffoons who view Scotland through the sights of a double-barrelled Purdey, Philip Hollobone (Kettering):

“Isn’t it the case that a separate Scotland simply wouldn’t have been able to survive the global banking crisis on its own and, had it been separate, would now be heading the way of Ireland and Greece?”

Moore replied: “A very important point, because the scale of the financial disaster that befell both Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland would have placed a crippling burden upon Scotland.  By being part of the United Kingdom we shared the risks, we’re sharing the recovery and that is the right way forward.”

If the bold Michael had gone down on one knee and bowed his head to the Tory oaf, it would have encapsulated the moment perfectly.

Well of course, that’s the conventional Unionist view: You’re too small, too poor, too feckless and too dependent. Count your lucky stars you’ve got bigger charitable neighbours to bail you out.

At the BBC we began phoning around renowned experts in banking and finance and turned up three who all disagreed with the Moore line to a greater or lesser extent, pointing out that the crucial missing ingredient was that the country where the bank is headquartered isn’t what’s important, it’s where it does its business and is regulated. And that’s where the real impact falls. So, if the banks did 90 per cent of their business in the City, 90 per cent of the bail-out applied there, not in Scotland.

Now I don’t expect a politician to give the game away exactly, but if your job is to represent Scotland in the Cabinet and in the Commons, shouldn’t you offer more than a jellyfish response when your country is being traduced? Does Moore have an ounce of fibre in him or is it all straw?

Here’s what I thought he could have said in reply: “I thank the Honourable Dumbell for his question. Can I say first of all Mr Speaker than the Scottish banks have made a monumental contribution to the economy of this country through Corporation tax and other revenues and RBS is the largest private sector employer in Scotland. They bring enormous benefit to the City of London and have collectively provided a revenue stream on which the growth of Britain was built. That is to the credit of the banks and to Scotland, proving that Scotland is a valuable contributor to the British national economy. It does him no credit if the gentleman implies Scotland is reliant on London for financial support, rather than being engaged in a mutually beneficial arrangement in which money flows in both directions. That is the foundation of the Union. And that is how the bail-out worked, a solution appropriate to Scotland, England and the Exchequer. He should be aware at this politically sensitive time that it is unhelpful to offend Scots whom we are encouraging to stay in Union rather than implying they would be paupers without Union.”

But being the worst kind of servile Unionist and Westminster greasy pole-vaulter, Moore couldn’t summon more than total agreement even while he knew his country was being insulted. That’s what happens when you elect an uninspiring chartered accountant and pretend he’s a politician rather than a placeman.

We asked for Moore to come on the programme and debate the bail-out based on his answer. To no-one’s surprise, he declined…too busy…he’ll be at home in the Borders on Saturday…etc

He did though manage to get his adviser to compose a bitter and detailed rant in an email about how we’d got the story wrong and demanding an apology, all the usual drivel that flows from a humiliated man who thinks he’s got power. We even had his adviser on the phone expressing fury on his behalf. (The usual drill here is that the spad is forced to ring up while the minister listens in and has to relay the big tough man’s anger to the quivering journalist. It’s worth saying down the phone at such times: “He’s listening in to this, isn’t he?” There are cases where the spad, still in character, shouts: “Yes.”  Hilarious.)

The minister in this case thinks he is putting a lid on the story. He gets to object and deny without being challenged and to vent his anger without having to appear on air and undergo scrutiny. Pathetic. You can see where The Thick of It comes from.

And our next move was straight out of the same script. Instead of letting it lie and just publishing Moore’s denunciation on the website, we wrong-footed them by going straight back with a message of our own. We said: “Since the minister says we are wrong on the bail-out and is clearly troubled by our programme which he couldn’t appear on last week, we offer to re-run the whole item again from start to finish and offer to interview him live at the top of the programme for as long as he likes, say 20 minutes of question and answer.” We would send a radio car to his house in the Borders. If not, we could pre-record an interview at any time and at any place he requested.

You could almost hear Malcolm Tucker shouting: “For fuck’s sake…we can’t do that. We’ll get shredded…He isn’t a government minister, he’s a plastic toy from a cornflakes box…”

So Moore duly cancelled again. Two chances to defend that Commons statement before a BBC audience and two declines. We empty-chaired him on air. If he really was sure of himself and fighting for the Union, how does he justify running away from a BBC interview? Twice. It shows you, again, how insecure some of these so-called big beasts of Unionism are. Isn’t running away exactly what Cameron’s doing over the televised debate?



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0 thoughts on “Coward’s Way

  1. OK I got it wrong. The game is to talk down Scotland to make your job secure. Roll on September 2014.

  2. I can no longer bear listen to Scottish Questions, who wants to hear Scotsmen trash their own country cow-towing to snobbish Westminster MP’s ill informed about Scotland and yabooing over SNP MP’s trying to do the job they are paid to do.

  3. Ah, Derek, you are beyond rubies.

  4. I don’t watch Scottish questions mainly because of the guff being spoken, Margaret Curran and the total rudeness of the MPs when they start to file in and you can’t heat the last 10 minutes because they are chatting, tweeting or claming expenses.

  5. And here was me in a moment of weakness tinged with sympathy for the lad before you pepped me up. Thanks Derek.

  6. cynicalHighlander

    Nice to have to pay £8-10 million for someone to trash your country when the money would be better supporting foodbanks.

  7. “right there I have justified the licence fee”

    An admirable and agreeable justification, and I agree that stuff like that is value for money, but the very idea of a license for television can never be justified. But this is all beside the point: great work as always.

  8. Aye good to get the story right again Derek and on the STV/BBC news tonight we get the new SoS for Scotland saying he is going to continue the Better Together fight along with items on 1/3 of us live in fuel poverty Food Banks are being opened in Aberdeen! and I noticed LIdl had a bill board asking customers for charity help saying 1 in 5 of our children live in poverty. We must be able to do better on our own.

    • Noticed that just today and took a photo. I was gobsmacked. A rich country like Scotland ‘normalising’ child poverty.

  9. Murray McCallum

    I asked the CEO of Scottish Financial Enterprise (the trade body for Scotland’s financial services companies) the exact point about government responsibility for supporting the global activities of domestically HQ’d banks. I was prompted by an article appearing in the Scotsman that questioned Scottish banking viability in an independent Scotland. Ironically the article was next to a Bank of Scotland advertisement.

    I made the points in your blog, i.e. about where they do business. In our e-mail exchange, he simply would not answer the question directly.

    I found it depressing that someone allegedly championing Scotland’s financial services was not prepared to think outside the UK box. He referred me to the Treasury and the paper they published “Scotland analysis – financial services and banking” (it’s basically the banking version of the unionist oil argument).

  10. So we know that there were people within BBC Scotland who knew the “Scotland couldn’t have bailed out the banks” line was utter tripe. That’s good. But in that case, why have politicians been getting away with making that insinuation ever since? Why doesn’t the interviewer always say “hold on, that’s not actually true, is it?” when a unionist comes out with it?

    Is this just another case of bad briefing of journalists? Because I reckon this is one of the main things that has caused folk to scream “BIAS!!!” at the TV.

  11. Added you to my blogroll…

    My first thought was surprise. Not because he was particularaly good at his job or anything like that (his time in dover house could best be described as meh!), but because his replacement has (anytime i’ve seen him anyway) been singularaly unimpressive since the last Westminster election.

  12. Derek, you just get better and better.

  13. So what indeed Derek. Pointless politician in a pointless role. I am sure Carmichael will bring his own brand of pointlessness to proceedings. The First Minister will be shaking in his boots at the thought.

    In other news, I see Student Leader Jim Murphy has also been demoted….or as he puts it ‘freed up so that he can spend more time fighting for the union’….again, the First Minister will be……..

  14. One of the many things that is becoming clear during our debate is that Westminster see the SoS position as that of colonial governor.His job is to keep the restless natives in line and subservient to London rule.
    Looks like they feel Moore has failed on both counts.

  15. I really liked his documentary films…….

  16. Oh Derek, if only the BBC had journalists of your calibre…erm..oh.

  17. There is a general rule in law where breach of trust affects the sentence. For example, a Janitor who stole, might be sentenced more harshly than an opportunist passing the window and stealing the same thing.

    Politicians and broadcasters have huge positions of trust, not least of all due to the disproportionate effect they can have on truth, fairness, understanding and respect.

    Why do we as a society tolerate any less than exemplary, impeccable behaviour from these two professions. Why do we allow politicians to ‘duck the question’, never mind tell lies?

    Politicians are at the very top of my list of detestable species. There are some good people of course. But it seems obfuscation, lies, avoidance, hegemony and snout in the trough are all part of the modern politicians competencies these days.

  18. cynicalHighlander

    #BizforScotland destroys the No Campaign’s bank bail-out lies

    But even yesterday Douglas Fraser was swooning at the feet of AD in continuing to talk down ‘Scottish’ banks.

    • Yes and Darling getting more of the same tonight from Newsnight. The UK propaganda machine is being revved up for the fight and is now going beyond comprehension. The Black Watch will have to stay in England as will Faslane – really? I better vote No then!

  19. Derek, you have defended your fellow journalists and BBC Scotland with respect to allegations of bias but indicated that there are fundamental flaws concerning management and an unhealthy influence/relationship between one senior member of BBC staff and a political party media management type.

    On a one-off basis do you think that Douglas Fraser’s performance referred to by cynicalHighlander was a result of bias, ineptitude, lack of briefing or a combination thereof?

  20. It would appear that no editorial control is being exercised over the lugubrious content of Business Scotland.

  21. I stopped watching Scottish Questions during the financial crisis. Seeing Scottish MPs gloating and jeering about “the failure of Scotland’s banks” was enough for me.

  22. Go on, Del-boy, rather than bask in all your LibDem-bashing glory – and let’s face it, smacking a LibDem about a bit is not exactly a Herculean task – why not remind us of the time Alistair Darling (for it was he) came on your show and ripped apart your silly thesis that somebody else would have bailed out the Scottish banks if Scotland had been a separate country at the time of the crash.

    Now that was a hoot!

  23. If you look at it from the Westminster perspective….lets give the banks all the money viewpoint then we would have. If you look at it from the Icelandic viewpoint we would have been saying…. Ok Westminster you need a loan of £500M, what collateral do you have?

  24. Michael Moore is a liberal democrat. He does want more power for the scottish government, but is too scared to stand up to his bosses at Westminster. He is human after all and I reckon the whips at Westminster are still living in the last century, so yes he probably did have much to lose by wanting more for Scotland. Well now he has lost his cabinet position. The Lib Dems are supposedly the party supporting a federal UK, and who should in theory want to take powers away from Westminster. That is Michael Moore. He helped to set up the Scotland Bill, and has revealed that with independence he will work towards a better deal for Scotland. I guess the reason that Alistair Carmichael is now the Scottish secretary is because he seems a bit less cosy with wanting more for Scotland. Well, I think this might well be a mistake for the No campaign. At least Michael Moore did want more power for Scotland. Alistair Carmichael has form. He turned his back on the tuition fees debate, and voted to raise them.

  25. Yet again today we have Darling blithely asserting, without challenge or contradiction, that the entire RBS and BoS liabilities would have landed on an independent Scotland and being allowed to get away with it on GMS, swiftly followed by the ever doomsaying Private Fraser punting the Unionist line as BBC Scotland’s Economic guru.
    BBC Scotland really is dire and there appears to be no means whatever of commenting or complaining effectively about its shortcomings.
    It should confine itself to such earth shattering news pronouncements as ” St Mirren will play St Johnston tonight and, if they win, they will move up a place in the league ahead of Aberdeen who do not play until Saturday.”

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