Dear Ms Davidson
After a lifetime of commitment as a Conservative, I have today tendered my resignation from the party I love.
Through every travail, and there have been many, I have held firm to the only party that represented what I regard as everything decent and civilised about our country.
I have watched as first the interloper Blair sneaked on to our territory and, with increasing alarm, the blandishments of Salmond the carpetbagger erode further our vote.
I acknowledge that politics is an every-changing chessboard requiring moves of attack and defence and flexible strategy. However when, three years ago, you appealed for my vote to support your candidacy for leadership, I detected someone who understood the Conservative’s fundamental resistance to chasing a media-contrived public mood. Devolution is to my mind the creation of agitprop writers and drawing room saboteurs whose lust for endless upheaval it satisfies.
When I heard of your Line-in-the-Sand declaration regarding the further degrading of the United Kingdom, I seized upon it as a long-awaited bulwark against incursion. It recalled for me Ian Smith declaring independence in Rhodesia in 1965. So far and no further, he said, and look what’s happened since to one of the jewels of Empire.
I cast aside my inherent doubts about your gender and what I’m to call ‘orientation’, not to mention youth, inexperience and, even at enormous effort, your years in the Red Brigade of the BBC.
You represented the raising of the standard of us British traditionalists, a banner reading no surrender to more petty Scotto nationalism.
I heard the proposals of your commission on the constitution therefore with horror and dismay, not just at their wilful separation of tax from the rest of the UK but at the tone of assimilation into the Irish bog of devolutionary concession along with the socialists and federalists. This leaves only the faragists utterly committed to unreformed Union and, though they are Rotary Club shopkeepers and golf club arrivistes, they will benefit from my vote in future. Even at my age I cannot recall such a feeling of betrayal since Heath took us into the EEC.
Frankly, we might as well have backed the Ibrox lawyer-boy Murdoch Fraser who at least told us how he intended to destroy our party and let us down. I now await your announcement of a referendum on the monarchy to complete your treachery. (I see your ‘adviser’ Professor Tomkins is a Queen-hating republican).
RIP The Scottish Conservative (and Unionist) Party.
Yours in dismay
Derek W Bateman (rtd)
Devolution is now such a mainstay of our politics that even a breath-taking reversal of a policy position – one that was used to gain the leadership – is accommodated by our media as a natural progression. It’s as if the Tories have at last applied logic and joined the real world. Perhaps they have. But where have their supporters been all this time if not in Unreality? One of the deepest issues in conservatism – as proved by Murdo’s leadership bid failure – is that the membership isn’t right wing in any modern sense at all. They aren’t libertarian, they’re not risk-takers who want to open up the business environment to commercial gamble and they don’t want to free up individuals to make their own decisions. They don’t want anything to change until after they die and they don’t want to hear about it before they do. They aren’t right wing. They are conservative. They are Unionists. Ruth won them over because the old regime backed her and she was promising no advance on devolution because they know, and are right, that this is simply a brick-by-brick dismantling of Britain rather than a wrecking ball. More powers lead to more powers because each time the demand grows. Surely a Conservative would understand supply and demand, the basics of a market?
There is now little to separate the Tories from the squishy squashy middle of Scottish politics. They have arrived at Compromise Junction to find Labour and the Lib Dems unsure where to go next. The complexity of the different approaches from each means the detail will be lost on the public and it will be impossible to separate them out in the voters mind. Nobody is going to fine comb the documents for tiny margins of difference. The message is they are chasing the Nationalists, playing Salmond’s game and the direction of travel is unmistakable.
This may lead to a confused public believing they’re being given a combined offer of Devo Max or just as likely they will mentally lump the Unionists together and dump them in the river like kittens in a bag.
Two things stand out. First, what an opportunity for UKIP to carve out a position as saviours of the Union as we know it. They can rightly claim that you can’t trust anyone else not even the Tory leader.
Second, what a pitiful position it leaves Labour in. It seems that Johann is one of those people who just can’t win, can’t get anything right. Wasn’t the Tory commission part of their background thinking when they devised Labour’s proposals? Didn’t they foresee a danger here…some commentators did. How could they be outbid by the Undead, Scotland’s Zombie Party?
And who could have foreseen the implosion at BBC Scotland? I swear it’s only the Scottish government afraid to intervene publicly that prevents a major row blowing up. The SNP has had many opportunities to make life difficult at PQ but has a strategy of not showing any muscle in order to avoid a more damaging relationship developing and media accusations of interference. I suppose they may feel now there’s little point in showing their hand when the BBC does a brilliant job of damaging itself.
Cards on the table – I’m not a fan of the Gary Robertson presenting style or interviewing technique and there’s scant evidence in my experience of him being overburdened by compunction or regret at others being moved aside to make way for his career promotion.
He is employed on a contract because that is mutually beneficial. It allows him to be paid more because it carries the implied risk of termination in a way that a staff job doesn’t. He has benefited from this arrangement for years and has had such strong backing from the head of radio Jeff Zycinski that to the staff, he was untouchable. That the contract has been ended must also be a sign I suspect that Zycinksi may also be in a less secure tenure these days.
However, there are real issues here that transcend those considerations. The first is the personal one for Gary Robertson. Whatever his deal says, he shouldn’t go from voice of the station one day to reject the next. His exposure and seniority deserves more respect than to be victim of a number-crunching exercise and says much more about the management than it does about him.
I think it is harsh to throw someone out before the referendum. It is the biggest political event of our lives and he has played his part in bringing that to the nation. He should be allowed to see that through. If it is the case he has to go for budgetary reasons, then they have the executive authority to do so but I would have given a longer period of warning and made clear he would stay for the referendum and his departure could be managed thereafter. His dismissal is another sign of the inhumane treatment given to staff at PQ, as I outlined from experience in Just Another Body Out The Door.
The other point is more worrying. It displays disrespect for the audience. You can’t just hook someone who has been there for so long doing a prominent job without the listeners noticing. On the one hand they try to get the audience to buy into the presenters – it’s one of the strategies Zycinski follows to get the listeners to engage with the personality of the presenter. You can’t ask them to care about the presenter and the next day chuck him out like the rubbish. Where’s the explanation for the decision to the audience who aren’t just listeners – they’re the funders – they pay for this.
There is a massive disconnect between the regime at PQ and the people who really matter – the consumers.
Which is how you end up Kezia Dugdale as a presenter. Here is my primary objection – she is a serving politician in the pending period before an election and is therefore an active participant in the debate.
I have never heard of a payroll politician being hired as a presenter, as opposed to guest, when the BBC has entered the period when impartiality is a necessity. The format is for two people to argue from opposing sides but her adversary is far outside the party machine with known views of his own developed after years outside parliament and party whip scope. Two such people would be fine. I don’t even think two serving MSPs, Labour and SNP, would work either because they act at the party’s command. Only a known maverick would dare vary the party line or go off message while subject to party discipline.
In this case, does anyone doubt that Kezia will now be subject daily to Paul Sinclair’s instructions and lines of attack and defence – Labour’s lines, mind, not Kezia’s. I am suggesting that she will not be her own woman because he has not been around long enough to have her own independence from the leadership or built up a wider support base needed to resist the party machine. Indeed, from everything I hear – and I do know people who know her well – her reputation is as someone prepared to say whatever she has to. ‘She would read a menu to camera if they gave her one’, was one unsympathetic view.
I wonder what effect a complaint to the Electoral Commission would have? An objection to a serving MSP, a party politician, being given airtime by the BBC could present an awkward question. They would probably wriggle out by saying this is not a party election, not a general election but a referendum but I still suspect they would be uneasy.
On the other hand, she might be brilliant at the cut and thrust, be ready to disagree with party policy, reveal hidden depths and a talent for the microphone and leave people like me speechless…
It displays either previously unheard of editorial independence by the BBC – as in ‘We don’t care what they say, we’ll decide who’s on air’ – or, more likely, crass indifference to how they are perceived. I fear that, for many, this will be the final confirmation that some internal gyroscope of balance and integrity has deserted the BBC and that a crash of credibility is imminent.