Meanwhile in Lilliput…

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.

Saddam Hussein

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)

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40 thoughts on “Meanwhile in Lilliput…

  1. An excellent piece, Mr. Bateman, displaying some of the righteous anger which Iain McWhirter has said might not come amiss at this stage.

    There are some really ugly attitudes on display from the whole panoply of the BT campaign, journalists and politicians. It certainly calls to mind the disgust I felt at the time of the Iraq war watching all the players in that brewing tragedy, the press, the government, the self-serving ranks of the so-called doves on the Labour benches quickly morphing into hawks.

    i already had a very poor opinion of Blair and his confederates at that time anyway – in fact it was Blair’s election as leader of the Labour party after the death of John Smith which had caused me finally to give up on the Labour party. I never voted for them again.

    However, the whole unwinding of the campaign to go to war revealed the villainous face of the establishment, as if a smiling, slightly dopey mask had slipped. I remember that even the Tories appeared a bit shocked at the apparent ease with which Blair and his spin doctors had connived with willing minions in the press to actually subvert the will of the people.

    That was when I became completely alienated by the UK body politic and realized, in the phrase of the infamous John Reid, that it was not fit for purpose. And here we are again watching them pull the same levers, pressing the same buttons calling up the same dark forces of spin.

    These people appear to have no shame and no end of power to summon people from the establishment to their aid. It isn’t just the journalists I will never look at the same way again, but also certain celebrities who seem to have no good reason to lecture the rest of us, because their opinions are not exactly well-informed, despite their status. No, J K Rowling’s arguments were not a well-argued case for the union – it was simply an argument.

    • So true. Paper Tigers, all of them.Let’s just bury them, as someone on another thread said “YESterday’s men”.

  2. If we do continue our momentum and Scotland votes Yes on September 18th – and I believe more strongly that ever we will do just that – there are going to be an awful lot of journalists looking into the mirror on the 19th to find an unfamiliar face looking back. A shocked face, certainly, newly lined by a collapse of all their certainties. Most will be fretting about their professional futures – BBC won’t be crying out for Scots accents, while the Record, the Scotsman et al, sinking ships who blew bloody great holes in all the liferafts.

    Soon, though, a realisation will dawn… they’ve just missed out on the biggest story of their lives.

    Something deep in a people stirred and reawoke a sense of power, of ownership and of belief in their own country. Ordinary people moved, every creed and colour of citizen asserted their sovereignty with a calmness and dignity the world can only applaud – and they missed it. They were too busy playing the old game with a dying regime – Lamont, Darling, Brown, Reid and the rest.

    Most of us, though, will be celebrating. I hope you will be Derek. You’ve led the line brilliantly, right there in the thick of it, living the experience, reporting the real story unfolding all around us.

    See you on the other side.

  3. P.S. to @J Gedd

    You must have posted while I was typing. On the subject of JK Rowling, I thought the response from SNP/YES was far too complimentary when she’d mostly repeated the canards of the No Chancers. Check out this article on Newsnet Scotland for a superb and truly worthy riposte to her over-praised words:

    • Yes, I had read that. It’s very good. I only wish it could be sent to Ms Rowling but I’m sure she has plenty of sycophantic courtiers around her to keep her quarantined from the real debate. There wasn’t a single point she made that could not have been pulled apart by an ordinary Yes voter.

    • People have praised her ‘beautifully written’ piece which comes across in a gentle way, but has some really subversive twists, like her ‘Death Eaterish’ comment.

      • Yes, I’ve heard “beautifully written” a few times. Even those voices who responded in the press – Ian Bell, Pat Kane and Deborah Orr being the main ones – did not call her on her petty point-scoring and, frankly, inflammatory provocations that the Yes side is concerned with “purity of lineage”. That, to me, was particularly nasty and a deliberate drumming of the “blood and soil” snare.

        Never thought much of her prose style when I read the first three of Potters to my youngest, so could never understand the phenomenonal success of the books (never got the stellar sales of Dan Brown either, so what do I know?) but the tone of this statement was not “intelligent and generous” but supercillious and ill-informed. Can only think SNP/YES was cowed by her national treasure status and/or the Clare Lally imbroglio. Ms Rowling deserved more responses like the zinger link above; just a pity nothing like this appeared in the mainstream. Not a surprise, just a pity.

        • I thought her comment about us being, if we vote No, in the heady position of the spouse that has threatened to walk out, but returns, to be feted, was astonishing.

          Firstly, because by making the marriage analogy, she de facto admits the marriage is in trouble. Except she refuses to consciously admit this. That’s emotionally dishonest. One might say, even disingenuous.

          Secondly, it is naive, as anybody who has any experience of such scenarios knows that these reconciliations are totally phoney unless some really serious, and placid, fair, straight talking is done. Otherwise it is just sugary words. Oh, but that’s what she does, right? Sugary words, and fantasy? How utterly shallow. Strong marriages are based on truthfulness and respect.

          Thirdly, because it is the most reactionary piece of anti-feminist bull***t I ever did hear. Nobody but a masochist goes back to an abusive marriage. It just says a lot about her reactionary attitudes that she thinks that it is acceptable in 2014 to remain in an abusive marriage with a bully and noble to suffer in silence.

          That says it all really. She thinks it’s our place to put up and shut up and be fed sweeties and the occasional hug.

  4. Well said, Mr Bateman. Measured, incisive and on the button.
    How well we remember the gruesome spectacle of the future Lord Reid in his role as Minister for War touring the studios in loyal support of the future Middle East Peace Envoy. Of course in the best of Westminster traditions he found that such grovelling loyalty brought it’s own reward
    It is revealing how the way we receive our news has changed in recent years. Much of this is due to the development of the internet and the fact that we can easily store and retrieve facts that are on the record. The way that the press is owned and managed is also hugely relevant though and the present control and manipulation of our media, broadcast and print , has led to a massive distrust of them on the part of more and more of the populace. Who now accepts the BBC as a authoritative and reliable news source or thinks for a moment that The Times, The Guardian or the Telegraph make any conscious effort to separate their news presentation from their agenda -and how curiously conjoined that agenda is particularly when commenting on Scottish politics! Small wonder that newspaper sales are in free fall.

  5. Scottish journalists stabbing each other in the back?

    Now that is a sort of blood-sport I would support, with the one left standing and bloodied declared the winner and recipient of the “Press Are All Scum” trophy.

    The Lally/Gunn farce revealed the true extent of the unhealthy relationship between the Scottish media and the Unionist parties.

  6. “(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?)”

    Because they think it will stir up feelings that will let them go kill lots more people and take their stuff, which is what they want to do. Remeber all the excuses for going and stealing their oil?

    The sad thing is that it works in some countries.

  7. “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”

    As you well know Derek, they would just make it up. They do that half the time anyway.

  8. Free Scotland

    Thank you, Derek, for another quality piece.

    Just a few weeks ago, before Obama had uttered a word about resuming action in Iraq, I read an online comment by a Yes campaigner, who suggested that we remind No-voters of Blair’s warmongering activities and how he walked rough-shod over Scottish public opinion to keep Bush sweet. The unfolding of the events of the past few days are going to make it very easy to initiate that conversation.

  9. I am sick to the back teeth of JK being described as Scotlands greatest author. Point of fact she is English. Secondly it’s childrens books! Robert Lewis Stevenson would be turning in his grave and he was a unionist.

  10. Mr B,
    Did you say shameless? You couldn’t put shame in some of them. They don’t just conduct themselves like overlords, they act like experts, and Blair, despite all the controversy surrounding him, got himself a job as a ‘Middle Eastern Envoy’ or something similar that implies expertise, and is now rejecting any responsibility for the current mayhem in Iraq. You couldn’t make it up. ‘Jobs for the Boys’ springs to mind.
    As for Lally Gate, it sounds like a set-up to me.

    • Talking of shameless, did you see the performance of Kirsty Scott on the Sunday Politics show yesterday Derek? Scott said that Claire Lally was an ordinary mother, then said/admitted that she was a SLAB activist, but that it did not matter for some bizarre and surreal reason? I am pretty sure that BBC Scotland’s caption introducing her said that she teaching journalism somewhere! It was really a performance that had to be seen to be believed. We are talking about a Scottish journalist who would not look out of place on Pravda’s news desk during the Communist era. The deceit involved was breath taking. It was like watching a film, and being shocked at something that had occurred suddenly. I thought to myself, is she really saying this? But it was real alright….

  11. Lally gate was definately a set up. Wouldn’t be surprised if Whitehall spin doctors were at work.

  12. A well written and truthful piece and one I would recommend without a moment’s hesitation. I specially liked the phrase “party-before-country Labourites” because that is what they all are, even those who choose to sit with those they despise as New Labour,
    Yes Mr Gunn made a mess of it and he should have known better that he should check his facts but ostensibly he was right but he made a muck up with the relationship which was an irrelevance and allowed them to slip off the hook. This whole scenario about being offended because you are said to be some one’s relation, and a senior former member of the Party at that.
    It may be of interest to hear that Russia Today announced this evening, Monday, that the polls have the two sides neck and neck. We now have Pravda, we have had it for a good long time with both the press and with Broadcasting, and it is regardless which company, they are all doing their master’s bidding and that master is the Establishment who see their feather bedding going.

  13. Great piece Derek, thank you. I watched Cochrane brandishing his piece of crumpled paper and the word that sprung to mind was ‘pathetic’. High standards at the Telegraph, eh? Sad…

  14. Dr EW @ 1.16. What a great post, brilliant.

  15. Labour’s dubious tactics involving Ms Rowling and Ms Lally have well and truly backfired.
    Unionist self-righteousness in nothing but unionist self-delusion.

  16. Excellent piece by Drew Campbell on J K Rowling. Sad that it won’t make the MSM, but nothing new there.

  17. Dr JM Mackintosh

    Derek, I posted this on wings but it is also very appropriate for your comments on Alan Cochrane.

    I looked at his link on wings and at first I thought it was some kind of BBC Scotlandshire spoof – but No – it was the Telegraph right enough.

    Here are his headline links on Gordon Brown – all on the same page from within a week…

    1. Quips at the ready, the former premier is a man transformed facing a fight that he can win
    Gordon Brown launches the Labour Party’s No campaign with an air of optimism
    (3rd June 2014)

    2. Who knew: Great Broon could be key in defence of the Union
    Former prime minister’s crowd-pulling enthusiasm may also rehabilitate reputation
    (4th June 2014)

    3. Scottish independence: If Gordon Brown wants to save the Union, he should avoid cheap attacks on his enemies
    David Cameron has not pitched Scotland against England in the referendum debate, as Gordon Brown claims, argues Alan Cochrane.
    (9th June 2014)

    4. For goodness’ sake Gordon, this is not all about you
    Former prime minister attacks Cameron and sidelines Darling instead of focusing on Better Together campaign
    (9th June 2014)

    Cochrane is a total numpty. Fortunately nobody reads the Telegraph in Scotland but what must the English think?

  18. That’s why he’s in the DT job Dr JM – because he’s a numpty to have abandoned his journalistic integrity to hit all the right notes for them – don’t expect accuracy and fervour for the truth – do expect misinformation, faux-indignation, lies served up as facts and anything at all that can be spun negative about the FM.

    It’s sure gonna be a very busy M74 southwards on the 19th September. Let’s hope there’s no holdups to hinder any of them on their one-way journeys as far away from Scotland as possible.

    The air will certainly be a helluva lot sweeter after they’ve gone.

    Once again Derek – a ‘belter’ of an article!

  19. Regarding spin doctors. Your point is well made about the relative normality of Gunn’s actions for a special advisor. Compare that with Alistair Campbell and what he did to Dr David Kelly…..

  20. I think Lallygate has now run out of any steam it had.Everyone is bored with it.The other thing that is really important.Is that people want to make up their own minds.Why would they care what a multi millionaire children’s author had to say.They are detached from the reality of normal people.Discussing politics and the welfare state with a Pimms and lemonade at Harvey Nicks is not real Scotland.

  21. Another excellent piece, Derek. I reckon we should be thankful that Alistair Campbell is “only Scottish” and not a “posh” public school mate of Cameron and friends. Imagine a genuine Tory Government with Alistair Campbell wielding the power he had within the so-called Labour cabinet! Doesn’t bear thinking about. Fortunately for Scotland “Better Together” are socially poles apart and as such can never get together – better or not.

  22. What we have seem for a while now is British Labour apparatchiks trying to create the impression that they are working people who empathise with their fellow Scots when the reality is something very different.
    I suppose this is normal day to day politicing but is totally irrelevant when it comes to a question of whether we should manage out own affairs or not.
    The Lally affair needs to be put to bed.

    Thanks Derek.

  23. smiling vulture

    Iraq–young conscripts knowing they were going to die,it was blood I wish their was a god at that point,really sickened me.wheres humanity.I hope a few armchair generals are having sleepless nights.

  24. That’s a beauty Derek and couldn’t agree more.

  25. Jackie magazine is the epitome of excellent journalism compared to the torygraph!!!

  26. rantsastutely

    Hi Derek,

    Wondering about the recent announcement by Better Together regards guaranteed powers if there is a No vote. Perhaps you can you offer a view as to why this is united-front is not (as with the no currency union edict) being presented by Cameron/Clegg/Milliband? Nobody in the media appears to be questioning the fact that conferring these additional powers is not in Lamont/Davidson/Rennie’s gift – so if any statement of intent has gravity, that must come from Westminster if Scottish voters are to consider any such pledge as legitimate? Their is an obvious asymmetry to the announcements upon currency union.

    Also in their joint statement, its not clear whether their ‘guarantee’ relates to the new additional powers, or merely those already asseneted to in the Scotland 2012 Act, some of those powers won’t even come into force for a couple of years…

  27. John Dobbins.

    Life does, indeed, resemble art! Bliar has now become the deranged character portrayed in countless, satirical cartoons, so much so, that even Boris Johnson has recognised that “Tony’s” next fitting for a “new suit” will be in white canvas with buckles on the sleeves! Still, the International Court at The Hague is used to dealing with all sorts of “mentally challenged” megalomaniacs.
    And, as for the outraged response from New Labour in Scotland re- their “ordinary mum” – “Comrade” Lally; let’s compare this to the despicable treatment doled out to SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford, and the sorely-missed, Isabel Fraser – “one of the few” remaining honest journalists in BBC Scotland – by “The Man in the Pink Bathing-Cap”: New Labour’s resident misogynist, Ian Davidson MP. Indeed, both women have been successfully “sidelined” by this political polecat; the SNP MP by threatening her with “a doing”; the journalist by impugning her integrity and impartiality.
    So, what was the response from New Labour’s Women’s Champion about this political thug’s unacceptable behaviour when she made a fleeting visit to Scotland to tell us that “a woman’s place is in Britain”? Absolutely nothing – Ms. “Harperson” was more interested in relaying “sisterly greetings” to Johann Lamont from London. So, it looks like Harriet and co. only have a problem with misogynists – if they are NOT in New Labour or, to paraphrase, “he may be a male chauvinist pig, but he’s OUR male chauvinist pig”! You just can’t argue with principle like that, can you?

  28. smiling vulture

    guido fawkes

    The joke doing the rounds in MoD circles is “we now have what we didn’t have in 2003: a valid reason to invade Iraq.”

  29. Meanwhile, with the clock ticking,

    What staying in the UK means for Scotland.

    Warning: This is Scotland’s worst nightmare.

  30. Once again, a masterful summary, Derek. Thanks.

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