Unfriendly Games

I used to be regarded as an establishment figure because I was part of a public organisation that owed its existence and its loyalty to the State. So long as I too was loyal, I was accepted or at least tolerated for my indiscretions and complaints.

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The organisation I worked for was created partly to examine the society we live in and to scrutinise the activities of the authorities on behalf of the people who pay for it.

Central to this role is that of criticism. Questioning elected representatives, doubting policy and challenging motives lies at the heart of that organisation’s role.

Strange then that when the organisation itself becomes the subject of criticism its reaction appears to be to repel both the criticism and the critic.

My outspoken words on BBC management were bound to sting. There are few more potent opponents than one who has just deserted and can speak out with knowledge still hot with immediacy and relevance. Naming names just isn’t done…Generalised attacks on the BBC are scoffed at and brushed aside although publicly treated with manufactured concern. I did name names and did provide not just blow-by-blow accounts from inside but a comprehensive critique of what should happen instead of what actually does.

I didn’t expect thanks from those dodging my bullets. But I expected it to follow a long and honourable tradition of acknowledging criticism and ostensibly accepting it and moving on. I expected to be patronised.

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What I didn’t expect was to be blackballed – to be silently marked with a spot, marginalised and ignored. It isn’t that I harbour designs on contributing to BBC programmes – I don’t need the exposure and have enough to do – but the total exclusion in the year since I left must mark some kind of record. When Scotland is abuzz with debate, when programme makers are searching for voices, is it believable that not one producer or reporter thought of asking Bateman? You may genuinely hold the view that my work is execrable…but compared to all those other voices and views pushed at you every day?

I’ve been on the media in Japan and Russia, I am followed online in the US, Australia and 120 different countries, I’m on Twitter with 4000 followers (on 800 tweets), you can’t exactly miss me on Newsnet or Bella, I have to turn down meetings across the country, I’m on community radio and podcasts, have my own internet radio station which included a special with Alex Salmond who, unlike the BBC, does know what I do and yet…not one phone in, not one Blether With…not one programme. Odd, no?

Perhaps I should ask for a BBC manager to come on batemanbroadcasting…

Tonight BBC Scotland airs a documentary looking back at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. I covered that event for the Glasgow Herald along with my colleague Derek Douglas and wrote a book about it – Unfriendly Games, Boycotted and Broke. We were interviewed in the old Meadowbank Stadium by the late George Hume on Reporting Scotland. As a result, the BBC offered me a job. Since then when the Games come round every four somebody in the BBC will interview me about 1986 for telly or radio to remember the Bob Maxwell fiasco and the boycott. (I recall being on Radio Four for the Manchester Games)

But not this time. BBC Scotland’s latest programme has, quite justifiably, interviewed instead my co-author, the other Derek. Although they did call me to get his contact details.

In other words somebody at Pacific Quay has, as they do every four years, said: Let’s get Bateman – he was there and he’s a broadcaster, you know! Then, knowing my current state of pariah, decided not to bother. Get somebody else’s number off him instead. It couldn’t made any clearer – you don’t piss into our tent and get away with it.

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It’s similar to the treatment of John Robertson of UWS– dealt with without respect.

I think it’s worth recording as a further insight into the small-minded and dysfunctional ethos now operating at Pacific Quay that critics will be excluded. It is exactly the way Maxwell himself operated – dictatorial, high-handed, dismissive and disrespectful. But it came at a cost – Maxwell was universally loathed. The same fate may be the legacy awaiting management at BBC Scotland.

(The programmes’ on at 10.30pm)

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It’s Pimm’s Time

I sat on the bench in the garden of First World War remembrance beneath the lilac shading me from the sun and watched the ladies dispensing drinks from the Pimm’s Tent as the jazz band set up under a canopy decked with mini Union Jacks. Ladies in summer frocks bustled around the headstones of the long dead with earnest fellows in Panama hats and the volunteer gardeners trimmed the churchyard hedges while up on the church tower where the flag of St George hung limp in the heat, they were throwing teddy bears in parachutes for the children to raise parish funds. Handel’s Water Music filled my earphones and I sighed in contentment.

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This is St Mary’s Barnes, an English church as a child might draw it, with ancient flint walls and centuries old corners dating from the 12th century. It is linked to Magna Carta and on a sunny weekend it was forever England. I expected Captain Mainwaring to stride up the flagstone path and bark orders.

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It sits just south of the Thames in an oxbow in the river, part of Richmond, and is joined to London by the Hammersmith Bridge. It is upmarket and sought-after and with the fair on around the duck pond it was alive with happy people relaxing in the heat. Later I watched it all with some envy from the beer garden of the Sun Inn, my pint of London Pride in hand.

When I looked in the estate agent’s window the most common price for the handsome homes that line the road into London appeared to be £2.8 million. The average price for a house in Scotland is about £160,000 although I don’t think the Barnes Road homes were typical of an English market.

So was I resentful – as every ‘angry Scottish Nationalist’ should be at others better off? I don’t think I was. I liked what I saw and found the atmosphere infectious. It’s hardly the fault of the locals that this is where the money is found and, since the spiralling absurdity of Better Together trumpeted a mock referendum in Corby this week, it’s notable how opportunity and higher incomes will always draw people. Just as Scots headed south for work in the steel industry in the thirties, so today’s Scots seek success where it can be found.

It will always be true, so do we just accept that London is too big a draw and give up? Isn’t that why we now need so much foreign immigration – because our own people have drifted away and over the decades the working population has fallen (with reverse spikes from time to time). We are berated by the Unionists for having an ageing population which we can’t service with taxpaying citizens, but only because we haven’t created the jobs to sustain the population.

Young talent will always be lured elsewhere and so it should be when there is a world out there to be experienced but the home country should also be able to offer opportunity to retain enough and attracted back those who have been away and are ready to return.

Unionists know this too but their reaction is to surrender not to compete. What can you do? they moan. They utterly accept not just the domination of London which is undeniable but its unchallenged right to suck up everything that is good from all corners and leave us with what is left. Even the Prime Minister claims the economy needs to be rebalanced, he just can’t do anything to achieve it.

We can. If we have the strategic capacity – the access not just to corporation tax and income tax but to public procurement, competition policy and immigration – all the levers that allow adjustments to meet specifically Scottish needs. That’s how the small nations do it, be it Denmark, New Zealand or Ireland. They adjust the dials to keep up with their needs and mould policies to suit themselves. It is the lack of strategic control which has left for example our shipyards dependent on defence contracts with no ability to expand and diversify. They are now hostages to the Union.

Immigration control allows us to keep the students we have educated from abroad here in Scotland to make a new life and contribute to our economy.

And yet it seems the belief among the Scots is that just a wee bit more power at Holyrood will be enough. Many are satisfied that ‘something’ will emerge and that it will somehow change our society and they will give the benefit of the doubt to those who have made no commitment to delivering anything. To me, that needs more blind faith than believing in your country’s ability to run itself independently.

A No vote will hand back the powers we need and entrust them to those who have only ever delivered when there was a threat. Remove the threat and they will relax again and quietly ignore.

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I don’t imagine the good people of Barnes and Chiswick will give more than passing notice to a No vote either. It won’t change anything in their lives. The power and the money will stay near them, the talent will flow their way and the natural order will be restored. It will be time for another Pimm’s.

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Vote Katie Morag!

Batemanbroadcasting has another serving for you from the national debate this time with FOUR voices – starting with the editor of the only national newspaper title so far to back a Yes, Richard Walker, of the Sunday Herald. He gives us his views of the media coverage and the issues faced by journalists and says another paper may declare for Yes.

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Stephen Noon is chief strategist for Yes and is therefore the architect of the campaign. He puts his faith in the graded canvass system measuring opinion from one to 10 rather than in the traditional opinion polls. I brought him together with writer Alan Bissett who’s a kind of one-man creative industry at the moment. If his level of activity is this high before the vote, he’ll turn into a global corporation after a Yes. He has a great story about an encounter on the Glasgow train…

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Then there’s one of my favourite people, the scriptwriter Sergio Casci,

EIFF-8currently lead writer on the Katie Morag series authored by Mairi Hedderwick and a favourite read in our house. Mairi’s a Yes so I ask Sergio if Katie Morag is moving in the same direction….Sergio’s enthusiasm is boundless (he’s half Glasgow, half Italian) and he is convinced we’re headed for independence and No voters will have to face themselves afterwards if we fail.

It’s lively and enlightening and there’s no Jenny Marra. (Although if she’d like to talk to us, she can. You’d still listen, wouldn’t you?)

Our Twitter thingy is @bateman_podcast. And there will be an iTunes whatsit as soon as we straighten out WordPress…

We’re at http://batemanbroadcasting.com/episode-6-creatives/

Shameless Katie Morag plug…..katie_morag_main_slide

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Labour Pains

The agony of the real Labour voter…trapped in an odious campaign funded by a rich man’s club of Tory donors and yet impotent and unable to speak up. Month after month of humiliation as pro-Trident Jim Murphy champions their cause, the Clyde shipyard workers are turned into traitors, and bankers, aristocrats, landowners and millionaire bosses pay their bills. Meanwhile their real option of Devo Max is first removed from the ballot and then castrated by their own party as an act of expediency.

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One by one, Labour men and women with the courage of their convictions appear in the media stepping over no man’s land to join the swelling ranks of the true progressives openly and proudly campaigning for no more welfare cuts, full employment rights, no redundancies, universal benefits, re-industrialisation and social justice.

Always the same question – what happened to their Labour Party? When the people take to the streets to demand change why is their side absent, devoid of mass support and instead shoulder-to-shoulder with the CBI, UKIP and the BNP? Why is their party working hand-in-glove with Tories and taking the unearned income from Tory donors? Why would the British elite in their banks and country estates be so passionate about retaining a political system which punishes the workless, the female, the single parent and the disabled? How does it work out that the interests of the very people Labour despise are now aligned with those of the Scottish working class?

And of course, they aren’t. The reason the titled and the wealthy hold on to power and money is because the British state makes sure they are looked after first. And Labour has spawned its own nursery of wannabe Lords and Ladies who ride the golden coach into the ermine club and, without any democratic mandate, only allegiance to the source of patronage, scoff at the gullible voters they left behind.*

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Just as Blair, Mandelson, Brown and Darling are comfortable with the corporate wealth dispensers and accumulate faster than greedy Tories, so their successors Miliband and Balls plead with southern voters to trust that they too will protect the middle earners and professionals first by retaining the Tory austerity budget. After all, who else can suffering Labour supporters turn to?

What disappoints and at times, disgusts me, is that I don’t believe more than a rump of Labour people truly believe in the party’s offer, either in the referendum or the British General Election but can’t find a voice to say so. I know they aren’t nationalists and don’t support Salmond, which is why the No campaign denigrates him – out of fear and respect – but are they hearing what they want to hear from their leadership?

They’d love to and kid themselves Miliband will deliver and will win the election but they know this is all a forlorn hope, the triumph of wishful thinking. If the lines were delivered by someone they trusted – a Dewar perhaps – they might feel assured but they know Johann was a mistake and so is Ed. How can they stay silent when Scotland’s future is at stake, our belief in a fairer society is in the balance – look at Labour’s delight when UKIP won a Euro seat. That gave the game away. They welcome UKIP as a sign that Scots are just as avaricious, just as racist and selfish as Tory voters in the Thames Valley. It was Margaret Curran’s moment of the campaign – a woman representing our poorest area with male death rates less than 60 years and who wants to end the Barnett formula which she admits keeps up public spending.

Do Labour folk support this? Are they proud of the death figures of the ‘greatest ever Union’ which retains welfare budgets in London? Will this referendum end with the silent majority – the Labour voters – sitting on their hands, mind and mouths shut? Do they really despise their own politicians so much that they would defer to an old Etonian banker’s son and let him decide their policies and speak for them? Or are they just praying it was all over, the mucky affair ended with a No and we leave our future and our childrens’ in Westminster’s hands? Will they enjoy watching the champagne parties in the City, in the board rooms and the country houses of the No side’s campaign donors and supporters? Do they think the bankers will come round and thank them?

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One day, and it may come soon, we will have to look in the mirror. If, as I suspect, Scotland votes Yes, how will a Labour voter feel knowing for the rest of their life that their fellow Scots took the bold step and changed our country? If there is a Yes, I bet you won’t find a No voter the day after, they will hide their shame by denying it.

If it’s a No, they will watch events unfold – from the budget cuts, the reversal of the advances of Holyrood and the return of a Tory-led government – in the knowledge that they did that. They will purposely have played their part in opening up their country to a generation of assaults beyond our control.

This is the time to speak up…for Scotland, social justice and self-respect. Silence is no longer an option.

 

*This is Your Britain, Labour.  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/09/files-uk-role-cia-rendition-destroyed-diego-garcia-water-damage

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Slay Your Dragons

I’ve been itching to write but this is school holiday time and I’ve been on bike rides, eating ice cream in the park and watching How to Train Your Dragon (2) with popcorn and the smell of cheesy nachos.

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If you want to find out why Scotland is heading through an obesity crisis get down to CineWorld. Outside every corridor of screens there is a terrifying array of lurid colours and smelly stuff without an ounce of protein to be seen with sugary drinks dispensed in cartons the size of wheelie bins and mountainous piles of warmed up edible cardboard. The family in front of me were festooned with cartons of oozy chemical and could hardly see above their giant bags of popcorn – they could have been coming out of Lidl with the weekly shop. The poor mother was some size – not so much seated in Row K, but filling Row K…

It cost just under £20 for two kids and me – and I’m a pensioner! I bought the smallest cheapest treat I could – two bags of popcorn…at £4 each. £30 to kill two hours to see a film so noisy I couldn’t even sleep as is my usual movie habit. Still, I now know how to train a dragon.

Not much fired being breathed in the debate which moves seamlessly on in its predictable pattern – scare after scare is used to terrify the voters but for those with the critical faculties to find it, each one is expertly unpicked and debunked. Prof Sionaidh Douglas-Scott’s report from Oxford University http://gallery.mailchimp.com/3d8f589fda4fb7526a70254d4/files/e3c82843-2a9f-41af-a4e3-de3eeec55737.pdf lends an unimpeachable voice to the only sane solution on the EU, the one with least hurdles for existing members and the course already laid out by the Scottish Government. Her calm exposition reads like straightforward common sense when compared to the childishly hysterical screams of alarm from Unionist MEPs and commentators who don’t know any better. Her work contrasts sharply with the Armageddon predicted by the high octane Professor Adam Tomkins, a man who does not bear contradiction with grace and whose worship of Britain warps his analysis.

The Douglas-Scott paper confirms what I was reporting on the BBC more than two years ago – that the EU lawyers have already looked at this question and reached a preliminary conclusion which will go before the Council if there is a Yes vote. There is no exclusion, no long wait, no queue to join, no new state accession, just an adjustment to treaty. And the talks on the terms will begin almost immediately (and on the rUK’s).

We have been ill served by those we expect to guide us through complex issues of public policy both in politics and academia and reputations have been damaged. The failure of the mainstream media – who didn’t pick up on my original story although it said virtually the same as the Oxford professor does today – is a major part of the disappointment. The story – a game-changer in the debate – has lain there untouched for want of a single journalist to confirm it. It is as if some subjects are just too big for our parochial newshounds to pursue as though they imagine that only proper journalists can go to Brussels, sniff around, meet a contact and get hold of something meaty. Perhaps they’re right – they aren’t up to it but I’m still puzzled because apart from the laughable propaganda sheets, we have some bloody good reporters, knowledegable ones, and unbiased products like Holyrood magazine which has for me maintained a classy standard throughout. But then who out there is reading it? Not the general public targeted by BTNT or whatever they are called now.

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I heard another journalist on BBC Radio this morning – a woman – getting awfy nippy with Angus Robertson which is OK if he’s dodging a question. But he wasn’t. She sounded very indignant indeed that the British government made clear complex warships will not be built outside the rUK and it didn’t matter what a pipsqueak from the SNP said, that was that. They’ve said it so it must be true – even though they will build the second carrier on the Clyde after any Yes vote – oops! The lack of any understanding on her part was astonishing. If she was so sure of her ground, where does she think future orders will go? To which yard? Who will pay for the upgrade? Who will pay compensation to BAE Systems who are investing in a single Clyde yard? Where will the skilled workforce come from? Why has the MoD been inquiring around the globe about the costs of building warships? If the MoD is spending below the NATO norm on defence – and it’s heading that way – where is the money coming from for a massive upgrade of Portsmouth?

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But that would be to engage in journalism rather than the objective which was to pity the little fellow on the line. How could he – how dare he – go against the British government?

The irony of course was that the lead story on her programme was an inquiry into how the same British government lost 114 papers dealing with named establishment paedophiles, as clear a sign that you can’t trust a word the government says as you’ll ever get.

It tells you what I’ve said all along, that inside the BBC there is a British mindset. They do challenge the government but when it’s Westminster – the home of democracy – against upstarts in Edinburgh or Cardiff, there is no contest. It’s as if we don’t have the right to challenge, that it is an affront to right-minded people…that we are forgetting our place. Defence contracts are theirs, you see, not ours. It doesn’t matter that Robertson pointed out that a significant portion of the defence budget is Scotland’s and we have a direct share in this.

It’s the same with the pound. Every BBC interviewer in London just assumes that sterling is England’s currency to do with as they like. We have been allowed to use it at their whim and if we leave we go with nothing –the Adam Tomkin’s doctrine, by the way. You simply can’t break this down with logic. They feel it, the Britnats, and it will only be after a deal is done on currency that they will look back and see it makes sense. By then their stroppy little outbursts will be forgotten.

And the level of so called journalism makes me cringe when I hear the highly dubious and unconfirmed claims that ministers intimidate businessmen being canvassed by the media. What do the same dim wits think removing contracts, closing yards, sacking workers and insulting them by making them foreigners amounts to? If that isn’t intimidation, what is? We will put up a border with guards…we will refuse to buy your electricity…we will deny you access to your currency…we will bar you from membership of NATO…each one a direct public ministerial threat to the Scots. Does our august media report it that way? Of course, not. Balance, perspective and intelligence are the last attributes we should expect.

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Would a Scottish minister or ‘someone in the First Minister’s office’ – pretty pathetic that one – intimidate? Ministers are politicians so they try to win you over, convince you and get you on their side. We call that politics. Any minister worth the name will deal with business on that basis. If however he says: ‘Do this or you won’t get a grant approved’ or ‘Shut up or there will be no more work’ he crosses a line. Is there evidence of this? No. None. All C4 could come up with is a former businessman who is a pillar of Unionist Britain and you have to laugh at an organization like the Scotch Whisky Association which sells itself purely on its Scottish provenance and yet which challenges the Scottish Parliament – not simply on minimum pricing which is a trade issue and therefore fair game but on the parliament’s right to legislate…Not much pride in country there. But then half the distilleries are owned abroad anyway. If you were a marketing man you might think it looks a bit soft to say the people who make whisky which puts fire in a Scotsman’s belly are too scared to speak up in public because they’re cowed – by Fergus Ewing! Wasn’t Shona Robison also painted as a bully for asking why a professor heading a publicly funded research programme was chairing a Better Together meeting?

If you’re too scared to speak up, you shouldn’t have the vote, let alone run a company. If I was warned by a minister inappropriately, I would go public with it and let the world know. It’s the best way of scaring them off and it shows you have a modicum of fibre in you rather than the sleekit, cowering coward that seems to inhabit the world of Scottish business. If they’re worried about threats, let’s hear them stand up for Scotland the next time we’re told we’ll be denied something which is ours by right. But of course, they haven’t the guts for that either.

 

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