The world's most-read Scottish politics website

Wings Over Scotland

Double takes and double standards

Posted on April 17, 2012 by

As we browsed the papers this morning, naturally our attention was captured by the implausible-sounding headline "Rennie Hails Breakthrough At Launch Of Poll Campaign". Coming the day after a YouGov poll suggested the Liberal Democrats had suffered the indignity of falling behind UKIP in nationwide voting intentions, we were intrigued at the notion of a positive turnaround in their fortunes.

The story wasn't quite as exciting as it sounded, referring as it did to a local-council by-election in Inverness that the Lib Dems had captured from Labour in November 2011 (quite why the Herald feels it to suddenly be front-page news in April 2012 we're not sure), beating the SNP by seven votes. But as we casually skimmed the piece we were startled into alertness by the revelation that the election had been brought about by the conviction of the previous Labour councillor for benefit fraud.

Attentive readers can't have failed to notice that the Unionist parties and media have been on something of a witch-hunt against the SNP recently, particularly the party's councillors and prospective councillors as – quite coincidentally, we're sure – crucial local-government elections loom.

The best-known example is of course that of MSP Bill Walker, which we've documented at some length before, and who has been the recipient of far more media and political opprobrium for violent crimes he's alleged to have committed 20 years ago as a private individual (but strenuously denies and has not been charged with, let alone found guilty) than Scottish Labour MP Eric Joyce, who pleaded guilty to a number of violent drunken assaults committed while a serving MP (indeed, committed in the House Of Commons) yet remains the elected representative of the people of Falkirk.

But we've also had the bizarre case of Lyall Duff, a man hounded out of the party under concerted and suspiciously-timed media pressure – most notably from the Telegraph, the Scotsman and the Herald – for some frank but fairly innocuous comments made weeks ago on a private Facebook page which appears to have been hacked in order to view them, leading to the curious situation where none of the newspapers involved have actually printed any images of Duff's alleged comments, citing possible legal issues.

(It's curious because if the information was obtained lawfully, there can be no possible grounds to fear publishing it. If Mr Duff expressed his views in public, they're fair game to reproduce. If he didn't, the newspapers concerned are guilty of intercepting someone's private communications, which is a criminal offence.)

Yesterday the Scotsman whipped up another smear about an SNP councillor, this time a non-story about a non-existent conflict of interest with a company in administration, and today the lead story – that's the lead story – in its Politics section is an absurd and hysterical piece based around an article openly written by an SNP MSP in a newsletter and illustrated with a picture of her, but which (in addition to spelling her name wrongly) attributes her academic history to the wrong university. This error leads the Scotsman to bewilderingly describe the entire newsletter as a "fake leaflet".

Earlier this month the same paper prominently reported some rather feeble allegations of "ballot-rigging" by SNP members (in an internal candidate-selection process), and also ran with a story of another SNP councillor who'd apologised for making a tasteless joke. Attentive readers will note that the media rarely fails to include the word "SNP" in the headlines of articles like the ones we've listed in this piece.

But oddly, even though it only happened a few months ago, we couldn't remember reading of any Labour councillor being convicted of benefit fraud, which seemed strange as you'd imagine it was a bigger story than a badly-subbed newsletter or some sour grapes from an unselected council candidate. So we got our Googling hats on.

The councillor turned out to be John Holden, who was found guilty of embezzling a hefty £43,000 from the taxpayer and sentenced to a year in prison, although he was released after just three months. The story was extremely widely reported in the media, with some notable exceptions.

The Herald ran two separate stories on Lyall Duff, while the Telegraph incredibly felt that the obscure prospective councillor's private opinions merited FOUR lengthy pieces in a UK national broadsheet. Yet amazingly, neither paper – so far as we've been able to establish – covered the conviction and imprisonment of John Holden at all. We were unable to find a single story about this serious crime, not even a passing paragraph, in either the Herald or the Telegraph, despite the fact that it had been covered in scores of other media, both Scottish and UK-wide.

(The Telegraph's silence is of course particularly mystifying, as it's not known for willingly overlooking a good opportunity to attack either Labour or benefit cheats.)

The Scotsman did manage to feature it, twice, though curiously both of its headlines omitted to mention which party Mr Holden represented, an oversight the paper – as we've seen – is always careful to guard against whenever the SNP are involved. Indeed, the first Scotsman story neglects to note Mr Holden's party affiliation anywhere, while the second mentions it just once, five paragraphs in, in the context of the fact that Labour had promptly suspended him when the allegations came to light.

We're sure there's a good reason for these unfortunate inconsistencies. We'll get back to you as soon as we've figured out what it might possibly be.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 to “Double takes and double standards”

  1. Christian Wright

    A well constructed piece.
    They have no shame. The cosmically dumb contrivences employed to turn the most inocuous events into an attack story on the SNP, beggar belief. The sore loser councillor ballot rigging narative is my favorite, and this most recent one about the faked flyer runs a close second for carnival barking nonsense.
    I think the motivation behind many of them though has its roots in the dancing monkey theory of hack journalism. There have been an number issues of moment that have been trumped by these daft confections. Cruddas revealing Tory party duplicity WRT their commitment to the referendum campaign, never was given the status and exposure it deserved.
    The photos you published of the Tory Troon trombola I thought put the electoral significance of the Tories in stark perspective, evinced their isolation, and revealed them to be a decrepit and moribund cohort. They are led by an ingenue who garnered a derisory1800 constituency votes, coming in 4th or 5th in the only election she has ever participated in as a candidate. Yet this electoral loser gets serious face time on TV and lots of ink in the colonial press. I thought that a great story begging to be brought to a wider audience.
    End rant.

Comment - please read this page for comment rules. HTML tags like <i> and <b> are permitted. Use paragraph breaks in long comments. DO NOT SIGN YOUR COMMENTS, either with a name or a slogan. If your comment does not appear immediately, DO NOT REPOST IT. Ignore these rules and I WILL KILL YOU WITH HAMMERS.

↑ Top