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Physician, heal thyself

Posted on April 22, 2013 by

We have a fun task for Scottish Labour’s exciting new “Truth Team”, which made its debut last week. Clearly it would be rather unseemly to go around proclaiming yourself an arbiter of truth if there was a great big lie at the heart of your very existence, so hopefully someone on the Team will be able to explain the curious and seemingly untrue assertion that still heads up Scottish Labour’s own Twitter account.


We highlighted it yesterday for fun, but it’s worth serious examination too.

The Twitter page claims that “Scottish Labour” is “Scotland’s largest political party, led by Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar”. Now, as far as we can see there are three ways in which that statement could be justified. Let’s take a look at them in turn.

1. Largest membership

This one clearly doesn’t appear to be true. Scottish Labour is pathologically secretive about its membership figures, but the biggest number it’s ever claimed is just over 20,000. That figure in itself is likely to be an extremely big exaggeration – the Caledonian Mercury investigated it way back in 2010, and found the reality was more likely to be a maximum of 13,000.

(And quite likely considerably less even than that. The party sent out 13,135 ballot papers for its leadership election that year, but a significant number of members are entitled to multiple votes for various reasons – Lamont herself may have had as many as five, through her party membership, union affiliation and so on. Our own estimation is that the real membership is in four figures.)

In any event, though, with the SNP having recently paraded its 25,000th member, it seems safe to say that the Nats are well out in front here.

2. Most elected representatives

A case could of course be made that the “largest” party was the one with the most members in government. But that doesn’t help Labour either. Scotland has three layers of elected government – councils, Holyrood and Westminster. In those, the SNP has a total of 496 representatives (425 councillors, 65 MSPs and 6 MPs) to Labour’s 472 (394 councillors, 37 MSPs and 41 MPs).

It would be very strange to exclude councillors from the numbers, as local government is the focus of most of Scottish Labour’s plans for extending devolution, such as they are. So we’re still drawing a blank.

[EDIT 12.33pm: an alert reader points out that we forgot to include MEPs. Each party has two, which makes the amended totals 498 SNP, 474 Labour.]

3. Largest party contesting elections in Scotland

It’d be a spot of semantic straw-clutching, but “Scottish Labour” could perhaps say that it was merely a branch office of the UK Labour Party. (This is indeed the case – no such party as “Scottish Labour” is registered with the UK Parliamentary Ombudsman, whose website hosts links “to all political parties that are represented in the House of Commons” – but the North British Region likes to insist that it’s an autonomous operation, with even Westminster MPs for Scottish constituencies supposedly answerable to the Scottish leader.)

The UK Labour Party, which contests elections in Scotland, is larger than the SNP. But that can’t be it either, because the Twitter page quite explicitly states that the party it’s describing is “led by Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar”, whereas the UK Labour Party is led by Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman.

Offhand we can’t think of another definition of the word “largest” that would make the assertion true, unless the party is merely suggesting that overall it’s fatter than the SNP or something. And according to the Truth Team’s web page, “Scottish Labour recognises its responsibility to be honest in everything we say and do over the coming months and right up to the Referendum”. (Apparently after that all bets are off.)

So perhaps it might be appropriate for it to start by being honest about whether it’s “Scotland’s largest political party” or not. Over to you, Truth Team.

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72 to “Physician, heal thyself”

  1. *Grabs popcorn and waits for reply*

  2. Sandy Brownlee says:

    Excellent! Minor quibble on point 2 – you missed out the MEPs – but there it’s a 2-all draw anyway so there’s no difference.

  3. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Good point, Sandy – edited in.

  4. YesYesYes says:

    While it might, if anything, be an understatement to say that you could grow Darwin’s beard in less time than it takes Ruth Davidson to ask a question at FMQs, I suspect that we’ll have to wait a lot longer than that for the ‘Truth’ Team to answer this question:

  5. The labour party in Scotland are simply deluded and still living in the past.

  6. Jiggsbro says:

    It would be very strange to exclude councillors from the numbers
    That’ll be what they’ve done, then. After all, if your party had the likes of Matheson, wouldn’t you want to exclude them?

  7. muttley79 says:

    I do not suppose the Truth Team have been putting themselves to good use by examining Jackie Bailie’s claims over the years?  If they did I suspect that they would be disbanded very shortly.

  8. Gordon Bain says:

    Maybe they don’t need the comma and so Scottish [sic] Labour are the largest political party led by Lamont & Sarwar? Either way, they’re becoming more irrelevant with each passing day. This is a “good thing”.
    Hail Alba!

  9. An Duine Gruamach says:

    Well, Jim Murphy is quite tall, I suppose.

  10. BlueTiles says:

    Slightly O/T but if a video was made completely demolishing the ‘Truth Team’ video, how long do you think it would take for the Better-Truth-Together-Team (?) to try to have it banned?

    Scottish Labour – We do Irony so you don’t have to.

  11. DougtheDug says:

    It’s not the Parliamentary Ombudsman who decides who is a registered political party and who isn’t, that job is done by the Electoral Commission.

    Search the Great Britain register or the Northern Ireland register and you won’t find “Scottish Labour” as a registered political party. You don’t have to register with the Commission to be a political party but if you’re unregistered then you have to use the description “Independent” on your ballot paper and election literature. So it’s quite clear that “Scottish Labour” are not a distinct political party but just a registered party description used by Labour.

    There is a funny story attached to this. In the European elections in 2009 all parties had to use their true registered names not party descriptions because of all the fuss about the SNP using, “Alex Salmond for First Minister”, in 2007 as a party description. Unfortunately those who kicked up the fuss forgot that “Scottish Labour”, “Scottish Conservatives” and “Scottish Lib-Dems” were also party descriptions and not their true registered names.

    So the result was that Labour was Labour, the Conservatives were the Conservatives and the Liberal-Democrats were the Liberal-Democrats on the ballot paper in 2009 with not a Scottish variety of any of them to be seen.

    However as usual Westminster pulled a fast one because this made the truth plain to the Scottish electorate that the “Scottish” varieties of these parties were a fiction.

    Under the, “The Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2010”, all parties have to use their registered names not party descriptions on the ballot paper as in the European Elections but if they want they can use the word, “Scottish”, before their party name. It’s in Schedule 2, section 4, point 7 of the order.

    In other words Westminster has said only registered party names are allowed not party descriptions but added the get out clause that allows everyone to precede their registered party name with the word, “Scottish”, if they want so we’re back where we started with the fiction of the Scottish Labour, Tory and Lib-Dems parties.

    The truth about their deception was so apparent on the ballot papers in 2009 that they had to open a back door in subsequent legislation to allow them to use their false Scottish party descriptions and “Scottish Labour,”, “Scottish Conservative Party” and “Scottish Lib-Dems” were born again.

  12. pmcrek says:

    Perhaps it is more literal than that?
    “The Labour Party in Scotland”, is about 28 characters long including spaces, SNP is only 3 letters long, obviously and the Tories dropped the unionist bit out there name ages ago so thats them shafted. Finally the Lib Dems dont count because AFAIK they don’t stand candidates for elections in Scotland any more and finally the “Green Party” is only 10 letters long.
    Truth, it comes out the arse of the beholder.

  13. scottish_skier says:

    OT but UKIP projected to win 40 seats at the forthcoming English council elections.
    Should give the Scottish electorate a taste of things to come if they remain in the UK.
    Look forward to ‘[Rabid xenophobic right-wing Tory nutters] UKIP make big gains across the country‘ headlines.

  14. Macart says:

    Largest expenses claim bill?
    Struggling now! 
    @Horace – Prepares three course cordon bleu meal. (I don’t think they’ll be in a hurry to answer). 🙂

  15. EdinScot says:

    Oh no, i think we’re in for another ‘donor scandal’ style wait.  What with the beleaguered Lamont back in her bunker.  Has the ‘truth team’ followed her there or is it only their version of the truth they aim to seek out.  When is Scottish Labour not Scottish Labour….we should be told.

  16. CameronB says:

    An omni-shambles best left the ‘Truth Team’ to clear up! 🙂
    BTW, is it true that, if and when re-elected to Westminster, Labour intend expanding the remit of the innovative pilot project ‘Truth Team’, implemented by North Britain Labour, sorry ‘Scottish Labour’, to provide it with the budget and legal responsibilities of a traditional Whitehall department? Some wag has even suggested it might be called the “Ministry of Truth”, though I expect Labour might face proceedings for copyright infringement there.
    Vote Yes in 2014 to avoid the risk of becoming a “Though Criminal”. 🙂

  17. Rod Mac says:

    I have worked out how they are the biggest party in Scotland.
    As ALL the unionist parties are Bitter together they obviously include the members of the other two Tory parties into their numbers so SLAB + SCUP+LIBS  + biggest party in Scotland  SIMPLE!!!

  18. kininvie says:

     Compare and Contrast:

  19. Juteman says:

    I think i see what they have done. If you add the votes received for Scottish MPs representing seats in England, then they probably have more votes. 🙂

  20. mealer says:

    If you add up all the votes ever cast in Scotland for Labour,it would be a higher total than that for any other party.So they arent neccessarily lying.They’re maybe just being very,very silly.

  21. themadmurph says:


    I look forward to 2016 elections and Scottish UKIP, Scottish BNP and Scottish EDL amongst others making their debut in Scotland!
    Just a little joke!

  22. NorthBrit says:

    The Bolsheviks also called their propaganda “truth”.
    Given SLab’s nostalgia for miserabilist one party state socialism (cf. Grahamski and Terry “avanti poplo(sic)” Kelly) this may not be coincidental.

  23. Adrian B says:

    @ CameronB
    RE Ministry of Truth:

  24. DonnyWho says:

    On Sunday Politics at about 42 mins in Anas Sarawar says of the government “we could have the approach of the opposition” a freudian slip if i ever hear one. These guys still think they are in power, delusion and self deception. And do i need to refer to “labour scotlands biggest party” more delusion!

  25. CameronB says:

    “Thought Criminal”, doh. I was concentrating too much on the commas. 🙂

  26. Geoff Huijer says:

    So, a flat out LIE then.
    Who would’ve guessed?
    And who would have guessed that Westminster would
    ‘change the rules’ to allow ‘Scottish’ to precede party
    names thus misguiding the public?

  27. Scottish Labour clearly don’t think the Scottish Parliament really matters, so they think the only proper way to measure the size of a party is by counting its Westminster MPs.

  28. Alan Gerrish says:

    They wouldn’t have added Union membership in Scotland into the equation, would they?
    Yes, I know it’s illogical, but where the Scottish regional branch of the UK Labour party is concerned, that’s what passes for “normality”

  29. YesYesYes says:

    I see that on their Twitter feed the ‘Truth’ Team have received an endorsement from Alastair Campbell:
    “get the facts and expose the myths”.
    With endorsements like that, what could possibly go wrong?

  30. TYRAN says:

    “unless the party is merely suggesting that overall it’s fatter than the SNP or something”… – your ‘or something’ being willy size. 😀 


  31. velofello says:

    We, Scottish Labour are the largesse party in Scotland, led by the Ironic Woman Johann Lamont.
    Is that Better?

  32. Craig P says:

    Well of course they are only counting MPs, Westminster is where the magic happens, everywhere else is a sideshow.
    Truth Team is going to be Labour in Scotland’s Back to Basics.

  33. Marcia says:

     unless the party is merely suggesting that overall it’s fatter than the SNP or something.
    That made me laugh.
    Truth Team –  to your more mature readers it reminds us of the post war Soviet era .

  34. FreddieThreepwood says:

    Wait a minute. I was told size doesn’t matter. Aw naw – was that a lie?

  35. Jim Mitchell says:

    I said as soon as I heard of it  that Labour would rue the day they thought of the stupid idea that Scotland would take it for granted that anything they said was automatically true, but it shows that they really haven’t got over the fact that they are no longer top dogs in Scotland.
    BTW, the coverage and sometimes lack of it that their conference receives really shows up how high an opinion nearly everybody has of them now a days!

  36. Jeannie says:

    Wait….if they’re setting up a Truth Team now, does that mean that everything they said before was not, in fact, the truth?  I’m truly shocked.

  37. Jeannie says:

    @Freddie Threepwood

  38. Jamie Arriere says:

    Size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts. Labour had thirteen years and damn near bankrupted us.
    Looking forward to the comedy gold which this Truth Team (or Trough Team has a better ring of truth to it!) come up with. How will we know them? Will they wear their underpants outside their troosers?

  39. gus mackintosh says:

    Biggest bunch of lying-faced, troughing barstewards?

  40. pa_broon74 says:

    Nationalists are frequently accused of playing to the gallery, especially online where quite often we’re all told we’re just preaching to the converted.
    As far as I can see, its even worse with Labour, surely no one except the most die hard new labourite believes the guff being churned out by Mssr’s Sarwar and Lamont.
    (Also heard Darling on the radio this morning, not great on any morning but on a Monday? please don’t do that again.)

  41. muttley79 says:

    @Jamie Arriere
    The Trough Team, I like it… :D: :D:

  42. FreddieThreepwood says:


  43. Aplinal says:

    I would agree with others that making personal slights, no matter how frustrated we are at the vitriol coming our way, and especially to Alex and Nicola (increasingly) does nothing but give our opponents ‘cover’ for their attitude and approach.
    They have NOTHING to offer the Scottish peoples, the YES movement surely does.  Let’s keep up the pressure on positivity and vision. Leave the dregs to get on with the mud slinging. 
    On Topic.  I really have difficulty believing that Labour/Tory/Libdem “advisers” are so out of touch that they have proposed a “Truth Team” given the volume and transparency of the lies spread by the NO YE CANNAE campaign to date.  To open yourself up to ridicule (and it WILL come) is a sure way to diminish your support.  I don’t think many people want to be associated with a fool. 

  44. dmw42 says:

    The term ‘labour politics’ is derived from the words ‘labour’ meaning ‘work hard’,  ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’, meaning ‘blood sucking parasites.’
    And they do it so well.

  45. Holebender says:

    DonnyWho says:
    22 April, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    On Sunday Politics at about 42 mins in Anas Sarawar says of the government “we could have the approach of the opposition” a freudian slip if i ever hear one. These guys still think they are in power, delusion and self deception. And do i need to refer to “labour scotlands biggest party” more delusion!
    It’s worse than that Donny; did you notice a few minutes later in the interview when the BBC interviewer also called Labour’s opponents “the opposition”?

  46. muttley79 says:

    O/T  Has anybody here contributed to National Collective?  I have tried to get into touch with them a few times about contributing to their fund (like for the WoS appeal it is much easier for me, due to personal circumstances, to contribute by sending a cheque).  However, i have not heard anything back from them.  I assume they are not happy with people sending a cheque? 

  47. CameronB says:

    They might even be doing it deliberately dmw42.

  48. dmw42 says:

    CameronB 🙂

  49. DonnyWho says:

    holebender …… was too flummoxed to notice the aggregation of delusion LOL. But that is th MSM for you.

  50. benarmine says:

    I just watched the Truth Team video ( I know, feel a little soiled ) but there’s no Shetland on their map. Did Tavish cede them to England already? Tell the truth now… ooh, just noticed it’s not on the BetterTogether Western Isles Move North scam either. Poor Shetland.

  51. Aplinal says:

    Me too.  I watched it on YouTube and – surprise, surprise – comments are disabled !  LoL 
    Maybe they (NO campaign) should get an endorsement from Jack Nicholson.  After all, Scots –  “You can’t handle the truth!”.

  52. LeeMacD says:

    You’re all getting the explanation wrong. The banner was brought up from Glasgow and was meant to read ‘Scotland’s largesse political party’.
    And the spelling error can be laid squarely at the door of the SNP for making education free… though you’d have to ask The Truth Team for a complete explanation on how that works.  

  53. benarmine says:

    o/t Rev, but I can’t help notice that the Rorschach Western Isles over on Bella makes a gorgeous Wings symbol.

  54. Inbhir Anainn says:

    O/T Darling and Hosie clash over a currency union.


  55. muttley79 says:

    How much time did the presenter give to Darling to speak compared with the time Hosie was allowed?  I listened to it earlier, and was surprised, even by Pravada’ s standards, how much more time Darling was given.

  56. annie says:

    Muttley 79 : Thats because Stuart Hosie was stating the simple truth and Darling was desperately trying to justify his lies.

  57. FreddieThreepwood says:

    Thanks for the link but I just couldn’t listen to it all. Darling is getting a free ride every time he takes to the telly or radio. He’s like the stairheid gossip – he never pauses for breath so no-one has a chance to tell him to shut the fuck up.

  58. Adrian B says:

     He’s like the stairheid gossip – he never pauses for breath so no-one has a chance to tell him to shut the fuck up.
    Aye, the BBC could do with cutting his microphone every now and again, then doing a bit of editing.

  59. Dee says:

    Does anyone else notice how GMS change the wording of anti SNP headline news depending on the time.  From 6 till 8 they give their usual bias end of the world shit because they know the majority have the radio on going to work. But then it changes as you go thru the day and thy actually put in the odd SNP rebuttal. Listen if you can the next time and notice how the shock horror headline gradûally disappears.  What they re doing is plating the seed of doubt in your head, weather the story is true or not.  Please don’t be fooled by their bullshit. Vote Yes and get rid of this shower of Labour activists disguised as reporters.

  60. Jim Mitchell says:

    I clean forgot to say, I don’t know the average age of contributors to sites like these, but i can’t be the only one surely who laughed out aloud at Labour’s choice of conference slogan, i can remember when, with the help of their pals in the media, they made great play of the SNP’s slogan ‘Scotland First’.
    I have always said that they give hypocrisy a bad name !

  61. Handandshrimp says:

    To be fair Darling disappears the moment there is any flak. So we do get long spells without him.
    Re: a point I raised the other day, will the Truth Scryers investigate whether Johann really really had no idea what John Mann said about Taylor. I think they should because Johann wants to bring honesty to us in a bowl with flowers and a wee plastic duck…or something…I don’t know, it all started to get a bit surreal.

  62. Arabs for Independence says:

    Johann lamont thought long and hard about her answer to the question of did she know that John Mann said the Tories shouldn’t take dirty money. Of course she knew all about it but she decided to lie by saying she didn’t know what Mann had said. She opted for a big whopping lie because had she said she knew then the next question(s) were gonna be even more difficult for her.
    I never want to hear her again go on about an honest debate when she told such a bare faced lie on national radio.

  63. Inbhir Anainn says:

    Have to agree Darling got more than ample airtime (roughly 323 secs rambling on) whilst Hosie’s airtime (roughly 182 secs)  i think Hosie had two brief interjections or interruptions from the presenter, whilst Darling had about eight brief interjections or interruptions from the presenter.
    Either way you look at it Darling got more airtime than Hosie.

  64. Alan Gerrish says:

    @annie says:
    22 April, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Muttley 79 : Thats because Stuart Hosie was stating the simple truth and Darling was desperately trying to justify his lies.
    Unfortunately Stuart missed the obvious putdown to Flipper that he is on record as saying it would be sensible for Scotland to use the pound- so why the U-turn?
    Anyway, the way sterling is now headed I hope by the time the referendum comes round Alex has a plan B ready. It would give me great pleasure for him to be able to  tell the Wastemongers to put their notes where the sun don’t shine as they’re worthless anyway, and as such they won’t buy much electricity, nor oil and gas for that matter.

  65. dundee bloke says:

    NorthBrit says:
    22 April, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    The Bolsheviks also called their propaganda “truth”. SLab’s nostalgia for miserabilist one party state socialism (cf. Grahamski and Terry “avanti poplo(sic)” Kelly) this may not be coincidental.
    Now there’s a name from the past, Grahamski, I wonder what happened to him, I wonder if he’s on the truth committee ?

  66. Chic McGregor says:

    Perhaps they meant the ‘largesse party’.  They are the gift that keeps on giving for comedic value.

  67. Dal Riata says:

    @dundee bloke
    Grahamski has been given the order of the red card. And that is the truth!

  68. Luigi says:

    The Biggest Losers’ Party in Scotland.

  69. John Lyons says:

    Are we to assume that any Labour MP not on the Truth Team is a liar?

  70. lumilumi says:

    Inbhir Anainn says:
    22 April, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    O/T Darling and Hosie clash over a currency union.


    Thanks for the link, Inbhir.
    Alistair Darling does indeed get waaaay more airtime than Stewart Hosie, mainly because he rabbitted on and on without pausing for breath (or pausing to think..?)
    Somewhere about midway through his speech of obfuscation I started paying attention to his pronouns. He was saying things like “you’d have a straitjacket”, “if you have a separate currency”, “you blah blah blah you blah blah blah”.
    As in Scotland? Being the other? The “you”? (Which apparently doesn’t include Alistair Darling.)
    I know that in colloqual English “you” is sometimes used as a generic, meaning “anybody/everybody”. As in: “It’s Friday, so you go down to the pub for a pint or two.” However, “you” is the second person pronoun, different from the speaker (“I/we”). It can reveal (or create!) a them-and-us mindset.
    Why did Alistair Darling use “you” so prolifically? Does he see Scotland, especially an independent Scotland, as nothing to do with him?

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