BBC BLOGS - Blether with Brian
« Previous | Main | Next »

'Utmost seriousness'

Brian Taylor | 16:19 UK time, Tuesday, 12 April 2011

In many respects, the brilliant series "Yes Minister" resembles a documentary, rather than the comedy it purports to be.

Throughout the century or so in which I have covered politics, there have been umpteen points of conjunction between Hacker, Sir Humphrey et al and what affects to be real life.

Remember this definition?

"The matter is 'under consideration' means we have lost the file. The matter is 'under active consideration' means we are trying to find the file."

Simply brilliant - and familiar to those who are aware that most senior political and governmental careers are spent in a glorious spree of uncertainty and confusion, with rival issues competing for inevitably limited attention.

(For the avoidance of doubt, journalism is the same.)

There is an episode where Jim, Sir Humphrey and the chief whip are discussing the prospective succession at Downing Street.

'Serious matters'

None of the three wants to be too specific - or to offer any ideas.

So each assures the other sententiously that the matter is "serious". With "serious repercussions". Of "the utmost seriousness."

In short, they are agreed. It is serious.

This, of course, is a totemic Yes Minister satire, applicable to other situations.

All will agree that the matter is grave. Serious.

But somehow there is seldom a proposal for addressing the problem other than the customary subterfuge and guile.

This vague recollection floated to the surface as I contemplated these present Holyrood elections.

Do the voters really want blunt talking? Do they really want political leaders to tell it like it is? Really?

No money

Or do they, perhaps, prefer, to some extent, comforting obfuscation, a contented smudge?

Folk will insist that they want the hard truth. Tell me straight. OK, there's absolutely no money left and your kid's school is going to close.

And about that public sector job you have . . .

You can appreciate the problem. Such straight talking may be fine in generality. Indeed it may be regarded as an admirable characteristic.

But in the particular . . .

The Tories have made a relative virtue of bluntness in these elections, arguing for example for a graduate levy to fund universities and for the resurrection of prescription charges.

Further, they insist that their plans are costed on the basis of available funds - and are not predicated upon further efficiency savings being found.

Public spending

However, it is not all austerity. They are not daft.

So, at the same time, they stress areas where they have directed and fostered public spending, arguing for example that it was their pressure which ensured the recruitment of 1000 police officers during the last parliament.

And they are supporting individual give-aways such as their proposed discount on council tax for all pensioners.

To varying degrees, the other parties are all offering a mixed ensemble; hair shirt and party frock. For example, their talk of a tough public sector pay freeze is sweetened by the promise - from each, in different ways - of more jobs in the economy.

To be clear, I do not remotely blame them. Any of them.

There are distinct limits to the quota of "courageous decisions" which it is sensible to deploy when seeking to attract popular support.

Why is that?

Is it because, for all the emphasis upon blunt speaking, a worried and fretful electorate tends to welcome a degree of reassurance?

Yes, Minister.


  • Comment number 1.

    During an election period the BBC is not allowed to commission voting intention polls. Yet they have done just that. The BBC had compiled the questions before the SNP and Greens had even published their manifestos. So how can this be an unbias poll?

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    So the above posts are under consideration, or under active consideration.

  • Comment number 4.

    On the subject of Labour's cancer waiting times:-

    Labour have a very poor record here. When they were last in charge of Scotland's NHS they promised to bring in a 62-day cancer treatment waiting time - but failed to do so in their entire time in office from 1999 to 2007.

    What a difference a competent minister makes. Nicola Sturgeon met the 62 day target within a year of taking office. Then she went further, by bringing more patients into the target category. She then set a 31 day target which the NHS met a year ahead of schedule. She is now working towards the two week figure.

    Labour's record on health is appalling and they just cannot be trusted with this or any other promise. For example:

    When Labour ran the NHS... In March 2007 there were 32,000 outpatients waiting more than 12 weeks - under the SNP by 2011 this figure had fallen to 150.

    When Labour ran the NHS...there were "hidden waiting lists". These were abolished by the SNP.

    When Labour ran the was impossible to find a dentist. The SNP opened a new dental school in Aberdeen to train more. Now 1 million more people have access to an NHS dentist.

    When Labour ran the NHS...they wanted to close A&E units in Monklands and Ayr. The SNP kept them open along with other threatened local hospital services.

    When Labour ran the was being slowly privatised, with private firms building and owning hospitals under PFI. The SNP ended that scandal. They also ended Labour's other privatisation experiment by bringing Strathcaro hospital back into the NHS.

    When Labour ran the NHS...prescription charges kept on rising even for the low paid with chronic conditions. The SNP has abolished prescription charges.

    When Labour ran the NHS...superbugs were a serious problem. Since 2007 the SNP has cut the rate of the hospital acquired infections C. Diff and MRSA by 70%.

  • Comment number 5.

    An opinion poll published in the Sunday Times shows public support for independence and support for greater powers for Holyrood to be neck and neck.

    The Panelbase poll shows that once the 12% don't knows are excluded, 39% of respondents expressed a preference for independence, while 41% preferred greater powers for the Scottish Parliament as proposed by the Calman Commission.

    So if 80% want more powers for the parliament why is Labour giving powers back under the Scotland Act?

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Labour hasn't costed it's manifesto from the party that brought you economic collapse. It's seems their polices are disappearing faster than Iain Grey into Subway.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    On the STV live webchat with Bernard Ponsonby Iain Gray could not cite any evidence to support how his party’s knife crime policy would work. Labour continue to insist on mandatory 6 month sentences for anyone caught carrying a knife, a policy opposed by senior police officers including Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, the head of the Violence Reduction Unit. Asked how many extra prisoners there would be, all Gray could say was 'several hundred.' This was immediately shown to be wrong when the interviewer produced a Parliamentary Question showing that 1,300 folk would go to jail - enough to fill another Barlinnie. On claiming it would have a deterrent effect he then failed to produce any evidence based research to back up this claim. How does he justify jailing an 18 year old first offender caught with a blade? Does Labour honestly think an automatic jail sentence will help that youth's life chances?

    This was Iain Gray being found out on knife crime. It is now clear Labour have no facts, figures or costings to back up their unworkable policy. Iain Gray is also guilty of utter hypocrisy because it was during his time as deputy justice minister that knife crime rose by 12 per cent in a single year - the biggest rise since devolution.

    Compare that with the SNP's record of a 30 per cent fall in knife crime since 2007, as overall crime has fallen to a 32-year low, thanks to the 1,000 extra police officers the SNP has put on the streets of Scotland and youth education initiatives such as No Knives, Better Lives and the work of the Violence Reduction Unit in targetting gangs

  • Comment number 11.

    The thing about the Tories in this election is that it's unlikely that they'll increase their share of the vote by all that much anyway, so it doesn't make sense for them to offer everything and a pony and then fail to deliver it.

    On the other hand, I think their core vote will hold up, and will like the plain-talking. They might even pick up a few votes from the undecideds for the same reason.

    Let's face it, whoever wins the next election will form a minority government. The SNP have found that it works quite well for them - they can conduct the business of government while maintaining their intent to have a referendum on independence, which they would have to drop in any coalition.

    On the other hand, if Labour win, then their options are limited. Partnering with the SNP or the Tories is out of the question, and I suspect that a coalition with the Lib Dems would be untenable given the situation in Westminster.

    With minority government an almost certainty, the Tories are in a very good position because they're mature enough to work with it. They don't oppose for the sake of opposition as I feel Labour too often do. They help the government to pass legislation that they aren't too vehemently opposed to, and in return they gain concessions that provide value for a Tory vote.

    That means that they can't promise the world and then find that their policies are impractical, expensive and undeliverable, which I believe puts them in a good position in this election.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Private Secretary's Office - Should have got your eyes tested.

  • Comment number 15.

    So we can't trust Labour
    On the economy the ruined the UKs economy while in power
    On Health the above post reflects their last time in charge of the NHS
    On crime look at the above post regarding knife crime and the last time they were in power although on the subject of crime they do have more members who have been jailed or lost their jobs due to corruption than any other party.
    On devolution they are behing the hand back of powers to London that 88% of the population in a recent poll were against.

    What can we trust Labour on?

  • Comment number 16.

    Actually in Fife Claire Baker Labour's MSP candidate is campaigning on knife crime which isn't even an issue in Fife. She seems as incompetant as Grey on the facts.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Do the voters really want blunt talking?"

    Voters need journalists to be honest & straightforward and in the case of the BBC the should be 100% impartial.

    More & more of us are noticing this is not the case. That's very unfortunate as some journalists are becoming as much a laughing stalk as Gray is for running into a sandwich shop to hide.

    I think for any professional working in politics their reputation is in their own hands. If they don't want to make fools out of themselves then they know what needs to be done.

    While I'm here I'd like to thank the posters here who have provided readers with a wealth of information.

    Cheers guys!

  • Comment number 18.

    I wonder how many of these people carry a knife?

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Regarding the very quick and sudden closure on yesterday's blog regarding the peculiar BBC 'poll', will the BBC please explain the reasons? Why did it close so quickly when other BBC blogs stay open for days, nay weeks?

    Come on BBC, please tell us.

  • Comment number 21.

    "The matter is 'under consideration' means we have lost the file. The matter is 'under active consideration' means we are trying to find the file."

    Simply brilliant

    Your words Brian presumably these are yours also.

    "This comment has been referred for further consideration."

    The trouble is this blog is supposed to be serious and not compete with fictional entertainment but I suppose that is because there is nothing positive coming out of the unionist parties.

  • Comment number 22.

    Lest the moment should pass uncelebrated:

    "Dear diary, please forgive this sad North British Labour tale
    But this mornin’s been a tough one on our wee campaignin’ trail
    In red rosettes at Glesca Central, we were feelin’ smug and smart
    ‘Til some folk wi honest values blew the whole charade apart

    They surrounded puir wee Curran, and wir closin’ in on me
    So like a salmon up a burn, Ah wis forced tae turn an’ flee
    Frae the concourse intae Subway, Ah led as leaders do
    Still the buggers kept on comin’ till the place wis nearly fu’ !

    Now, Ah’ve been in some tough places, like Govan and Rwanda
    Ah’ve walked the Killin fields, been looked at funny by a panda
    Ah’ve seen off Pinochet, Ah’ve even baby-sat ma niece
    But there in yon wee shoppie, Ah wis forced tae haud ma piece

    Then, with our hope and spirits fading, came the shout 'Taxi for Gray!!'
    Like a Ninja, Ah wis oot there, in the cab and then away
    Then it was business as usual after several cups o’ tea
    Just a few more weeks to go before Bute House belongs tae me!!"

    - a 'Leader', ANONYMOUS ;-)

  • Comment number 23.

    Regarding #10 post on the NHS - good post. You mention Labour's attempt at privatising hospital care. What did we get for the £8million that Labour spent? They didn't tell us.

    You could also have mentioned the fact that there are more doctors, nurses and other frontline staff in the NHS than four years ago.

  • Comment number 24.

    Regardin #16 on knife crime - I hear that there are other parts of Scotland where Labour are campaigning on knife crime, but it isn't a local issue. Apparently, they are even saying it is 'chaos in the streets'!

  • Comment number 25.

    My posts are vanishing faster than Grey into Subway!

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree with vlad8.
    Thanks for saving me all that typing time :-)

  • Comment number 27.

    Regarding #10 on knife crime. Good post.

    I see that Andy Kerr said on television that knife crime costs the NHS £500million! 3.6% of the NHS budget he said! But hold on, he says in his local election leaflet that the cost is £3billion!

    Walt Disney stuff indeed. If he did some proper reseacrh he might find that the true figure is closer to £10million. Or will Mr Kerr share his sources? Can any readers help him and us?

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    17. At 17:41pm 12th Apr 2011, Stamp wrote:

    "That's very unfortunate as some journalists are becoming as much a laughing stalk as Gray is for running into a sandwich shop to hide."

    Its a good job that those making the sandwiches weren't wielding knives or Gray would of told they will go to gaol when he becomes FM.

  • Comment number 31.

  • Comment number 32.

    AMJHAJ Labour aren't very good at doing sums. Any time Labour and finance are put together it's a disaster. Which is reflected in them getting the UK to 4.8 trillion worth of debt. They want to get elected to run Scotland!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Political parties will always welome fudge if they can get away with it.Its up to journalists to represent the public interest and force some straight answers but in this election too many hacks are content to keep things as shallow as they can. Perhaps, the party some prefer, could not stand too many questions being asked about their dubious manifesto claims. The public cannot do much to private newspapers(except boycott those papers),but its time someone started to represent the paying publics interest in the likes of the BBC and get it honest.

  • Comment number 34.

    Basically they are all accomplished liars and will say anything further their own cause and to discredit each other, whatever party they belong to.They will promise anything, fail to deliver and then either claim they have delivered or blame someone or something else for stopping said delivery. Where Tavish Scott had his hand today is where most politicians would be doing us a favour by sticking their heads

  • Comment number 35.


    You have to hand it to Aunty Annie -(if you don't she and her party will take it off you anyhow). Her party brings in a disreputable unfair local taxation system, which takes no account of anyone's income, (other than those below the benfit threshold).

    Being Conservatives, they make sure the new Council tax protects the better off, (including themselves), not to mention the rich and the very rich by putting a cap on the amount to be paid for any one household, and by failing to charge all the occupants of said households, no matter how much they are paid, they leave those at the bottom end of the scale carrying the can.

    After Labour have increased the amount substantially, again taking no account of household income and doing so in percentage terms, which punishes the less well off, (not on benefits), she becomes all big hearted and proposes a scheme whereby all Pensioners, (including the better off and the rich, and the very rich), will get £200 a year refund.

    Personally this means instead of paying 10% of my take home for my Band E Home, I will pay 8%.

    Of course the current 10% figure is based on all my Take Home Income, whereas National Taxation has a substantial Non Taxable element. In effect this means that if all of this taxation had been deducted at National level, I am currently be paying not 20% but 35% of my total income. Aunty Annie's £200 rebate of my own money will bring this down to a mere 33%, but if she considers that I might show my gratitude by voting for her Party, she is sadly mistaken.

    Under the current system, anyone, Pensioner or not, and/or any couple on a combined income of less than £30k pa. is being ripped off.

    Under a 'Fair System' based on income those at this end of the scale would be paying far less and the rich would have to pay their fair share.

  • Comment number 36.

    I see that BBC Scotland is leading with 2 reports; 1 on effects of knife crime and the other on living with cancer!

    Wait a minute aren't those the 2 issues Labour have ridiculous, uncosted, unworkable policies on?

  • Comment number 37.

    I read BBC Scotland's version of the manifestos - two of which are yet to be published! Is this the BBC's idea of democracy?

  • Comment number 38.

    I have from a very reliable source, can't remember the film that came from, that Scottish Labour will now get you so far up the queue for treatment for cancer that you will be treated and discharged before you have even been diagnosed as having it.In fact you will be discharged with some surgical implements in your body, they will be picked up by a csanner and you will be charged with haveing a knife(Scalpel) on your person and thrown into the Prison for.....somebody wake me up from this nightmare.
    Now they will definately get my vote

  • Comment number 39.

    Brian - thanks for an interesting and amusing blog. To avoidance of reality in the SNP and Labour proclamations are both understandable but frustrating. The tories and Greens may end up with real influence in the next session of parliament and will have credibility which the Lib-dems lack in Westminster after their understandable but unpalatable U-turn on Uni fees as part of the collation. Whoever wins this election will find it hard to balance the reality of running the administration with the election promises made.

  • Comment number 40.

    "customary subterfuge and guile"

    Plenty of that right now and more eminating from the world of Journalism than Politics right now.

    "Do the voters really want blunt talking?"

    Possibly as long as it is unbiased and without hidden agenda!

    Can this be achieved in the next few weeks..... answers on a post card

  • Comment number 41.

    Why has my post been withheld . It contained no obscenities and no defamation - mild criticism of the standard of the reporting perhaps a little personal but referred for further consideration - come on. Censorship at the BBC

  • Comment number 42.

    That I suppose is why the electorate look to their state broadcaster to put ALL the parties to task without any favouritism.

    Heaven forbid our beloved BBC would for example run voting intention polls against its own rules or charter with weighted questions, run stories to support the “results” of these polls, maybe pushing one parties policies ahead of others, having a less experienced interviewer for one party leader with a more experienced journalist interviewing the others, not covering stories on a particular parties members doing time for corruption, not covering poll results that put a particular party in front when it doesn't suit or referring to parties that suggest they are Scottish when they are in fact just branch offices of Westminster based parties who have no interest in the growth of Scotland economy or the people of Scotland.

    No, aren’t we lucky to have an unbiased BRITISH broadcasting corporation reporting on the Scottish election.

  • Comment number 43.

    Brian,I found wee timerous Grey scurrying into a Subway sandwich bar very funny. And even more so when the DANGER had passed he started barking like a wee yorkshire terrier about killing fields et al.
    I also find myself a ta loss as why you as a professional journalist you take him, and his pack seriously

  • Comment number 44.


    Thank you for a thread so unspecific as to make it virtually impossible to be "off-topic".

    Humour is indeed very good medicine and I suppose it must be pretty drear in Pacific Quay with only the Scottish general election to cover, and so little happening that a dose of Yes Minister is good for cheering one up. My personal favourite is Sir Humphrey on opinion polls.

    Which brings us back to the "courageous decision" of BBC Scotland to commission the one on which your last thread was based, but which closed just as the discussion was getting interesting....

    #53 John Ruddy [The people's priorities thread]
    "Perhaps those who say "How can they ask questions when the manifesto's havnt been published? Its all a unionist fit up!" could read the bit in the news story which says that the prioroties were listed from the list that the parties themselves gave the BBC for their issues guide"

    Were that true, it would be a half-decent justification. Sadly for your thesis, it isn't.

    The "news story" specifically states that "The BBC poll asked people to rate 25 issues taken from manifestos and party policy statements".

    The "detail story" gives no information regarding the origin of the policies, and neither does the detailed PDF downloadable from the "news story".

    If indeed the four big parties plus the Scottish Greens were asked to list, say, their top 7 policies for inclusion in the poll, with the top 5 guaranteed to feature and possibly more should their top 5 overlap with other parties, then provided the 25 questions asked were randomised they would have been fair. But had that been the case then surely the BBC would have so stated.

    That the BBC make no such assertion can only beg the question of who chose the 25 and who chose the order in which to ask them? We can go further by looking at the Issues guide page to which you link. It shows seven policies per party - a total of 35 - and therefore begs the question of why no "super-fast broadband" [SNP #3], "GARL" [Lab #4], "Clamp-down on drugs in jail" [Con #1], "Protect free personal care" [L-D #2] or "renewed convention on Scottish devolution" [Scottish Grn #5] policies were tested? And, BTW, in case the foregoing was not enough, Labour's "Carry a knife; go to jail" policy does not feature in their seven listed policies yet it was the #12 policy question asked.

    Your defence of the BBC on this, whilst patently heartfelt, is also patently misguided.

  • Comment number 45.

    Reading Labour in Scotland's uncosted manifesto reminded me of how angry I used to get years ago, as a Labour supporter, when people told me never ever to trust Labour with money - unfortunately they were right and yet certain institutions still support them. A Lordship or two in the offing??

  • Comment number 46.

    brain, given that it is apparent to many that various media outlets are no longer using slight of hand political influence, and have gone for basically telling people who to vote for, where does it go from here, where does it stop?

    Does it stop?

    I know, I know, my "comment has been referred for further consideration".

  • Comment number 47.

    Gray on knife crime.

    Carry a knife = mandatory 6 months in jail

    Kerr on knife crime=6 months mandatory in jail but court has discretion

    Just heard Gray on news if convicted of knife crime 6 months jail,so has it now changed again its not if you cross the thresh hold carrying a knife.

    Gray,Kerr on knife is all mince and when is BBC really going to ask the awkward questions of this lot or has the orders gone out don't be to hard on Lab.

    I've done it again this will probably be modded

  • Comment number 48.

    The tables for the BBC poll are now up.

    I found the questions on tax very peculiar.

    The Scottish Government should decide itself how much it has to spend - and all the money should come out of taxes paid by people in Scotland - 22%

    The Scottish Government should have greater powers to decide how much it has to spend - and more of the money it spends should come out of taxes paid by people in Scotland - 47%

    The UK Government should continue to make nearly all the decisions about how much money the Scottish Government has to spend - and the money should continue to come out of taxes paid by people across the UK – 29%

    "taxes paid by people"? no mention of taxes paid by companies, or revenues from the ex-Regio imaginary area?

    However, no doubt this was simple incompetence on the part of the Beeb, and no deliberate distortion.

  • Comment number 49.

    Why the intermission?

    Scotland at Ten tonight was abysmal in its content and unionist guests or is it the ploy we have to endure until May. There is a rich family wedding to keep us in our place at the end of the month which will fill the airways whether we like it or not time for a holiday methinks Libya or Egypt Brian.

  • Comment number 50.

    How furtive can you be having a poll on election pledges,when all the party's have not lunched their manifestoed yet?As for the furtive Labour pledge on cancer treatment in 2 weeks,does that mean they are going to send you to a specialist before they know what your cancer is?As for knife crime are the furtive Labour planning in building more prisons [with PFI/PPF] or does the furtive Mr Gray know something we do not?

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

  • Comment number 53.

    Poor, poor Tavish on Newsnicht. If he wasn't pretending to be a politician, you would feel sorry for him! :-)

  • Comment number 54.

    4 min moderation records are certainly being broken. Why are there still "This comment has been referred for further consideration." not being assessed?

  • Comment number 55.

    yes first minister.
    this is just as funny as the series . and it "realy" happened.
    iain gray seems to be living a dangerous life first the killing fields of rwanda and cambodia. not to mention mozambiqe and chile three days after pinoche.what impecable TIMING. and the "coup da gray". the great escape from glasgow central,
    left scotlands answer to james bond, slightly shaken but not stirred.
    its no wonder david cameron is shaking in his shoes in case he gets rambo grr"ay
    as first minister. edd balls prodigee was chilling out at a bottling plant in EK, to renew his strength for the further dangers and pitfalls ahead!

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    #56 Thats a very interesting link that...Ive posted it to my friend who is a nursing student ...the more people in the NHS find out the mince that Labour are capable of the better.

  • Comment number 58.

  • Comment number 59.

    I have to agree with Brian. Politics can be quite amusing. Pity he left out the MOST amusing bits such as when Labour group leader Gray seemingly conceded the election in the BBC debate.

    I mean it WAS the BBC debate. Wouldn't you think the BBC Scotland's political editor would find this worth a mention? But I suppose conceding the election isn't worth noticing.

  • Comment number 60.

    But this was the best bit of the whole election:

    However, some people, The Express (and OTHERS), did not find IAIN GRAY ‘INSULT’ OVER RWANDA HORRORS all that amusing:

    Interesting day in Scottish politics. I'm sure it didn't slip under Mr. Taylor's radar. No doubt Iaian Gray making himself look--less than admirable, shall we say, on several counts just wasn't important enough to mention.

    Does that mean the BBC is also conceding the election to the SNP since it apparently isn't worth covering?

  • Comment number 61.

    "Sometimes, a comment may be referred for further investigation to a supervisor, host, editor or the Central Communities Team, who are responsible for moderation across all BBC services. Your post will be hidden while a decision is pending and the time taken to make this decision will depend on the investigation necessary."

    What's to investigate? It was a humorous article by Lallands Peat Worrier.

  • Comment number 62.

    Brian, glad to see the blog open again. But why was it 'now closed' for a few hours? Very much gave the impression that it was never to be re-opened. How strange.

  • Comment number 63.

    Brian, heard you on Good Morning Scotland last week.

    Most exercised you sounded about Labour's Gray running away at Central Station. You said you 'couldn't be doing with that sort of nonsense' - meaning people protesting. An interesting view. Did you express similar sentiments when the Tories met the same protesters?

  • Comment number 64.

    Brian, you also said that you thought Labour 'would be happy that their message was getting through as long as no one challenged them on the details'.

    Have the BBC challenged them on the details? Labour's Andy Kerr struggled to explain the impact of their curious crime/prison policy when challenged on Newsnight - but apart from that what else has the BBC done?

  • Comment number 65.

    So let me get this straight Brian. You are trying to justify Labours hysterical activity and damaging lies contained within thier manifesto and various TV debates under the guise of "reassurance"?

    No Brian, we don't want that. We want the stark naked truth so we can prepare ourselves. Otherwise, we are allowing the government to govern every aspect of our lives which is not on as we are not children, as much as Labour would like us to be.

  • Comment number 66.

    Shoogly Peg
    We want the stark naked truth

    Well you wont get it from the BBC

  • Comment number 67.

    Brian, you seem to be saying that political parties can either :

    a) tell us all a nice big friendly story that fails to recognise reality (Labour) or
    b) they can give us the bad news between the eyes and abandon any hope of
    being elected (Conservative).

    There are at least two other options however :

    c)Try to face in both directions at once, simultaneously being friends with and
    enemies with the Westminster Government (Liberal Democrats).

    d)Recognise the reality of imposed fiscal constraints, put forward a platform based
    on social justice within these imposed constraints, argue for the independent
    powers required to do a better job.

    I know which one I prefer !

  • Comment number 68.

    #60 JRMacClure
    "However, some people, The Express (and OTHERS), did not find IAIN GRAY ‘INSULT’ OVER RWANDA HORRORS all that amusing:"

    Thanks for the Express link. I fully agree with Mr Clerkin that: "It wasn’t appropriate to mention that in the context of a peaceful, non-violent demonstration".

    Perhaps the more telling quote from Mr Clerkin in the artice was his: "I disagree with Annabel Goldie and she disagrees with me, but, having said that, she defended her position and gave as good as she got. I respect her for that".

    Without for a moment doubting that the man has been in some unpleasant places, Mr Gray does seem to have earned for himself the sobriquet "Iain the unready" in the sense of being ill-advised, as applied to the late English King Æthelred, and perhaps in the modern sense too.

    BBC Scotland's report of the matter - Iain Gray targeted by protesters - was perhaps a little OTT, in stating that: "Scottish [sic] Labour was forced to cancel an election campaign event at a Glasgow train station, after it was hijacked by rowdy protesters".

    This rather contrasts with this website's reporting of Clerkin's similar protest to Ms Goldie in Parties focus on young and economy of 28 March: "Protesters from Glasgow group Citizens United Against Cuts to Public Services also interrupted the launch of the Tories' election campaign, as they hit out at the UK government's deficit-reducing spending cuts".

    I saw video of this at the time and recall being impressed by Goldie's chutzpah, but can find no recording of the event. It is, perhaps, instructive, however, to note Labour's reaction as reported by STV's Annabel Goldie denies campaign problems, also of 28 March, with a quote from Labour candidate Ken Macintosh: "Every day in every town and city, Labour will stand up to the Tories, doing everything we can to protect Scottish families from the havoc wreaked by a government completely out of touch with families struggling to make ends meet".

    If so, and I have no reason to doubt the man, then Mr Gray had nothing to fear and potentially something to gain by engaging in discussion with Mr Clerkin. Unready, indeed.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 71.

    #67 makinghistory

    Good post, and I agree entirely that the four choices you posit exist.

    Brian does have have a point with his: "There are distinct limits to the quota of "courageous decisions" which it is sensible to deploy when seeking to attract popular support." A case in point might be the so-called "top" priority of cutting cancer treatment waiting times as the BBC report on their ICM opinion poll describes it.

    Labour need to push this proposal at all costs if they are to persuade the electorate that their stewardship of the Scottish NHS will be less bad than the poor fist they made of it when in coalition with the L-Ds. As Brian aptly puts it "a worried and fretful electorate tends to welcome a degree of reassurance". In this case, it's essential (for Labour) to promise competence, whether they can deliver on it or not.

    The SNP have far less need to go OTT with NHS promises, and can let their record speak for itself. This is demonstrated by the Press Association's Web push over Labour cancer pledge, with the following telling quote from Ms Sturgeon: "Labour are all talk and no action when it comes to hospital waiting times. When they were last in charge of Scotland's NHS they promised to bring in a 62-day cancer treatment waiting time but had still failed to deliver it when they were turfed out of office six long years later. In contrast, the SNP not only met the targets Labour set within a year of taking office, we have gone further by bringing more patients into the target category. We have also abolished the scandalous hidden waiting lists that Labour used to help massage the figures."

  • Comment number 72.

    fellow pains me to see the increasing, ""coment referred for further consideration", notices on brians blogs,as we approach the elections. it is understandable in a way with so many conflicts of interests. it is also none productive to constantly slag the site, rather than trying to get your point across
    difficult as that might be. so mabe if we have another snp victory there might be an
    easing in media bias!

  • Comment number 73.

    Still considering whether to refer to this or that any comment Brian.

  • Comment number 74.

    Brian, with utmost seriousness it is very disappointing that you are failing in your attempts to engage an intelligent and reasoned debate on topics you have the legitimate right to choose. You are attracting a certain breed to your blog and unfotrunately it is not offering value to the sensible licence fee payers out there who would like to have a reasoned debate that doesn't continually resort to playground name calling and cheap political point scoring.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    Good news on the Scottish job front again, 7.000 out of the 17,000 fall in UK unemployment is in Scotland. Well done the Scottish government, is that a fall for 5 straight months? However if you wanted to spin this as 'bad' news, I wonder how you'd go about it?

    "Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the unemployment rate was 8.1%, slightly above the UK average rate of 7.8%. In the UK as a whole, unemployment fell by 17,000 to 2.48 million. While the jobless total in Scotland fell on the quarter, it was 10,000 higher than the same quarter last year. The unemployment rate fell 0.3% from the previous quarter but was 0.3% up over the year."

  • Comment number 77.

    ...and in other news:

    "BBC Scotland's head of news and current affairs Atholl Duncan has announced that he is to leave the corporation after the Holyrood elections."

    Quietly satisfied at a job well done, or before something nasty hits the electrically powered cooling device?

    You choose.

  • Comment number 78.

  • Comment number 79.

    GOOD NEWS: BBC Scotland's Labour loving head of news and current affairs Atholl Duncan is to resign.

    BAD NEWS: John Boothman, former Labour party activist and the head of newsgathering at BBC Scotland, will take over the post on an interim basis.

  • Comment number 80.

    #22 Brilliant :)

  • Comment number 81.

    77. At 11:08am 13th Apr 2011, ambi wrote:

    ...and in other news:

    "BBC Scotland's head of news and current affairs Atholl Duncan has announced that he is to leave the corporation after the Holyrood elections."


    Of course, if the SNP sweeps the board in the election, the SBC-to-be will be looking for staff...

    Or is Scottish Labour in need of a 'well-connected' (in media terms) media chief?

  • Comment number 82.

    "Do the voters really want blunt talking? Do they really want political leaders to tell it like it is? Really?"

    Of course they do and also the press; so how about someone "tell it like it is" over Mussa Kussa, the Libyan foreign minister.

    Surely if Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi was guilty of the crimes he was jailed for then Mussa Kussa would have been the man to give him the order and hence should also have been arrested; however he was allowed to leave the country.

    Does this mean Libya was not responsible?

  • Comment number 83.

    Postal ballot papers will be hitting mats next week (and many will be completed and returned the same day), so if any party has a knockout policy, it is surely time to bring it out into the open...

  • Comment number 84.

    Iain Gray for next Presiding Officer...?

    (He certainly won't be moving into Bute House, unless there is an anti-SNP stitch-up to form a Losers' Alliance.)

  • Comment number 85.

    Tavish Scott on Newsnight showed that the Scottish LibDems as we know them are finished.I've never seen a leader look so defeated and disillusioned on the campaign trail.After the election I think we can expect to see an exodus of members to the Nationalists and Greens.

  • Comment number 86.

    It seems to me that the reasonably positive unemployment figures today have been presented with as many negative caveats as possible. How about some plain, simple, honest reporting of the facts rather than packaging up soundbites for doom-mongers?

  • Comment number 87.

    84. tears4souvenirs
    "Iain Gray for next Presiding Officer...?"

    Come on,you wouldn't give Elmer something that complicated to do.

    Talking of the role of Presiding Officer though,it begs the question of whether Labour will do the decent thing and not prevent one from their ranks in the next session.The SNP,LibDems and Conservatives provided a PO in the first three parliaments.

  • Comment number 88.


    With the appearance of this website's new BBC Scotland's head of news Atholl Duncan to leave [apparently on 8 May], you'll no doubt be blogging soon on what difference that will make, but initially you might care to reflect on the website & blog list he produced at the end of 2009 for allmediascotland: My Top 20 - Atholl Duncan.

    No surprise that his top 6 were all BBC websites, but you must have been chuffed at being the top blog on his list at #3, even if his "Braces Brian’s blog. Best insight to Scottish politics. Always balance and insightful despite too many mentions of Dundee United." was not entirely laudatory. Perhaps not oddly, the only other political blog he lists is the often naughty [and occasionally banned from these threads] Guido Fawkes at #12. Guido's threads are usually vehemently anti-Scottish on the few occasions they mention that nation, so arguably Mr Duncan felt a need to keep an eye on it. His other choices do perhaps help to explain the relative obscurity of political reporting on Reporting Scotland.

  • Comment number 89.

    #78 cheesed off
    thanks for the link, i had forgotten. i watched it, aunty bella gave her no nonsense
    frank but sometimes evasive performance with no "gaffs" ponsenby. had to persue her on public house building projects commitment on house building. a watered
    down knife crime. then the amusing part when she mentioned some peoples take, on their suggestion of pupils leaving school at 14 in order to take up appretiships,
    as dickensian as misguided. { cant imagine a skinhead being a chimney sweep } .


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.