Monday, November 20, 2017

David Leask makes serious allegation against Ofcom - but does he have any evidence?

Because I'm now blocked on Twitter by the Herald's legendary David "Let's Block Everybody" Leask (as a result of just one polite interaction with him), it's harder for me to keep up with developments concerning his increasingly paranoid obsession with a 30-minute weekly TV show on Freeview.  Someone mentioned yesterday that he now believes The Alex Salmond Show is the "defining story of our age", which seemed a bit too unhinged to be plausible, so I naturally assumed it was a quote that had been taken wildly out of context for comic effect.  But, remarkably, it wasn't.

David Leask: Scotland's reputation 'damaged' by Alex Salmond's Russian TV show

Fenner: Absolutely pathetic that this is still being discussed.

David Leask: It's the defining story of our age. Are you with Trump, Brexit & Putin lie machines or with, among others, the SNP who oppose them. Your choice.

Jim Gibson: It's "the defining story of our age". Yes! Leask actually did write those words. Forget Brexit, Cataluña, Trump, child slavery, refugees, wars, the Middle East, climate change, Greggs sausage rolls. Forget all of them! The Alex Salmond Show defines our age.

Lyn/SNP member: I am much more interested in Theresa May's relationships with Duterte, Salman, Erdogan and Netanyahu. As we break away from the EU these partnerships will tighten. May herself is no fan of democracy or human rights. She is in office. Salmond is not.

David Leask: So you're an SNP member. Why do you think the party boycotts RT?

Lyn/SNP member: I am. I can't answer that. I haven't spoken to the party about RT. So you're a journalist. Why wait until Salmond has his own show before jumping on the bandwagon? Others sat before him including Corbyn. Why is RT AVAILABLE in UK? Who sanctioned it?

David Leask: People who want to make sure the BBC isn't jammed in Russia. You still haven't explained why you oppose the SNP on this. But alas inn (sic) guessing you're not gonna. Best.

Now let's just hit the rewind button for a moment, and treat the first sentence of that final tweet with the seriousness it warrants. Leask's response to the question "Who allows RT to broadcast in the UK?' was "People who want to make sure the BBC isn't jammed in Russia". For the avoidance of doubt, the "people" he is referring to are collectively known as Ofcom - the regulatory body that gave RT a licence to broadcast in this country and so far have not revoked it.  The only reasonable way of interpreting his words is as an allegation that Ofcom ignored their legal duties, and awarded a licence to a broadcaster that did not meet the very strict criteria laid down.  Furthermore, Leask is alleging that Ofcom broke the rules for political reasons (ie. to prevent retaliatory action against the BBC in Russia).  There may even be a hint in there that they took the decision under external political pressure.

If those allegations turned out to be true, it would be a bombshell that would undoubtedly lead to the resignation of Ofcom's management.  Which begs the obvious question: why hasn't Leask written in the Herald about this outrageous Ofcom scandal?  He would of course require evidence before going into print with it, but doubtless he wouldn't have made such an extraordinary claim in the first place unless he had plenty of proof.

(That said, he does now routinely imply that anyone who speaks in support of Alex Salmond must be in the pay of the Kremlin, and is perhaps even Russian themselves.  He's also in the past advanced a crackpot conspiracy theory that Wings Over Scotland and Wee Ginger Dug were set up by dark forces to discredit the independence movement.  So perhaps he isn't quite as much of a stickler for evidence as you might expect from someone of his profession.  In case you're wondering how on earth two immensely popular pro-independence websites are supposed to have discredited the movement, he appeared to mean that they hadn't shown sufficient deference to the mainstream media, which as we all know is the sole determinant of credibility.)

*  *  *

You might remember that a couple of months ago, there was a discussion on this blog about whether it was reasonable for the media to say that Angela Merkel had "won" the German federal election, given that she had only roughly one-third of the seats in the Bundestag, and that if she remained as Chancellor that would be a decision of other parties, not of the voters.  It was argued by some that yes, it was reasonable, because voters had delivered a result that everyone knew would result in a fourth term for Merkel.  That theory went out of the window yesterday when the FDP pulled the plug on three-way coalition talks with Merkel's party and the Greens, meaning there is no longer any viable majority coalition available to Merkel.  Germany thus reverts to the raw arithmetic the voters actually delivered in September, which won't in itself be sufficient to sustain Merkel for a fourth term.  And yet the BBC reiterated today that Merkel "won" the election.  So here's my customary question - if that non-victory (33% of the votes and 35% of the seats) must be described as a "win", what possible excuse is there for not acknowledging that the SNP won the general election in Scotland with their superior 37% of the vote and 59% of the seats?

*  *  *

I was surprised earlier today by a number of angry reactions I received when I made what I thought was a pretty obvious point on Twitter - that while I admired Richard Leonard's honesty, it was likely that his admission that he supports England against Scotland at football would be quoted back at him a million times.  One point that a few people made was "he's English, so why is this surprising."  Well, is he English?  Or is he someone with a more complex identity because he's lived in Scotland for longer than he lived in the country of his birth?  Presumably that was one of the points the question about football was intended to illuminate, and I'm not sure that's totally unreasonable.  Imagine the reaction if a New Zealand party leader said they weren't supporting the All Blacks against the Springboks, for example.  In Australia, political leaders aren't even allowed to have dual nationality - the implication being that wherever you originally come from, seeking political office means that you're a fully paid-up member of Team Australia now.  I personally think that takes it way too far, but it's scarcely an uncommon attitude.  How long would a US presidential candidate of any national origin last if they didn't show sufficient American patriotism?

As frivolous as it seems to many, it's become one of the ritual duties of political leaders to speak on behalf of those they represent by offering encouragement and congratulations/commiserations to national sporting teams.  I think that may prove to be a little awkward for Leonard in certain circumstances, because the media won't be shy about reminding their readers and viewers that he's an England supporter.  However, as I said - good for him.  I think it reflects well on him that he answered the question honestly, even though there may be a political cost.

*  *  *

The Scottish subsample from the latest Britain-wide Opinium poll: SNP 38%, Labour 30%, Conservatives 29%, Greens 3%.  This is the twenty-first subsample in a row, across all firms, to put the SNP ahead.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hothersall faces bushtucker trial of the soul as everything he thought he could rely on turns to dust

Fate has dealt Duncan Hothersall a cruel hand over the last eighteen hours or so.  Deep down, he probably always anticipated that mystery man Richard Leonard would take the Scottish Labour crown, bringing an end to the branch office's resistance to Corbynism.  But the news about Kezia Dugdale....well, it's a real Ramsay MacDonald meets the Chuckle Brothers moment for poor Dunc, whose idiosyncratic vision of "International Socialism" now lies in tatters.  He hasn't been seen on Twitter since the news broke, and many suspect he's pondering a new career as a Spanish public prosecutor - something he can really put his heart into.

Scottish Labour leadership election result:

Richard Leonard 56.7%
Anas Sarwar 43.3%

I'm trying to decide whether that margin of victory justified the extreme 7/1 odds on a Sarwar win.  Probably not quite, although it looks like the result was never in that much doubt, in spite of what we had been led to believe.

I'll be completely honest about this - faced with the very limited options available to them, I think Labour have made the right choice (just for once).  We've seen enough of Anas Sarwar over the years to know that he would have been a disaster area, and that no-one would have taken him seriously as a potential First Minister.  I thought Leonard came across reasonably well in the STV debate with Sarwar - it sounded like he was actually thinking about his answers rather than reading from a script, which is quite rare in this day and age.  If he can keep that up when debating with opponents from the SNP rather than his own party, he might do OK...but that's a big "if".  He seems to have exactly the same irrational rage towards the SNP that all of his immediate predecessors have displayed.

I saw Christopher Silver say on Twitter earlier that the "pro-indy left" will have to drop their "instinctive dismissal" of Labour in the light of this result - well, that rather depends on how serious they are about the "pro-indy" part of the equation, doesn't it?  Leonard seems to be an absolute dinosaur on the constitutional issue.

It'll be interesting to see what the significance is of Leonard putting off any decision about suspending Dugdale for a few days.  The expectation that she's going to be cut adrift is now so strong that it'll be hard to pull back from that, but on the other hand a few days' grace will give her a chance to actually appear on the programme and mutter "for the many, not the few" as she devours assorted insects.  Maybe we'll hear some waffly excuse about how they can't suspend someone who may have been unwise, but who is nevertheless "reaching out to young people".

If she does go, it'll mean that the people who were leader and deputy leader of Scottish Labour in late August will both no longer even be members of the party just three months later.  A totally unprecedented state of affairs.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Andrew Neil: the mask slips

Amid the mindless hysteria about Alex Salmond's perfectly reasonable decision to run his show on an Ofcom-regulated UK television channel (it's on Freeview, for pity's sake!), there is also a slightly more thoughtful 'middle position' being taken by some.  Basically that position is: "No, of course Alex Salmond hasn't done anything terribly wrong, and of course it's not true that the mainstream British broadcast media is as pure as the driven snow while RT is evil incarnate.  But that's not to say there is no distinction between the two.  RT's news coverage deliberately pursues a political agenda, in contrast to the BBC and ITN, where any bias is usually unconscious or unintended."

That's quite a seductive argument, but for it to have validity, you'd be entitled to expect that the BBC would react with a degree of concern and reflectiveness if the more partisan channel ever succeeded in showing it up - by, for example, broadcasting an interview that was overwhelmingly in the public interest, but that the BBC had inexplicably neglected to conduct.  One of the most common observations on social media about Alex Salmond's interview with Carles Puigdemont was just how bizarre it was that no British broadcaster had previously shown a full-length interview with the exiled Catalan president.  You'd have hoped that the BBC bosses watching would have had a light-bulb moment and thought "Damn, we should have done that on the Andrew Marr Show.  It was an oversight and we'd better put it right now."  That would have been the reaction of an organisation that truly has only unconscious biases, and rectifies them when they're identified.

Troublingly, however, if Andrew Neil's extraordinary rant at an RT host on last night's This Week is at all representative of the wider BBC, their reaction seems to be entirely different and highly belligerent -

"The whole point of Russia Today...is all focused to undermine our faith in our democratic institutions, and to divide us....I went on to your website before we came on tonight and they're all stories that try to undermine our faith in our society.  They're all trying to divide us, you give prominence to Catalonia, to Scottish independence, you're trying to divide us."

So the reaction is not "we should have done that interview ourselves", but rather "no decent broadcaster should have given Puigdemont the oxygen of publicity because Catalan nationalism is bad". There, unwittingly, Neil has vindicated the argument that RT and the BBC are two sides of the same coin - ie. that RT pursues a political agenda by giving prominence to the Catalan and Scottish independence movements (thus "dividing us") while the BBC pursues the opposite agenda by starving those movements of attention where possible (thus "bringing us together").  That would of course be entirely in keeping with the BBC charter requirement that the corporation must operate in the interests of the United Kingdom's cohesion, but if that is what's going on, it's murderously hard to see how the BBC can ever cover the Scottish independence debate fairly and impartially.  For both the BBC's sake and for the sake of democracy, we must hope that Neil was speaking for himself only.

Where he probably was speaking on behalf of many of his colleagues was in his extraordinary "heads I win, tails you lose" attitude to the regulation of broadcasters.  When it was pointed out to him that RT is regulated by Ofcom in much the same way that the BBC is, he argued that this meant that RT was probably going to lose its licence - in other words the fact that RT won and has so far retained its licence is somehow proof that the channel is just about to be taken off the air.  If anyone made a claim like that about the BBC, you'd question their sanity, and rightly so. When it was pointed out to him that the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg had been censured by a regulatory body in much the same way that RT has occasionally been censured by Ofcom, he reacted as if someone had just defended a serial killer.  "Laura Kuenssberg is a very fine journalist", he said quietly, with the subtext being that an attack on Laura Kuenssberg (even by the BBC's own regulators) is an attack on journalism itself.  In other words, RT being censured by their regulators is proof that RT is a Kremlin propaganda machine, and the BBC being censured by their regulators is proof that BBC journalism is the victim of persecution.  Yup, that all seems pretty clear-sighted and fair.

*  *  *

I don't generally offer betting tips on this blog, and I'm not going to start now...but I maybe would have done if Ladbrokes hadn't just closed their books on the Scottish Labour leadership contest.  The 7/1 they were offering on Anas Sarwar earlier today just seemed like crazy odds.  All the mood music from both camps implies that Leonard is the more likely winner but that it's too close to call.  If you buy into the Neil Edward Lovatt theory that betting odds are a predictive God, you'd have to conclude that Ladbrokes or their punters know something we don't, but more likely is that they don't have any inside information and are just lazily assuming that a comfortable victory for the Corbynite is logical.  7/1 definitely looked like a value bet - but (perhaps thankfully) it's too late to put that to the test.

*  *  *

I was all set to defend Kezia Dugdale's decision to take part in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! until I remembered that she's still a sitting MSP and that it's therefore a completely ridiculous thing for her to be doing.  She's supposed to be representing the voters of Lothian in parliamentary votes and debates, and helping them if they contact her with a problem.  She will self-evidently be neglecting those responsibilities for the entire duration of her stay in Australia.  I trust the mainstream media will muster at least twice as much hysteria for Kezia as they managed for Alex Salmond, because there's no doubt over which of those two has made the truly indefensible decision in pursuit of attention.

Whether deservedly or otherwise, Kezia had until now looked set to emulate David Steel by "passing from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever" (as Michael Foot famously put it).  But I suspect she may have permanently destroyed her credibility with this single act.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A gentle hint: this kind of behaviour doesn't just bring journalism into disrepute, it turns journalism into a laughing-stock

Those of you on Twitter are probably well aware that there's a Herald journalist called David Leask who is notorious for being the least tolerant person you could ever encounter.  It's almost comical - he's literally blocked every single person who's ever interacted with him unless they've unreservedly agreed with his own worldview in each and every microscopic particular.  He has no self-awareness at all about how this behaviour reveals him to have a sinister, mildly fascist mindset (I use the word 'fascist' advisedly - defined in part as 'no tolerance for opposing opinions') and indeed he advertises what he is doing quite openly - after most blockings he 'names and shames' the offending person and states his 'reason' for blocking, which in most cases is silly beyond all belief.  He carries on doing this without any understanding of the immense harm he's doing to his own reputation - and by extension to the reputation of his profession - because, you've guessed it, he's already blocked anyone who is capable of being a candid friend to him and taking him to one side.

Over the years I've been on Twitter, I've watched in genuine astonishment as practically everyone I know, across all shades of pro-independence opinion, has been blocked by Leask, often after interacting with him very respectfully on just one single occasion.  Being aware of his antics, I began to regard it as a game to see if I could end up as just about the only non-sycophant left that he hasn't blocked, simply by permanently ignoring him.  However, over the last few days he has lost the plot even by his own high standards.  Because of his hardline views about Russian-funded media in the UK, he's taken to declaring that anyone who defends Alex Salmond's association with RT cannot by definition be part of the 'real SNP' or share the values of the 'real independence movement' (a jaw-dropping piece of conceit given that Leask is not actually in the indy camp).  This naturally means that Salmond himself, the man who led the Yes campaign in the indyref and has been leader of the SNP for almost one-quarter of its entire existence, is not 'real SNP' or 'real pro-indy'.  I'd humbly submit that is quite possibly the most embarrassing argument ever put forward by any professional journalist who does not work for the Express.


So I finally cracked.  I decided a more interesting game than ignoring Leask would be to see if I could gently challenge him by making a point that is practically irrefutable, and come away without being blocked.  The result, I'm afraid, was all too predictable.


Remember that the above tweet is the only time, in eight years as a Twitter user, that I've ever interacted with the guy.

Try the game yourself.  Go on, it's fun.  Say to him: "It's Thursday, David", and ten seconds later he'll publicly execute you with the words "Blocked for denying it's always Wednesday".

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the one and only Mr David Leask.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New ICM poll is hammerblow for Dugdale...sorry, I mean Rowley...sorry, I mean 'Position Vacant'

Confusion reigns today over whether the role of interim Scottish Labour leader is now completely vacant or occupied by Jackie Baillie (and indeed confusion also reigns over whether we'd be able to tell the difference between those two possibilities).  One thing remains constant, though - there's no sign of any joy for Scottish Labour in the opinion polls.  The SNP are back up to 4% of the Britain-wide vote for only the second time in any ICM poll conducted since the general election, and the Scottish subsample shows the following: SNP 40%, Conservatives 27%, Labour 20%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Greens 5%, UKIP 1%.  This is the twentieth subsample in a row across all firms to put the SNP in first place.

Of course no individual subsample should be regarded as reliable given the small sample size, but for what it's worth the ICM poll is the first straw in the wind since we were all royally entertained by the affectations of outrage over Alex Salmond's TV show.  So the very earliest indications are that the SNP's detractors may have to find a line of attack that is more promising than "Salmond is almost as bad as Kim Philby" (which is something that Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow actually said out loud last night!).

'We need to talk about the monarchy as part of independence'

The latest from Phantom Power's Journey to Yes series, featuring someone who you might remember giving Ruth Davidson a (thoroughly deserved) hard time during the general election campaign.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Nineteenth subsample in a row puts the SNP ahead

A new Britain-wide YouGov poll is out today, so this may be a good moment to round-up the Scottish subsamples that have been published since my last update.  There have only been a couple...

Ipsos-Mori: SNP 43%, Labour 24%, Conservatives 23%, Liberal Democrats 9%

YouGov: SNP 36%, Labour 28%, Conservatives 25%, Liberal Democrats 5%, UKIP 4%, Greens 1%

That means nineteen subsamples in a row have put the SNP in an outright lead.  Just the usual reminder - any individual subsample should not be regarded as reliable, but an aggregate/average of a large number of subsamples can give you a rough indication of what is happening.  The sheer consistency of the SNP lead in subsamples since early September is probably indicative of quite a healthy SNP advantage on the ground, and is very much in line with the message from full-scale Scottish polls (although admittedly we haven't had any of those for a few weeks).

Are there any clouds on the horizon?  Obviously the hysteria over Alex Salmond's new TV show has only just happened, so we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.  It goes without saying that the criticisms of Salmond are hypocritical bilge given that leading politicians from all major parties have been willingly interviewed on the same channel, but on the other hand it is unusual (probably unprecedented) for Nicola Sturgeon to put out a personal statement distancing herself from something Salmond has done.  She and her advisers may have thought that was a safety-first approach, but I suspect the truly dangerous thing is for parties to allow themselves to look divided.  However, it's a very polite division on a relatively minor issue, so in spite of the mainstream media's valiant demands that their readers and viewers should care about this, I expect the likelihood is that we'll look back on it as a 72-hour wonder. 

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

Earlier today, I had a brief exchange with Nick Robinson (former Political Editor of both the BBC and ITV News, and now presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme) on the subject of Alex Salmond's new TV show - which is made with complete editorial control by Salmond's own production company, and will be broadcast on RT.

*****

*****

*****

*****


This is my cue to use the immortal words "He didn't answer" (albeit with rather more accuracy than they were originally used).

I realised as I was writing those tweets that I am - somewhat to my surprise - a fan of Twitter's new 280-character limit.  Until a couple of days ago, if I had tried to make points like those I would have given up in despair after realising that it's impossible to condense them into 140 characters.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

No, Nicola Sturgeon does not need to apologise for someone else's personal opinions

Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson raised a few eyebrows last night by taking a clear stance on an issue of party political controversy -




Now, first things first - there's nothing wrong in principle with a BBC journalist expressing a political opinion on Twitter.  That's what the standard disclaimer "my views, not my employer's" is there to cover - he wasn't tweeting with his BBC hat on.  Nevertheless, there presumably is a line that has to be drawn somewhere - it would, for example, be a problem if Brian Taylor was constantly telling us which party he votes for in general elections, because we would inevitably view all of his political reporting through that prism.  What troubles me is not so much that we now know Gary Robertson thinks the SNP should have declined large game-changing donations in 2007 and 2011, but rather that he believes he's merely stating the obvious and is evidently offended by the idea that any right-thinking person would not dutifully fall in behind him.

Let's be absolutely clear what it would have meant for the SNP to turn down Souter's donations.  In 2007, the odds were - as since the dawn of time - stacked against them.  They were up against much wealthier opponents who could tap into UK-wide funds, and the media were relentlessly hostile.  The Souter donation helped level a hopelessly skewed playing-field, and there was simply no other way that was going to happen.  In a nutshell, Gary Robertson thinks the SNP should have opted out of the chance to properly compete for power on something approaching a fair basis, just so they could look as pure as the driven snow.  That would have been a betrayal of anyone who had pounded the streets for the SNP since 1934 on the assumption that the party was not playing a futile game of cricket, but was instead engaged in a serious attempt to overcome the dirty war fought against them by the media and London establishment, to attain power, and ultimately to win maximum self-government for Scotland.  The 2007 election was so desperately close that it's entirely plausible to say that without the Souter donation there would have been no independence referendum (because the 2011 overall majority was only possible due to the success of the 2007-11 government), meaning that we wouldn't now have a more powerful Scottish Parliament and an enormous contingent of pro-independence MPs at Westminster.  And what noble point of principle would the SNP have been sacrificing their raison d'être for?  None at all.  The donation came without strings.

Maybe once we have public funding of political parties, and once the media has put its own house in order, the SNP will have the luxury of turning down unconditional donations of £500,000.  But not until then.

I'm also slightly baffled as to why Robertson thinks Brian Souter has "policies".  Politicians have policies, but private citizens - no matter how wealthy - merely have opinions.  Perhaps Robertson thought it was only by indulging in the pretence that Souter is the equivalent of an SNP government minister that he could justify the otherwise incredibly silly notion that Nicola Sturgeon should be "apologising" for someone else's personal views.

As for Robertson's question about whether Souter's donations took place within the historical period Sturgeon apologised for in her statement, he should have known the answer to that, because she gave a pretty strong hint that she regarded 2001 as the watershed - that being the year in which the age of consent was equalised at 16.  The vast bulk of what she was apologising for took place on Westminster's watch - most notably, it was UK-wide Labour and Tory governments that eccentrically kept sex between men a criminal offence in Scotland for well over a decade after it had been legalised in England and Wales.  The short post-devolution period covered by the apology was during the Labour-Lib Dem coalition government at Holyrood, and ended six years before Souter's first donation to the SNP.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Penny for the Guy

A few years ago I stumbled across a BBC drama series from the 1970s, confusingly called 1990 because it was set in a dystopian Britain of the near-future.  It starred Edward Woodward at the peak of his powers, but it doesn't seem to be as well-remembered as his other series like Callan and The Equalizer.  I think probably the reason is that it's a bit of a mixed bag - some aspects of it work very well, while other things occasionally snap you out of the fake reality you're presented with.  For example, in Britain of 1990 the crown jewels have been literally sold off, the House of Lords has been turned into a politicians' drinking club (how would you tell the difference?), and the pound sterling has been replaced by the "Anglo-Dollar", which just doesn't ring true as a name.  (Unless it was imposed by the Americans themselves, of course, but that's not the storyline.)  There's an unintentionally hilarious bit in the final episode of Series 1, where an old man recounts the sorry tale of Britain's descent into totalitarianism, and he says something like "it all began when they brought in that Value Added Tax in the early 70s..."  That must have sounded a bit daft even at the time of broadcast.  

And then there's the whole issue of Europe.  Weirdly, Britain is supposed to have remained in the European Community and the Council of Europe, and therefore is still fully subject to the European Convention on Human Rights - which it circumvents by means of various technicalties, even though citizens are routinely denied all sorts of basic rights such as the right to travel, the right to free expression, and the right to a private life.  When I first saw the series, I thought it was wildly implausible that European leaders would ever allow any country to get away with such a thing, or at least not without facing expulsion...which means I now need to urgently introduce my naive former self to a certain Mr Guy Verhofstadt, who seems hellbent on ensuring that 1990 proves to be an uncannily accurate prophecy - albeit in real life the rogue state is Spain rather than the UK.

Verhofstadt's latest Facebook post about the Catalan crisis is typically grotesque.  It's thinly disguised as a rare criticism of Spanish actions, but in truth his only quibble seems to be that the taking of political prisoners is a tactical blunder that might allow the filthy law-breaking "separatists" to paint themselves as martyrs, thus helping them to do well in the December election.  He suggests that there should be "other ways" to ensure that the jailed politicians "receive a fair trial", by which he seems to mean a delay of legal proceedings until the election is over.  At no point does it even occur to him to question why elected politicians in an EU member state should be facing trial at all for the supposed "crime" of implementing the manifesto on which they were elected.  He fatuously signs off with an image of demonstrators holding up a banner reading "all we need is talk" - well, exactly what interest has Verhofstadt ever shown in genuine dialogue that puts the two sides of this dispute on an equal footing, rather than putting one side in the dock of a Spanish court?  I think we know the type of dialogue he has in mind - it'll be a cosy chat between the Spanish government and a puppet Catalan regime, in which they furiously agree with each other about how the Spanish constitution must be respected and how independence is a complete non-starter.

*  *  *

If you were particularly 'lucky', you might have heard me on the radio this morning.  The Bauer network (ie. Clyde 2, Forth 2, etc.) invited me on because of something I tweeted the other day about what appeared to be an enormous Comic Relief-style red nose on the front of a car - but actually proved on closer inspection to be a 'poppy'.  I suppose, in fairness, the whole problem with "poppy fascism" is the denial of freedom of choice, so it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that people shouldn't be free to be as ostentatious as they like with their own poppy-wearing.  But I do feel that there's an inverse correlation between how large or tacky a poppy is, and how close the sentiment behind it is to the original intention of the poppy symbol.

You can hear the radio show on catch-up HERE.