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.)
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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.
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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.