It’s A Sad Look-Out For The Left When Labour Endorses The Telegraph & The Mail
April 4, 2015
by Martin Odoni
Rumours, rumours, rumours.
I am half-convinced that there is far less real information in the world than there appears to be. The very fact that the TV series QI: Quite Interesting, which specialises in debunking urban mythology, is still going strong after twelve years, should be enough to tell us that there is far more false information than truth circulating.
What is scary is just how quickly people are prepared to believe a myth, especially when it suits their prejudices. (Yes, I am willing to admit that I do that from time-to-time myself.) What is terrifying is when people are prepared to believe a myth even when they know full well that it is coming from a notoriously unreliable source.
On Good Friday, a ‘shocking revelation’ was sent circling around the UK when the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, those two bastions of responsible and objective journalism, published articles about the supposed contents of a ‘secret’ telephone conversation. (Is it not amazing how often ‘secret’ conversations are revealed to the world? It raises questions about the definition people are using e.g. by ‘secret’ do they actually mean ‘made up off the tops of our heads’?) The conversation was between the leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, and a French diplomat, Sylvie Bermann, and during this ‘secret’ discussion, it is claimed that Sturgeon suggested incumbent David Cameron was a preferable Prime Minister to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Now, anyone with half-an-ounce of critical thought in their heads would surely treat this story with skepticism anyway; the very fact that the story broke just a day after Sturgeon did very well at the seven-way ITV Leaders Debate, alongside the fact that it appeared in a pair of shameless right-wing-reactionary mouthpiece newspapers, should have been enough to make people at least reserve judgement until they had heard both sides of the story. Sure enough, not only has Sturgeon herself denied that she ever made the remark endorsing Cameron, but Bermann too, who has no obvious incentive to cover anything up, has spoken out, making clear that during the conversation in question, Sturgeon never once endorsed anybody as Prime Minister for the upcoming General Election. As this conversation has been repeatedly labelled as ‘secret’, it is difficult for a rational human being to accept that anyone other than Sturgeon or Bermann could know its contents as well as they do, and therefore that really should be the end to the matter.
Only it is not. Jim Murphy, Labour’s leader in Scotland, has leapt on the rumour and used it to castigate Sturgeon in terms worthy of Judas Iscariot – well it is Easter I suppose – which is quite cynical enough. Given the history of the Telegraph and the Mail of right-wing mudslinging at the left, it is amazing how quickly Murphy has allowed himself to ‘believe’ such a dubious rumour when they spread it.
But worse yet, even Ed Miliband himself has called the rumour ‘damning revelations‘ without so much as waiting to see whether it was true. That, I am perfectly prepared to admit, shocked me. I have said a number of good things about Miliband recently, but this has really taken him down in my estimations in very quick time. It is doubly disappointing that he, of all people, would blindly accept such a rumour and try to make capital out of it, given his own recent history of being smeared by these same newspapers, most particularly the loathsome hatchet-job the Mail pulled against Miliband’s father, Ralph. He went on TV after that little episode, protesting that it was unfair. Now, without even waiting for Sturgeon’s side of the story, he has accepted those same rumour-spreaders as being reliable, when they say something that is politically-convenient to him. How cynical. How hypocritical. What would Ralph Miliband think of his son endorsing a story spread in part by the same newspaper that labelled him “The Man Who Hated Britain”?
It is hardly even as if Labour have nothing more positive to talk about. Only today, they announced a pledge to help fund some much-needed new house-building programs, which I am sure will be popular. Why not focus on that, and when asked about Sturgeon, just say, “The rumour probably isn’t true, and I have no other comment to make than that”? That would sound statesmanlike and would probably win more respect, as well as make the SNP more open to the idea of co-operating with Labour in the event of another Hung Parliament (the possibility of which is probably exactly what the Telegraph and the Mail were hoping to undermine). But no, point-scoring wins the day, as usual, and to blazes with the dignity of truth.
So that is where we are at, is it? The Telegraph and the Mail are now getting the thumbs-up from the Labour Party as reliable, even when what they are reporting is glaringly unlikely.
I do not like it when people argue that ‘politicians are all the same’, nor when they argue that there is ‘no difference between the main parties’. I usually make an effort to disagree with them when I hear them say it.
But really, Labour, behaving in this Grant-Shapps-like manner, you are not making it easy for me.