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.

Sturgeon supposedly endorses David Cameron, which the person she was talking to denies she ever said

Headlines in the Scottish Daily Mail (and the Daily Telegraph) claim that the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has endorsed David Cameron as the better Prime Minister for GE:2015.

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.


6 Responses to “It’s A Sad Look-Out For The Left When Labour Endorses The Telegraph & The Mail”

  1. Phil Andrews Says:

    Ed Miliband came out of this looking so absurd that I wondered whether he hadn’t been set up by the Tories all along. But the Tories could not have made him continue to peddle this rubbish long after he must have realised that it was untrue. All in all a most shameful episode. Well done on an excellent article.

    • hstorm Says:

      Thank you, Phil.

      I wouldn’t say it’s a Tory set-up of Miliband, no, it’s crediting them with too much intelligence, and would depend rather too heavily on Miliband and Murphy responding in precisely the ways they have.

      But the idea that the Tories were originally trying to set up the SNP, yes, I would say it does have a strong whiff of that.

  2. Aaron Boone Says:

    ‘it is amazing how quickly Murphy has allowed himself to ‘believe’ such a dubious rumour when they spread it.’

    It really is not. I genuinely can’t muster any surprise at anything that seedy, neo-con dipshit says or does.

  3. kittysjones Says:

    The SNP have hardly worked cooperatively wih he Labour party have they. It’s not as if the SNP have never lied about Labour, their policies, or attempted to smear labour MPs. And the criticism here one again is directed at the Labour Party too. I never see the SNP critcising the Tories, come to think of it, only Labour

    • hstorm Says:

      No, Sue?

      That was just from the first couple of pages of a Google search. Maybe you haven’t been looking very hard?

      The SNP regularly attack the Tories, and have done for generations, and it would be a silly mistake if they didn’t. The Tories are the bogeymen of Scotland. Take that from someone who lived in Scotland for nearly a decade.

      The SNP are as capable of dirty tactics as anyone, I know, but Labour have now shown themselves to be no better, and as usual, rather than criticising them for it, you start the old, “Yeah-but-look-at-what-*that-party*-did” routine. That’s just changing-the-subject, and relativism makes absolutely no difference to the reality of how Miiband and Murphy have behaved over the last couple of days.

      I am not defending other parties. They all do this sort of thing to some degree, I know. I am certainly not defending the SNP, which is a party that routinely exploits ignorant anglophobia north of the border to advance its agenda, and which quite cheerfully goes around making leftist noises while cutting budgets in further education (a criticism I explicitly made while writing about the Leaders’ Debate on Thursday). It is a party I rapidly grew to loathe while I was living in Scotland, and I still regard with contempt even having long-since returned to England.

      But this is the whole point. Your argument, such as it is, appears to be something on the lines of, “This is no worse than the way the SNP behaves.” Probably true, but given the SNP routinely behaves appallingly, that is a feeble defence of Labour. I genuinely expected far better of Miliband than those little displays yesterday, but this chapter marks him down at the same low ethical level as any other party leader in the Election, and probably worse than most.

      As for the implication that I am ‘only’ criticising Labour, that is only true if you look at this one article. But that is ridiculous, because this article is specifically about Labour doing something unethical. Most of the time recently, I have paid tribute to Miliband’s improving performance as party leader, and I have regularly castigated the Tories and UKIP.

      At the risk of playing the relativism game myself, I also feel I should point out that this complaint is pretty rich coming from you. Consider that, before Christmas, you publicly martyred yourself because of abuse you got from Green Party members after you wrote a hatchet-job on them. Then, last month, Jack Monroe defected from Labour to the Greens, and was absolutely swamped with abuse from Labour-ites for it, and what outraged condemnation did you give the Labour activists for behaving towards her in much the same way the Greens had behaved towards you?

      *Double-checks your FB timeline and your blog*



      In fact, I can find no sign that you even mentioned it, let alone offered moral comment on it. For all that you had to say on the matter, it might as well never have happened.

      I have increasingly noticed in recent times that, with you, it is only unacceptable when someone does it *to* Labour, never when Labour is dishing it out. Whereas I am prepared to dish it to out to all parties when I perceive them doing something wrong. I haven’t really done it to the SNP much, I admit, but that’s more because, being back in England these days, I don’t get as much detail on goings-on at Holyrood as I would were I still living in Glasgow, so I tend to focus on Westminster. I also do it less to minority parties for the simple reason that their profile is so low that it makes little difference. But if I spot SNP shenanigans when it really matters, I will call them out on it. You, by contrast, will never do that when Labour behaves dishonestly, even though they are one of the biggest parties in the country, and it is therefore bound to matter.

      I would argue that you are the one with a bias issue, Sue. I have never seen you make any serious criticism of the Labour Party at all.

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