Have we lost the Last Traces of an Impartial Press?

Write to us at editor@westenglandbylines.co.uk

Sturgeon and Salmond in happier times (2007) – Source: Scottish GOvernemnt

Ed: I received this post from a disillusioned observer of the testimony of Nicola Sturgeon and the press reaction to it. I thought it worth reproducing in full as it asks many questions of the impartiality of our mainstream media.

Jim McGinley writes …

I watched and listened to all eight hours of Nicola Sturgeon’s testimony this week and waited for the press reporting of it and the inevitable political fallout.

Sadly, my own personal conclusion is that we have a press and a political and semi judicial system that lives somewhere beneath the gutter.

Every single question on Good Morning Scotland the following day was predicated on the premise that Nicola Sturgeon had lied and the circumstances under which she should resign. There was no question based on what should happen, or indeed would happen, if her evidence was accepted.

Nor was there any question raised about why members of the committee of inquiry all rushed to voice their opinions of her testimony on air within hours of that testimony finishing. Call me old fashioned but I always expected judges, or members of a jury, to wait until they had heard all of the evidence, and reached a reasoned conclusion based on that evidence, before setting out their opinions privately or otherwise.

I am also equally baffled as to why I have not seen a single newspaper or television article which focused on the number of times some of the questioners completely misquoted official reports when framing their questions to the First Minister.

Some members of the committee started out by saying you have seen this document or that – only to be read a section of an independent report saying that she hadn’t. Another questioner said that the court found a Government policy to be unlawful — only for the actual judgement to be read out showing it said no such thing!

“The police advised you that Scottish Government officials were not fit to conduct this inquiry, is that not so?” asked one member – only for another member to add that what the police actually said was that the Scottish Government officials were not equipped to conduct a CRIMINAL inquiry — which they never did or attempted to do.

A Government official is supposed to have leaked a name to Alex Salmond’s personal adviser — yet a separate independent inquiry found that they could not make that finding at all and of course the name of the victim could hardly have been unknown to him — people don’t make prior apologies to people who they don’t know or recognise for some kind of conduct that never happened at all.

Oh and when Nicola Sturgeon referred to that conduct and why Mr Salmond should look at his own conduct she was accused of undermining the decision of jury by all and sundry — that will be the same all and sundry who seem to forget that part of Mr Salmond’s defence was that certain actions took place, were inappropriate, happened at a time of great stress and under the influence of drink, and while inappropriate and regrettable – did not amount to criminal activity. The Jury agreed – they found his behaviour was not criminal — they did not find that no incidents of an unsavoury nature had taken place or that his conduct was not reprehensible – it just wasn’t criminal.

Yet despite all this Douglas Ross MP called for Nicola Sturgeon to resign before she had given any evidence saying that no matter what she said she must go.

That is a strange interpretation as to how a committee of inquiry should work.

Ruth Davidson went further – she told the Scottish Parliament that the First Minister was definitely guilty of breaking the ministerial code despite that not being her decision to make and those whose decision it is having made no such finding.

Would you ever want to find such a person on a jury if you or anyone at all was accused of something and where the crown or someone else had to prove your guilt by way of a proper legal process? I think not.

Numerous Conservative supporters and others continue to call for Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation whilst completely ignoring the fact that the Westminster Government and its ministers have been found by the courts to have acted illegally and unlawfully on various occasions without any of the same people calling for any resignations at all. The Home Office has just paid £400,000 of public funds to a senior civil servant as a result of Priti Patel’s established bullying and accepted breach of the ministerial code, and last year the longstanding legal adviser to the treasury resigned when he was completely ignored by the solicitor general who didn’t like his advice — instead, she we went with the advice of someone who had been qualified for six months.

None of these people have resigned or been sacked from office despite judicial and other findings of guilt, illegality, unlawful conduct, or breaches of established code.

Yet none of this matters when it comes to press reportage and we have seen the unedifying spectacle of a main BBC News report on the Sturgeon/Salmond affair being withdrawn only hours after it was broadcast on the basis that what was reported was never said at all — except the withdrawal wasn’t given nearly as much coverage as the original bulletin and wasn’t broadcast on air.

There are only a couple of conclusions I can reach in light of this.

The first is this. The UK is a country where its system of Government, and indeed its semi judicial processes, are based on lies and hypocrisy – and the public have become so used to that most don’t care anymore and will just accept such poor standards of Government.

The second is that the days of Robin Day, Ludovic Kennedy, Richard Dimbleby, Robert Kee, Andrew Gardner, Chris Mullens and the kind of investigative journalists I grew up with are long gone and buried. The BBC no longer has any credibility as a news channel and, as Greg Dyke said it would, it has dumbed down to a ridiculous level. Great for dramas and quizzes, but as a current affairs outlet it is no more than a megaphone for the press releases of others. CNN it isn’t.

Lastly, in my personal opinion, the UK is not a place where you would encourage people to come to or a place where I can honestly suggest that my children and any grandchildren they may have should stay. Of course, it is beautiful in parts, has many wonderful people and traditions, with many terrific industries, businesses and academic institutions which are praiseworthy and to be admired.

However, when we get to the stage where official reports are ignored and misquoted, where the press refuses to question or hold Government officials to account and allows them to repeatedly lie and manipulate the public via the airwaves, and worse still to call for people to lose their jobs before inquiries are finished or even before evidence is heard, then you know that civilisation and proper governance of any kind lives elsewhere and it is time to leave one way or another.

The television has indeed become no more than the “wires and lights in a box” as foreseen by Edward R Murrow and justice and evidence is now presented to the public through that box by those with their own agenda to peddle, as and when they please, without filter, edit or challenge.

Not only is the British public denied the truth, Our Government and our state broadcaster have no interest whatsoever in even looking for it.

And when you no longer have truth then all that is left is fable.

Ed: You can follow Jim McGinley on Facebook here.


Read more articles from West England Bylines here >>>