27 April 2012

Salmond's astonishing naïveté...

Imagine, if you will, that you are a hoary old political warrior. Your cynicism well honed and hide scarred by innumerable past battles, you have a consuming addiction to the strategy of politics, and enjoy a reputation as an uncommonly accomplished calculator in that game. Sitting enthroned in your bastion, triumphant after having handily routed all politics foes, a queer old fellow comes knocking, professing friendship and saying he only wants a chinwag and a caramel wafer for his trouble. On closer inspection, you realise this elderly fellow is known to you. And what luck! To the rest of Britain too. 

Known, most recently, as a rapacious and reactionary corporate thuggee whose enterprises have become implicated in all manner of nefarious deeds. Perhaps not as their originator or even their accessory, but this man is certainly paymaster in all, and promoter of many of those suspected. To the rest of politics, so besmirching and risky has proximity to this character become, that all past encounters and past efforts to court him are hastily – if not entirely convincingly – jettisoned. Behind the wheezing steamship Rupe bob the flotsam of many political past friendships and courtships, hastily discarded. Sodden Labour and Tory rosettes float in his wake. 

Naturally, here’s the sort of fellow it would clearly prove politically advantageous to admit into one’s official residence for a chin-wag in February 2012. Embracing the leper may be a Christian duty, but to a politician with a speck of nous – never mind a track record of cunning application – it ought to be anathema. In that context, reconsider Johann Lamont’s remarks at FMQs yesterday, not as a partisan attempt to nail Alex to the cross – but as a matter of practical political calculation: 

“Rupert’s newspapers might be being investigated for bribery, perverting the course of justice, destroying evidence and perjury, but he is still welcome in wee Eck’s house… There are three police investigations, a judicial inquiry, and nearly 50 arrests, but Eck still puts the kettle on for Rubert.” 

On the News International side, this seems to me to be a pretty fair summary of the context, after all. It is an engulfing scandal, which may yet see a number of people adjudged guilty and clapped in irons. Above all, how it will unfold remains uncertain, so cultivating – intentionally or unintentionally – any perceptions of closeness to very visible figures entangled in it is profoundly risky. Which makes you wonder, at what point did Alex’s political acumen – or caution – desert him, and why? What the devil was he thinking, in admitting this man to Bute House last February, recognising as he did the political impact of “the revelations about phone hacking and Milly Dowler”? 

Alex’s defence is that it was all about jobs. And indeed, this account certainly finds some support in the evidence submitted to Leveson (Exhibit KRM 28), where Salmond's 12th of February lunch meeting with Murdoch is described as concerning “News Corporation’s investments in Scotland”. This is corroborated by a remark made by Salmond at First Minister’s Questions on the 1st of March 2012. Pressed by Lamont, Alex Salmond described the 12th of February meeting as:

“… a meeting to determine jobs and the economic footprint of Scotland”.

That well before the stated rationale of the encounter became a matter of generalised political controversy.  Seen as a matter of bare calculation, meeting Rupert in February was colossally risky – and indeed, is so obviously colossally risky , that one really has to wonder what possessed Salmond or his advisers to permit it to proceed. Here was a man recently pulled before parliament, whose organisation was already implicated in extensive and organised phone-hacking, including of the phone of a prominent victim of murder, the corruption of police officers, and several high profile former employees had been arrested and may yet be charged.  While the Motorman report seems strongly to support the thesis that this wasn't a Murdoch-paper problem, but an industry problem, nevertheless, with the closure of the News of the World, Murdoch has been the emblematic figure.  

Ah, but those jobs. Remember those jobs. A First Minister is under an obligation to strain every sinew to secure investment in Scotland. It would be remiss, negligent even, to do otherwise. 

Up to a point, Lord Copper. But what this argument implies – and implies none-too-convincingly – is that the only way Salmond could hope to emphasise the importance of BSkyB’s employment operations in Scotland was personally to invite the indicted figure of Murdoch over to his public residence. All of which smacks of, I’m afraid, a familiar piece of politician’s whimsy. That sense of your indispensability, fondly fancying yourself a grand man of action at the centre of it all, making all the vital directions and interventions. This is politics in the West Wing line, where the majestic charisma of the central character of the drama and their personal relations are pompously fetishised. Let us sit down, and talk, as men. 

In the past, I’ve railed against the complacency implicit the First Minister’s answers on phone-hacking, which have implied – against the grain of the available evidence – that the whole imbroglio could safely be confined to Fleet Street, and that Scottish politicians needn’t trouble themselves too much about it. I wonder now if that sense of complacency about the Scottish dimensions – and a sense of London as a different political world, and its controversies as inapplicable north of the Tweed – contributed to the insensitivity which saw Salmond serve up shimmering bar of Tunnock’s finest to one of the most embattled and maligned figures in British public life, apparently without a twinge of apprehension about how this would be perceived, or the narratives and potentially discrediting accounts of himself which it may - and now has - contributed to. 

This Salmond’s tu quoque defence, and reasonable invocation of Labour hypocrisy and mutual incrimination simply won’t – can’t – answer. While it is certainly true that Labour leaders and Prime Ministers and their Tory successors were slithering supplicants, worldly men engaged in worldly business in Rupert's court, that cannot account for Salmond's strange unwillingness to make the obvious political calculation, and like the rest, contrive to put some political distance between himself and this lighting rod of hostile commentary.  Not to have done so has demonstrated either astonishing naïveté or foolish complacency. Even accepting the First Minister’s account of his motivations in meeting Murdoch, and the economic interest at stake, keeping in so visibly with Rupe after this scandal broke was, in that cunning old dog Fouché’s phrase, “worse than a crime, it was a blunder”. 

If this is “canny” political operating, then I’m a turnip.


  1. There is a strange form of doublethink involved in simultaneously acknowledging Salmond's mastery of the political arts and assuming that he completely failed to make a very simple political calculation.

  2. There's a really important angle to this that I think everyone's missing, and it's this:

    Not everyone hates Rupert Murdoch.

    Sure, people are pissed off about phone-hacking, but not THAT much. The vast bulk of it concerns celebrities, and the general public isn't quite hypocritical enough to be overly fussed about that, given that it's the same general public that eagerly laps up celebrity-snooping-driven magazines and newspapers in their millions.

    Even AFTER the Milly Dowler outrage, the Scottish Sun has increased its lead over the Daily Record every month (albeit only by the method of losing sales at a lower rate). Sky subscriptions continue to rise.

    The media hates Murdoch, so we can't be surprised that it's taken this chance to jump all over him and anyone associated with him. But the public doesn't really give a toss, or it wouldn't buy his papers and his TV channels in enormous numbers.

    And here's the thing: you know what the public DOES hate? Hypocrisy.

    It's mindboggling that Labour thinks it can possibly fool the public into forgetting how far up the backside of Murdoch the Labour governments of Blair and Brown crawled. And worse, too - Labour "cosied up" to Bernie Ecclestone not to protect thousands of jobs, but for a bung in its own back pocket, which it humiliatingly didn't even get to keep.

    (Johann Lamont has the brass neck to call Salmond a "sucker" for his dealings with a "rich man", but Salmond got what he wanted - the Sun's support - without actually having to do anything. And the thing he promised to do was his job anyway. Labour did what Bernie Ecclestone wanted, acting purely out of naked self-interest, but then got nothing out of it. So who's the "sucker"?)

    But the point is that the public isn't so stupid as to have forgotten. So when they see the media form a hysterical lynch-mob based on such obvious hypocrisy, my suspicion is that it's not their opinion of the SNP that'll take a dive.

    I'm not saying this week's events were all part of a grand Salmond masterplan, of course. But is it beyond him to have done that calculation when considering the worst-case scenario? I think not. Because the alternative is to believe that he's so naive as to have not had the thought occur to him, and that seems like the height of arrogance (on our part) to me. Alex Salmond didn't get where he is today, in the most hostile environment imaginable, by being a simple-witted fool.

    I stand ready to be proven wrong by the next poll of public confidence in the party leaders. But I think the public sees right through this ludicrous, transparent bullshit about nothing, and that if anyone's going to suffer as a result of it it'll be the hypocrites, not the man who defended Scottish jobs.

  3. It's a basic calculation. Are those who would condemn meeting Murdoch likely to vote no to independence because of it? Maybe some would. On the other hand to what extent could that be balanced out by Sun readers being exposed to pro indy lines in run up to referendum?

    As I said on Better Nation the calculation about whether this could lose support for the SNP post-independence is irrelevant. If people vote yes and then say but I'm not voting for that dreadful SNP because they cosied up to the Sun then fine. We all know there's a good chance of winning the referendum and losing the election. So what?

  4. It is amazing that the loudest condemnation is coming from those jilted lovers, the Labour Party.

    Murdoch was reviled during the Thatcher-Labour years by those on the left of things, but at one
    Lint the Sun supported the SNP, why, because Murdoch saw the SNP as damaging Labour.

    Then things changed, both sides of the border the Murdoch stable went pro-Labour.despite Union bashing and abuse,nary a peep out of Labour supporters.

    Now Murdoch support is apparently akin to stealing the wheels off a bairn's wheelchair. Why? Because he isn't supporting Labour.

    It also provides a front for allegedlyneutral bloggers and the BBC to attack the SNP. More feckin hypocrisy.

    I am disappointed in the FM. I think he could have had Murdoch's support without meeting him or leaving hostage to fortune contacts to be lovingly misinterpreted.

    But I think bigoted idiots, casting him as a lobbyist for Murdochare merely wallowing in the cesspit of their own hatred

  5. Unlike Peat Worrier, most ordinary Scots will be prepared to accept Salmond's word, that his intentions were always to maximise investment in the Scottish economy.

    In that sense Salmond is right and more importantly believable, when he asserts that, as his prima facie reason, for meeting with News Corp executives, including the Murdochs.

    It should be borne in mind too, that Governments meet and deal with a plethora of business leaders, many of whom will be personally repugnant to the man or woman on the street.

    In that sense Salmond does nothing extraordinary. For him to have merely rubbered News Corp or worse, feigned a hypocritical revulsion, while still engaging in "social" relations with the Murdoch empire - as the Labour leadership has - would underline every negative instinct the public presently holds about the integrity of politicians as a whole.

    And there's the rub for Johann Lamont. In her enthusiastic denunciation of Salmond she forgets or ignores, with apparent ease, that her own Party leadership has been up to its neck in schmoozing with the rich and powerful for decades.

    She forgets too, that Leveson has some way to go. An astute politician would bear that in mind and perhaps temper their language. But unlike Salmond, Lamont sees any goal as a hole to be punched in the SNP's reputation.

    We have seen it before, many times, most recently over the Labour Party's fake and cynical smear against Salmond's supposed "rigging" of the indy ref consultation - only to be exposed in the next breath as an attempt to cover up Labour's orchestrated mass-submissions to the UK Government's consultation process.

    The indulgence of the media (in Scotland at any rate) in the smear campaign against Salmond, is juxtaposed with UK concentration on the real abuses of power at Westminster - where real influence still remains so long as Scotland remains at the vagaries of that decaying and archaic state machinery.

    Lets be clear. Salmond had no power to influence over BSkyB. He did have some ability to attempt to influence decisions on Scottish investment. That indeed is the role a non-independent Scotland is forced to accept.

    If you do not wish the Scots Government to be reduced to a mere lobbying agency - the solution is for it to have real powers to intervene rather than merely fighting a battle to influence decision that are made in the shady backrooms and private dinner parties of the London elite.

  6. I think Stu and Indy have pretty much covered it - quite simply, far too many people seem to be under the impression that Salmond has all of a sudden lost his touch. Everyone agrees Salmond is a canny operator, but there is nothing more canny than fooling your opponents into thinking you've mucked up due to complacency.

    Think about the long game. In reality, what are the chances Rupert Murdoch will come away from this enquiry any the worse off? Almost none. If Murdoch really is the evil supervillain many think he is, then we're foolish if we think he will come away from this with anything more than a stern warning. The very fact that none of us are particularly surprised at what has been going on at NI is the reason why his media empire will still be standing after Leveson.

    Will the Sun exist after Leveson? Yes.
    Will the Times exist after Leveson? Yes.
    Will Sky exist after Leveson? Yes.
    Will Murdoch still like Salmond after Leveson? Yes.
    Will Murdoch like Milibean and Cameron after Leveson? No chance.

    Labour and co can choose to play to the gallery over Murdoch, but the truth is the gallery are not particularly interested. Nobody is fooled by the cynical holier-than-thou attitude displayed by Lamont, Tavish and others. They just look ridiculous. On the other hand, the SNP display a complete lack of cynicism, just treating Murdoch like any other businessman.

    This is chattering classes stuff. If people were truly THAT bothered about the goings on at NI, they wouldn't buy his papers or subscribe to his TV. Opponents think Souter, Trump and Murdoch show Salmond is seduced by big businessmen, but the reality is most people couldn't give a toss.

  7. I've no doubt that Salmond and his team weighed-up the pros-and-cons of meeting Rupert before their get-together but I'm not altogether convinced it was the political blunder some presume it to be.

    As the YouGov pollster Peter Kellner consistently points out, there is little actual evidence that a newspaper’s editorial line wins elections for their preferred political parties ( you can hear him making this point on The World Tonight yesterday from around 9 minutes in); however, as Peter Kellner himself points out, it is probably true that – over a long period of time – newspapers affect the climate of opinion.

    That’s crucial for the independence debate in the long run-up to autumn 2014. The SNP are not only trying to win an election but a referendum.

    As other commenters have pointed out, the Leveson Inquiry and the issues surrounding it are far more important to those keenly interested in the Westminster and Holyrood Bubbles than to the general public. Newspaper circulation is falling dramatically but hundreds of thousands of Scots still read The Sun and The Daily Record and with The Record implacably pro-Labour it makes political sense to win over The Sun in spite of the risks.

    Where I see a greater problem for the First Minister is if he is called to give evidence in person before Leveson. The London press pack will revel at the chance to tell the story of deflating Salmond’s perceived pomposity. If he tries to bullshit his way through his evidence with answers about meeting to defend jobs I suspect it’ll do him harm. Instead, if called to give evidence, he should brazenly tell it straight. Certainly there’s a risk attached to a cut the crap strategy but I think that in an era in which people do not like politics they prefer politicians who don’t look or sound like other politicians and Salmond arriving in London and candidly telling the truth would not only wrong foot his opponents it would win him new admirers outside the bubble.

    I should say that I am not insensitive to wider aspects of morality in relation to pandering to crass, harmful, populist media but I’m at a loss as to how to address that other than to try to keep myself well educated!

  8. I agree with Mick regarding presentation. Salmond has to be wary of slipping into the methods and tactics of the old parties. Tedious repetition of some key phrase as identified by media advisers, eg "900 jobs", is not right for him. He needs to trust the spin-doctors less and his instincts more.

    People are generally well-disposed towards Alex Salmond. To a massively greater extent than any other politician, they trust him. He must reciprocate that trust. They will give him the fair hearing he can never get from the media. Tell it straight and let the people make their judgement.

  9. I'm one of those people that don't hate Rupert Murdoch (or Donald Trump). I wonder how moved the average punter is about who the First Minister meets from one day to the next. Personally, I'm more inclined to give a flying fuck about economic recession, rising unemployment, businesses failures and personal insolvencies. I suppose it's times like these that I realise just how detached I really am from the political community. Earlier today I watched the rabble that is First Minister's Questions until I couldn't watch any more. And we're expected to pay taxes for that.

  10. Richard Thomson27 April 2012 at 18:01

    What everyone else said.

  11. It seems every and any serious political figure has Rupert onside. Politics and the press is like transport and oil, they are in bad relationship with no clear exit strategy.

  12. GrassyKnollington27 April 2012 at 21:02

    Hi Lallands if you can tell me which law, parliamentary procedure or social more Salmond is guilty of breaking I will hold off calling you a turnip.

  13. I'm in agreement with LPW.

    Let's get one thing clear, Salmond is absolutely correct in trying to get positive coverage for the SNP.

    But why on earth go for Murdoch?

    In 2007 a noose was the symbol chosen to represent the SNP.

    But now? Oh no, the SNP are the political gods - according to the Book of Murdoch.

    Murdoch is after one thing and one thing only - profit. He does not give a damn about who he deals with.

    He wants the BBC out of an independent Scotland so his empire can run an unregulated media, much in the way that Soutar has got his unregulated public transport.

    Salmond does not need the Sun. He does not need Murdoch.

    Every other party has slithered up to Murdoch and paid the price. The SNP will be next. Not tomorrow but some time in the future. And possibly before the Referendum.

    The Fundamentalist Wing of the Alex Salmond Appreciation Society will not accept any criticism of The Man. His wisdom is legendary.

    The council elections will be unaffected by this relationship. But as more revelations come to the surface, the SNP may find itself guilty by association.

    And why did the SG not announce that that Salmond met Murdoch four weeks ago? An error? Bollocks.

    People buy the Sun for sport, cheap holidays (erm, me) and *ahem* ladies in abbreviated clothing. They do not buy it for indepth political analysis.

    Salmond uses jobs as an excuse, but Lamont pointed out that his colleagues in Westminster were against BSkyB takeover. So much for the jobs argument.

    When solid SNP supporters start questionning such relationships, something is wrong. And LPW is not a cynical bastard like me (at least I don't think so!).

    Try and look at the potential for longer term damage. There are already chinks appearing and, as with more recent issues, totally avoidable.

    Labour and the Tories are a bunch of hypocrits, and will jump back into bed when the timing is right. But that does not mean the SNP needs to follow suit.

    It's too late now to retreat. Salmond is stuck with Murdoch.

    Murdoch is not Trump, a man who can easily be dismissed. Murdoch is a shrewd operator and more powerful than any politician. He is also ruthless, closing a paper to protect his empire - never mind the jobs that got lost in a profitable operation.

    And Salmond has chosed to sup with this guy.

  14. Two things are certain:
    The SNP does not get a fair shout in the Scottish/British media
    Labour is mired in the Murdochaffair.

    So the "British" media attacks the SNP as per usual, why? To deflect attention away from the political London elite which actually calls the shots over Scotland.

    It is totally understandable that would seek to gain postive press coverage from News Corp AND to lobby for Scottish jobs - on the lattereven Lamont has admitted she would have dealt with the Murdochs.

    What Labour hates is the SNP and any positive coverage it may get in the Scottish press. To that end she is supported by the majority of "Britsh" media including the Scotsman and the BBC amongst others.

    Salmond has no apolgies to make - I for one cant wait for the revelations he will make to Leveson over Labour hypocrisy - will the British media report it.... yeah sure they will

  15. Eck has always been a stranger beast than he is generally perceived. - from his classic (see wiki) 'Shermanesque' moment when he decided he would be Dear Leader after all, to his 'rue the day' reaction to the Economist cover. With the latter, the fitting reaction for a First Minister would have been laughter, accompanied by a rather easy rebuttal. Spitting blood and feathers indicates fear, not conviction.

    'that cannot account for Salmond's strange unwillingness to make the obvious political calculation'

    Indeed - and with Trump also. Sturgeon would have played it all better. Can you imagine Sturgeon putting up socially with Trump (I have an awful memory of him leching at Miss Scotland - didn't he suggest she would make a good secretary for someone?)

    Supping with the devil - as all political leaders must do - is not the same as snogging him.

  16. Further to this discussion an analysis of indy support by social class might also be interesting. I don’t have the stamina to pore over opinion polls but have the impression that the SNP won so well last year by extending support from middle class to working class – and that support for indy is strongest among working class voters. That would tie in with my individual perception and also with the impression of other activists.

    I have no doubt HQ has analysed it to the nth degree as they have access to all of our canvass returns and can run a filter on independence support and Mosaic category – based, among other things, on newspaper readership.

    If we have a peak of independence support among the Sun reading demographic it tells us two things – one, that is the reason the Sun backed the SNP (remember Murdoch said there would be an insurrection if the Scottish Sun DIDN’T back the SNP) and two, if we have identified a peak of independence support there it is reasonable to assume that there are many more Sun readers who might be inclined to support independence who we have not yet identified.

    And clearly if the Sun continues to give independence a fair hearing – that is the most we can expect but it is more than other media can commit to – it will be extremely helpful.

    It kind of ties in with Alex Massie’s recent post on the Hampden/Murrayfield strategies.

  17. Hi Indy. The one constant with Murdoch is that he likes to back winners and Eck (so far) is one of the Big Winners in the UK for sure.

    Not sure myself what Murdoch meant by 'insurrection'- did he mean among his staff or among the electorate? I took hin to be speaking of his management and hence talking bullshit - his managers know their place.

    Re the Sun readers we all remember the Dave Allen crack that they didn't care who ran the country as long as they had big tits. And didn't one survey find that most readers thought the paper was Labour at the height of its backing for Thatch?

  18. "and that support for indy is strongest among working class voters. That would tie in with my individual perception and also with the impression of other activists."

    It also fits with simple common sense. Those doing the best out of the status quo will always be the most reluctanct to embrace change. I mean, have you seen where Tam Dalyell lives?

  19. What would our media do without these inquiries?

    These vessels of disclosure within teacups designed to contain a toxic storm of contaminated truths until such time as the contents can be shrugged out in the long grass of yesterdays. Chilcot:anybody!

    Sure Murdoch and his Murdochracy are contemptible in relation to the quality of product they produce. But so is the rest of the MSM in as much as they distort the mix of ingredients to match their own perceived values and ends. Truth and the 'public interest' hovers at the bottom of this league.

    Levenson will go the same way. In fact it already has by inference of it concentrating on failures of the 'press' when the disclosures to date are more damning on the political and police carpetbagging than of a media industry taking advantage of their venality.

    Levenson's inquiry is gathering a huge database to obscure what is already obvious: namely politics and policing in the UK has been and can be, bought by the highest bidder provided the wheels, deals and auctions can be kept under the radar.

    Has Salmond been netted in this game? I would like to think not - but pragmatism makes it possible. And a large factor in that pragmatism is its attraction being fuelled by the blind bias of the rest of the MSM to give independence a fair revue and hearing.

  20. Dear LPW (or Turnip as you seem to prefer to be known henceforth).

    Political judgement is, by defintion, subjective.

    Salmond has got himself elected as the leader of a majority government in a quasi-proportional system.

    I think you should defer to his demonstrably superior abilities in this field.

    Like the rest of us, you don't have the context that Salmond has when he makes these calls. He is 4, 5, 6 and maybe more steps ahead of the game.

    And, in the end, as long as there is the faintest glimmer that anything he did was in Scotland's interests he will get away with pretty much anything if the opposition continue to prosecute their case in this week's fashion.

    All the evidence I have seen, both ad-hoc and quantitative suggests that Salmond's position has been strengthened as a result of this week's drama.

    Why? Because people trust him to stand up for Scotland. Therefore when he says he was standing up for Scotland, people believe him. Therefore, people who criticise him are seen to be speaking against the Scottish interest. Therefore the sense that only Salmond and the SNP stand up for Scotland is further strengthened.

    Salmond is playing the opposition like Pavlov played with his dogs. I suspect he is loving it.

  21. I don't think people need to get nasty about it. Clearly in the short term this has not been a good week for Alex Salmond! But we need to look in the medium and long term as well. And much as I agree with Edwin that the basic calculation for NI is backing the winner, the level of abuse that has been directed by Labour and others at Murdoch and his minions (which may well be justified - I don't say otherwise) that it would be astonishing if the Sun went back to supporting Labour - and by extension the unionist position - any time soon. So the overwhelming likelihood is that the Sun will maintain its present editorial stance right up to 2014.

    I think all of us who are so steeped in this thing ought to be able to take a step back and recognise that such calculations do leave a bad taste in the mouth for many. As Pat Kane tweeted, this is a cold, hard game we are playing and it undoubtably leaves us compromised. But equally the critics ought to be able to understand that we are in this for independence not personal or party political gain. Anything that gains us a wider audience and platform is going to be welcomed even if people don't like it.

    "Sun reader" may be a synonym for stupidity for a certain class of commentator but they have votes the same as everyone else and we want their votes.

  22. As a politically aware non-voter, I was surprised at how much I related to Stephen Noon's and Rev Stu's point about the disconnect between those inside and those outside the political bubble. If those inside the bubble are parliamentarians, political activists and the professionally interested then ‘they’ - (the politically correct political elite) must be much fewer in number than the rest of ‘us’ and, therefore, their wielding of power inversely disproportionate.

    That aside, the main point I would like to make is that the open and honest discussion of differences of opinion that this issue has generated among some nationalists is entirely healthy. Bearing no pathological animosity toward Murdoch, this was a non-issue for me but at least some good has come of it. Nationalist fear of difference of opinion is an Achilles heel that the opposition will continue to chip away at.

  23. LPW is bang on the button. For someone who has shown such astute judgement in the past, this move by Salmond is either naive or complacent.

    It could be naivety - Salmond did, after all get left looking a fool by none other than Gordon Robertson and Iain Lang back in 93 due to naivety. But Salmond's a quick learner, if nothing else.

    It's feasible however that hubris has taken over and Salmond thinks that he can do no wrong in the eyes of the Scottish electorate.

    To invite the man who personifies - rightly or wrongly - the Milly Dowler hacking affair was a culpable mistake.

    At best it's gross misjudgement, at worst it's total contempt for his party, his electorate and his country.

    I felt insulted by the front cover of the new Sunday Sun.

    That Salmond was prepared to lobby for such a potentially damaging media monopolising deal shows such breathtaking cynicism that, in this instance, I think LPW has actually been rather soft on Salmond.

    The email revelation diminishes the FM. Maybe not in the eyes of Hampden voters, but you can guarantee that the Murrayfield lot will be looking on in abject horror.

  24. Who is Gordon Robertson?

  25. I've my doubts about Salmond between his aid to Trump against the residents of the Menie estate and his dealing with Murdoch - but the main unionist party leaders have not distanced themselves from the remaining Murdoch newspapers or TV stations - e.g Ed Milliband posed with a copy of the Sun for a Sun photoshoot long after the hacking scandal broke. The SNP have also increased their vote partly because The Scottish Sun decided to start backing them years ago. The only parties in Scotland who aren't still trying to get favourable press from the Murdoch press are the Greens, Socialists and Solidarity