Yesterday brought news that a journalist/commentator I admire but don’t always agree with, Stephen Daisley, has been reined in by his employer, STV. The story was broken by Herald writers Tom Gordon and Daniel Sanderson and their words best summarise it:
STV has been accused of gagging one of its journalists after “bullying” by the SNP … [I]t emerged STV had called a halt to its digital politics and comment editor Stephen Daisley writing articles for its website … The decision followed mounting pressure from the SNP over the broadcaster’s digital content and Mr Daisley in particular, with complaints first raised at an event hosted by STV executives at Westminster in the spring … SNP culture spokesman John Nicolson and chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee Pete Wishart, who met STV, also questioned Mr Daisley’s output via social media … An SNP spokeswoman said Mr Nicolson and Mr Wishart met STV executives “to discuss STV’s importance as a leading broadcaster and commercial production company … At no point did they ask for Mr Daisley to stop writing and any suggestion otherwise is completely untrue. Any editorial decisions are entirely a matter for STV.”
The relationship between politicians and the media is a delicate one. Both sides need each other – the one for news of their proposals and actions in government and opposition to reach people, the other for content. But beyond that basic exchange, there is huge scope for distrust, especially by the politicians. They want positive coverage of themselves to be the news, not criticism and questioning. And of course, they want exactly the opposite for their opponents.
All parties and many, but not all, politicians are prone to letting their distrust spill over into a belief that the media are somehow against them. Conservatives are prone to believing the BBC is stuffed full of metropolitan lefties, Labour that an almost universally right-wing press will always be against them, the smaller parties that they don’t get a fair share of coverage.
I’m reminded of the old Kenneth Williams gag (you’ll have to imagine the voice),
Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!
In this respect the SNP are no different but their antipathy towards the media goes further. The problem is that, in their eyes, they are not just another political party. They are the unique standard bearers for a whole nation. Whoever criticises them does Scotland down and seeks to thwart the will of the Scottish people. And because they are nationalists, that part of the media controlled outwith Scotland is especially suspect. That means virtually the whole media.
Their antipathy dictates their actions. That was true when Alex Salmond called (outrageously) for an enquiry into the alleged behaviour of the BBC’s then political editor Nick Robinson during the 2014 referendum campaign. It was true when Angus MacNeil MP tweeted an unsourced graph purporting to show that the press was almost universally hostile to the SNP during the 2015 election campaign. It was true when useful idiots clustering around the fringes of nationalism barricaded the British ‘Biased’ Corporation at Pacific Quay in Glasgow to approving silence from the SNP. And it’s true now as the party continues to push for a BBC Scottish Six News programme.
That last brings me neatly to John Nicolson MP, one of the two MPs cited by the Herald as exerting pressure on STV to silence Stephen Daisley. He is also the SNP’s representative on the Commons select committee that recently recommended the BBC should produce the Scottish Six. His lobbying (or not – SNP) of STV is not the first time his beady eye has lit upon Stephen Daisley. A year ago he had a tetchy exchange with Daisley on Twitter that led me to ask Is this SNP MP threatening a journalist? My powers of prediction, far from perfect, turned out to be spot on in this case. Some might say Mr (how he styles himself on Twitter) Nicolson is both pompous and thin-skinned. If nothing else, today’s news suggests he also has a long memory.
And what of the other presumably-mandated SNP delegate that lobbied (or didn’t – SNP) STV to put a lid on Stephen Daisley’s online writings – Pete Wishart? Here’s his response to the Herald article, as retweeted by Tom Gordon:
‘A bit of a giggle.’ That about sums Pete up, doesn’t it?
Pete’s often up for a giggle. He was up for a giggle when he announced a ‘campaign’ to ‘hug a yoon,’ fully aware that, however those on the receiving end take it, the word ‘yoon’ was devised by nationalists as an insult pure and simple. He was up for a giggle when he addressed me as ‘Rog’ and advised me that ‘your [sic] howling at the moon.’
Unfortunately, I can no longer giggle with Pete on Twitter as he blocked me after that exchange. I can’t even giggle (not that I ever did) with Nicolson, because he’s blocked me too. That’s what they do – bully those who really get up their nose, like less than compliant members of the media, and shut themselves off from minor irritants they don’t want to hear.
These are our elected representatives whose party governs Scotland in its own image and which would wish to oversee the Scottish media. In this, as in much else, I’ll side with the media over the politicians.
Bullies or cowards or what?