Blood Money and Boondoggles


The Conservative Party team line up to interview Ed Miliband

By Mike Small

Last night we witnessed Jeremy Paxman, who we’re told was a possible prospective Conservative candidate for Kensington, interview Ed Miliband and, sort of, David Cameron.

A sneering Jeremy Paxman told Miliband “We got the wrong brother” before muttering “Are you alright Ed?” at the end of his dark interview marked by petty vindictiveness and personal jibes. In the second section Paxman rolled Cameron soft questions and at one point referred to Alex Salmond bringing ‘Blood Money’ threats to Miliband. We’re told repeatedly that people love Paxman’s trademark aggressive style but it forgoes policy detail for an empty macho alpha-male posturing. On twitter someone wrote: “I think tonight’s puerile exchange exposed the vacuousness at the heart of Westminster political debate.”

The interviews are awaited with fevered anticipation, but the quality of debate is so low, not just because of this bias, but the vacuous nature of Westminster policy exchange. It comes at the end of a week where the media has been awash with angry and ignorant obsessiveness about Scotland and the SNP.

Nigel Dodds writing in the New Statesman is getting all hot and bothered:

“The Scottish people spoke loudly and clearly to the SNP less than a year ago. It’s long past time unionists from all parties and none reminded Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond to listen to what they said. Scotland’s not foreign, the UK’s not broken and we really do remain better together.”

It seems Nigel’s not really being paying attention, but Simon Jenkins has:  “British politics is paying the price for centuries of English contempt for the political aspirations of the Irish, Scots and Welsh. Throughout the 19th century Tory (and some Liberal) opposition to even moderate home rule for the “other British empire” ensured a more drastic separatism would eventually triumph. Ireland was first.”

Unfortunately Jenkins analysis goes awry, following the now well-worn path of deriding the other countries of the ‘United Kingdom’ as paupers and beggars living the high life at England’s expense. He writes:

“In Scotland’s case the 1999 settlement was the worst of all worlds. It meant increased control over public services, but over-representation at Westminster continued, as did Treasury subsidies to what became “benefits street” economies. Scotland, Wales and Ulster were the Greece of the British union, without the austerity. The idea that showering power and money on Scotland would somehow assuage separatist sentiment was naive: it encouraged it. Devolution became a boondoggle at England’s expense.”

This is no more sophisticated than Skintland.

The economic  illiteracy is matched only by a now open cultural hostility. Commentators just pretend Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t exist, either out of residual sexism or political ignorance isn’t clear. Maybe it’s just slackness. Why talk about a sophisticated complex leader who fails to satisfy all of your lazy stereotypes when you can just lay-in to Salmond instead?

Last night was a weird media construct. Even the hashtag is aggressive. Two leaders in the same building but unable to face each other. Our democracy is carved up by backroom deals by media companies and presented by thuggish anchormen, that’s why a warm glow washed through viewers when Miliband said: “You’re important, Jeremy, you’re not that important”.

Miliband remains unelectable and Cameron undesirable. This much we know, but the process of the General Election looks to be one low in quality and devoid of vision. Scotland, when it’s mentioned, its through the single filter of Alex Salmond, a figure we need an ‘antidote’ to, and one who carries an implicit threat, offering nothing but blood money.

It’s the sort of language and framing which will only guarantee only one result. Why would you want to be part of a political union that talks in this language? Why would you want to be part of a culture that refers to you as a “benefits street” economy?

Remember though: ” Scotland’s not foreign, the UK’s not broken and we really do remain better together.”


Comments (26)

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  1. Mealer says:

    The SNP always put Scotland first.Cameron,Miliband and Clegg will do nothing for us.

  2. Fay Kennedy. says:

    They don’t look like a winning team.Scotland has changed and the tide has turned.

  3. Fay Kennedy. says:

    They don’t look like winners. Scotland has changed since Sept. last year and there’s no stopping the prospect of independence.

  4. bringiton says:

    “thuggish anchormen”
    What is it with some people called Jeremy?

  5. maxi kerr says:

    Remember,they only want the resources that we have in Scotland..nothing else! Surely we can all take this in..Eh!!!!!!

  6. Socrates MacSporran says:

    Remember though: ” Scotland’s not foreign, the UK’s not broken and we really do remain better together.”

    Aye, right.

  7. Tinto Chiel says:

    Oh, how I long to be foreign.

    And “alpha-male”? Paxo barely scrapes into the epsilon category. What a vain, lazy, shallow, arrogant, condescending non-entity. Only at the BBC could he become a celebrity, and the same goes for Clarkson, the best paid lounge-bar bore in the UK.

    Truly, there is nothing so narrow-minded and provincial as the metropolitan “Elite”.

  8. Jim Bennett says:

    Good article….yet again!

    I think I can understand why Cameron doesn’t want a head-to-head with Milliband. Cameron was clearly spooked at the beginning of the interview on the issue of honesty over VAT and the reasoning for foodbanks whereas Milliband performed much better than anyone would expect of an animated plasticine character (excepting his attempt to be “tough”). Paxman’s personal attacks on Milliband were met with muttered gasps from the audience eliciting sympathy.

    I don’t believe that leaves us in a fundamentally different place but I’m actually looking forward to Milliband having the SNP to allow Labour to go more left. I think Milliband may use it as a stick to batter opposition from the right in his own party.

  9. Iain MacLellan says:

    milliband faired best when paxman was attacking his personality, don’t think it would be too difficult to build a solid defence aginst this line of questioning beforehand. He was unable to answer why mistakes in the past were made and how he would avoid them in future.

    cameron not only did not know the numbers of people using food banks, he is completely unaware of the pride sapping despair and stigma for the unfortunate folk who have to use them.

    What it revealed about the two was they go head to head each week, neither are held to account, they know this, but don’t care, because of the privileged position their parties are in.

    Only way to break this cycle and contempt these two,parties display I s to introduce representation from Scotland that will hold the westminster system to account that is transparent to peole of Scotland.

    Iain MacLellan

  10. junius45 says:

    Unforgetable experience of Paxo burstin oot greetin on WDYTYR when he found out thet is widowed grannie in Oatlands was entertaining a fancy-man

  11. Craig P says:

    The phrase ‘Scotland’s not foreign’ is a telling one. Why would a Scot think that? They might think that England was another country, but they wouldn’t see their own country as ‘foreign’.

    An Anglocentric mindset on display there.

  12. @Tinto Chiel, well said, chimes with my thoughts.

    I found myself bored stupid at this spectacle, and the audience seemed really sleepy.

    I think this country has moved so far now from the type of event we watched last night. We are too informed, we want the detail, and in plain language. We want to scrutinise the scorecard, we want proven honesty. We are demanding value for money, and not before time.

    We have left the south behind in terms of political engagement and awareness.

  13. Donald Mitchell says:

    I watched the non-debate just after Richard the Third’s funeral and i’m not sure which was the silliest.
    Paxo has turned into a parody of himself and Kay Burleigh seemed hopelessly out of her depth on all subjects other than the Miliband family farce.
    Worst of all was the pathetically meek and compliant audience.

    Call-Me-Dave clearly can’t wait to start chillaxing as an ex-PM and Miliband was hopeless, parroting weird americanisms that he’s picked up from his specially hired advisers which he pays for out of union dues,
    hell yes!

  14. Drew Campbell says:

    Pure Murdochite circus: all heat and no light – but we all know Rupe only wants us kept in the dark, scared, warmed only by occasional bursts of manufactured outrage.

    Burley’s shallow narcissism and Paxman’s unfathomable ego ensured they played their allotted parts, consciously or unconsciously, straight from Murdoch’s central casting. Focusing on Miliband’s relationship with his brother was especially typical tabloid tactics, and Paxman’s line was as cynical as a paparazzo pointing his zoom into a starlet’s bathroom. Anything but use the time to explore the candidates’ plans to address matters of real concern or import.

    This relentless degradation of our political discourse is no godd to anyone but the Establishment. Mike suggested Nicola Sturgeon’s exclusion may be down to sexism or political ignorance. Probably, but more pertinently it’s just because she might want to talk about something different.

    So how can we change the agenda? How can we get the debate to focus on TTIP, extending democracy, defence wthout Trident, environmental crises, economic alternatives to austerity?

    Answers on Bella, Newsnet, Wings, Twitter, Facebook…

    (Maybe a few radio phone-ins and TV debates up here too.)

  15. Will McEwan says:

    Met a guy in the street today who watched the debate. Orangish,loyalist taint. Said “Did you watch that debate last? Bloody awful. How can anybody vote for either of those tits,. They live in a completely different country.”
    I expect that was the reaction of many in Scotland last night

  16. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Thanks for this Mike (on behalf of readers who don’t live in the UK).

    But I am quite confused: It would seem that SNP is set to take lots of seats at Westminster, but this is from some undemocratic process not related to the will of the Scottish people, who spoke ‘loud and clear’ during the referendum.

    Commentators like Dodds have this mental block in that they like to assume that, though support in Scotland for independence / greater autonomy grew from about 30% in 2012 to 45% in September 2014, this process stopped dead at the point of the referendum.

    I used to subscribe to the New Statesman but their sponsoring of the egregious Euston Group saw me off.

  17. Ben Donald says:

    They’re trying to keep Nicola hidden precisely because they know she’s potentially appealling, and therefore capable of derailing Project Hate. They cannot allow her to become the face of the SNP south of the border, or the clamour for political apartheid might collapse.

    1. Frank M says:

      I believe you are very close to the truth here Ben.
      However, She is now beginning to be better known down South through her talks in London, where she has been given extremely warm receptions from responsive, more intellectual audiences at the LSE.

      What starts out as gentle applause, becomes more supportive and warm as Nicola put her views across and answers all questions put to her clearly and effortlessly. You can see that the audience is captured and respectful as they sense a politician with charisma, integrity, compassion, political awareness, oratorical skills and formidable intellectual awareness. You can find videos of her speeches in London on ‘You Tube’.

      This exposure is what frightens them.

      Compare her qualities to the party leaders down South and of the Unionist parties in Scotland, one of whom could not manage to get a degree on a course that lasted 9 years at full public expense. Britain is corrupt and broken, but like any shameful organisation, will try at all costs to hide the facts and avoid exposure of the truth.

      You are spot on. She is capable of derailing ‘Project Hate’ and so much more.

  18. Tinto Chiel says:

    The reason Nicola Sturgeon is not included in this faux-democratic nonsense is that “alpha males” are terrified of her because she is a woman of working-class origins who is intelligent, principled and fully in command of her brief. For misogynistic public schoolboys, humiliation at her hands is unthinkable, like getting a spanking from matron.

    I look forward to her reacquainting them with their utter inadequacy.

    Fire up the Harley, Nicks. Full throttle!

    1. Frank M says:

      Excellent! I fully agree.

  19. David Anderson says:

    It sickens me, no in fact really angers me. Our follow electorate south of the border are being mislead by the BBC and WestmInster. They are still being lead to believe that the Lib Dems are the 3rd biggest party in the UK. This is why they don’t understand why the SNP may hold the balance of power.The Lib Dems are in fact currently the 5th largest party in Britain,behind the Green party. I am considering another complaint to the BBC and I would appreciate some support. If we all tell the BBC that their political commentators and news readers are deliberately misleading the general public, we may be able to change things. Signing off Angry Anderson.

    1. Frank M says:

      You could do this with starting an on-line petition on 38 Degrees, David.

      1. ian says:

        I’m more sick about the fact that there is still a large number of people in Scotland who would still vote agianst a free and independent Scotland on the say so of this sad collection of politicians in WM.

  20. IAB says:

    Let the continue – it helps with the undecided voters who will soon have enough of the abuse

    1. IAB says:

      Oops – them

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