Thursday, April 14, 2011

When scrutiny becomes rudeness: Tavish Scott rises above Gordon Brewer's boorish behaviour #sp11

I am feeling very, very proud of Tavish Scott this morning.  I have just watched his Newsnight Scotland interview with Gordon Brewer which took place on Tuesday night and I was so impressed that he managed to stay calm, cool and focused in the face of an ill-informed stream of abuse from Brewer. Journalists have every right to pursue a robust line of questioning, but they also have a responsibility when they're interviewing a leader during an election to shed some light on the policies which that leader is advocating in that election, and not expect them to answer for the views and actions of others which they have no say in. Gordon Brewer would rightly be aghast if he was held to account for muck ups by the BBC like the phone voting irregularities of a few years ago or for the grossly inflated salaries of its top presenters.

The interview with Tavish started at 11:24 minutes into the programme and finished 19 minutes later. We'd be lucky if we had a third of that covering what's in our manifesto. By 24:09 minutes, we'd had a brief discussion of policy on the NHS during which Tavish spoke about saving money by cutting bureaucracy and ensuring frontline services were protected and it wasn't until 26:01 that Tavish was finally able to talk about his campaign for a single police force.

Tavish started the interview by saying that our campaign had had its ups and downs but as long as he was able to talk about the things which mattered to people - by which he meant things like jobs and schools and public services which met their needs. Gordon Brewer took that as his cue to ensure that Tavish never got to talk about any of those things.

We can't pretend that the UK coalition doesn't exist - and nor do we want to, to be honest. It ain't perfect, but at least we're delivering Lib Dem policies which will help the poorest, people who rely on the State Pension, freed kids from being detained at Dungavel and places like it, taxed banks more than Labour ever did,put money into helping the poorest kids at school (which we want to repeat here). However, Tavish Scott is not a member of that Government, and nor should he be expected to take responsibility for the decisions it makes. Nor is he a member of the UK Parliament and as such is not responsible for the actions of our Scottish MPs and how they might have voted on tuition fees.

Tavish could not have been clearer on our record on tuition fees in Scotland. He pointed out that we'd ensured Labour's were never introduced up here, that we'd voted to get rid of the graduate endowment, (which, as an aside, I have to say that even Alex Salmond acknowledged in the STV leaders' debate 2 weeks ago). He said quite clearly that he would not have taken the decision the Lib Dems in the UK Government did - and his record proves his point, yet still for every subsequent question was pretty much prefaced with an insinuation that whatever he said couldn't be believed anyway.

Gordon Brewer actually used the phrase "you sold your granny for a whiff of power" which you'd expect to find in the pages of a very downmarket tabloid, not in a supposedly quality news programme.

One other low point was Brewer's line of questioning on a press release our George Lyon had put out attacking Labour for shifting position on closure of Accident and Emergency Units at Monklands and Ayr. What George was doing was rightly to point out the opportunism of the Labour party bending over backwards to be on the same page as the SNP in this election. Yes, Liberal Democrats were in the Government which attempted to close those units, but doing so was a Labour initiative, when Andy Kerr, Labour's current finance spokesman, was health minister.

And then we had an exchange on Scottish Water which was absolutely absurd. Brewer seemed to think it was perfectly reasonable for the UK Government to make an agreement based on an opposition party's policy in the middle of a Scottish election. Tavish pointed out that what we aimed to do would be to take the policy forward as part of a Government. And if we aren't in Government, I wonder if the other parties who are will try it.

And then came the "what would you do in a coalition" questions which, if Tavish had said anything at all on, he'd have got "how can we believe you after what Nick Clegg did?" thrown in his face.

Tavish kept his cool and answered the questions and by doing so won in an unwinnable environment. I think people will be impressed by his grace under fire. And I wonder if Iain Gray or Alex Salmond will come under such close scrutiny. Will Gray be expected to account for the many failings of the last Westminster Government from Iraq to the way it blithely almost bankrupted the country? Will Alex Salmond be expected to account for all the pledges the SNP has broken? I won't be holding my breath.

Willie Rennie said on Twitter that Brewer was like:
the pub drunk with his abusive behaviour on Newsnight with @. Landlord should have thrown him out 
I disagree. The pub drunk would have sobered up eventually and have a bit of a headache and know in his heart of hearts that he'd made an arse of himself, whether he'd admit it out loud or not. Brewer was more to me like the sadistic school bully, wanting to humiliate and shame rather than illuminate and clarify.

You can watch the whole thing here and make your own mind up.


Munguin said...

What rubbish! Did Gordon go easy on Annabel last night then?

Let’s face it Scott is way out of his depth, perhaps he would be better off leading Shetland Council. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen! Please don’t insult our intelligence by dressing ineffective and weak as polite and dignified. He is the leader of a major political party and that is never a position for someone with a thin skin and a floppy political rapier.

I’m assuming that using your own logic you will not be using this election to berate Scottish Labour for the economic catastrophe of UK Labour’s making? As Iain Gray can hardly be held responsible for things done by Gordon Brown and Labour in Westminster by the electorate here in Scotland, if Tavish Scott can’t for the actions of Nick Clegg and the coalition now, can it?

Can you please enlighten us regarding all these “pledges” that Alex Salmond has gone back on, and maybe give us a few pics of prominent SNP Cabinet Secretaries signing them. Or is that a deliberate attempt to obscure the real politick of minority government. The SNP were unable to implement all their manifesto aspirations because they did not have sufficient MSPs to out vote the unionist’s (Lib Dems included). The point is they tried which is more than the Lib Dems ever did!

GHmltn said...

Interested to read your post.

I shared some thoughts on Gordon rewer before the interview on Twitter with a non aligned twitterer.

The point isn't the interview with Scott it is Brewer.

he talks and talks and then asks why people aren't answering thequestion. He never admits he is wrong and seems to think he is Paxman.

He looks for a fight and tries to bully people - he does this with everyone.

He is not good at examining what people are saying and then cross examining that so he is never enlightening.

He sees interviewing as a gladatorial so he finds some point of controversy for whoever he is interviewing and goes on and on and on!

Its not great and I have heard sever people who think he is - well - a bit of a douchebag!

And I've seen him like that with all sorts of people.

cynicalHighlander said...

Nice not to get a virus threat now.

Tavish is way out of his depth and should be considering what he will do after May with his MSPs that survive.

Colin said...

I agree that we could have done without stuff from Brewer like his statement that "nobody trusts the Lib Dems", and the granny-selling business.

But I don't see how you can defend Tavish on Monklands. He accused Labour of inconsistency in supporting the closure in government and opposing it in opposition. Brewer asked how that was different from the Lib Dems' position. Tavish's response to this, after stammering for a few seconds, was that "you'll have to ask Labour about their health policy". Can you explain what he meant by that answer?

Anonymous said...

Tavish Scott is facing a very serious challenge in his own seat in Shetland from Billy Fox, an indepndent candidate.
Tavish knows this, but I don't think the party outside of Shetland understands how precarious Tavish's own seat has become.


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