Friday, June 17, 2011

Brian Taylor and the strange priorities of the news agenda #sp4

This is the second time in a couple of weeks I've argued with Brian Taylor. He's still my favourite political journalist by a long way, but I am taking issue with a comment he made on his blog  about Willie Rennie asking Alex Salmond about Cornton Vale yesterday.

Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats was a little disadvantaged by coming late to the exchanges, after constituency questions.
Still, he piled in with gusto, only slightly weakening it by diverting onto the topic of prison numbers at Cornton Vale.
In response to each, Mr Salmond resolutely declined to apologise.
Brian, it's not just about prisoner numbers. The HM Inspectorate of Prisons  follow-up report into Cornton Vale highlights continued failures that Kenny MacAskill has blithely dismissed as an operational matter for the Scottish Prison Service. For prisoners not to have access to a bed and basic sanitation, let alone proper medical care for their mental health problems is utterly shameful.

 I find the priorities of the news agenda very strange. On one side you have a rammy between the First Minister and a senior judge. Yes, Salmond was wrong in the language he used about Lord Hope, and needs to be told so, but ultimately, it's only words. On the other side, you have vulnerable women being repeatedly failed by the Government.  Which of these stories has had the most news coverage and greatest outrage? I think it should have been the latter.

Willie Rennie was the only person who cared enough about the failures at Cornton Vale to raise it at FMQs. I think it was good that he highlighted where Salmond's and MacAskill's focus should have been. All this time, where they've been slating judges and whinging about decisions being taken in London, the Cornton Vale report has been burning a hole in Kenny MacAskill's desk.

Women are suffering needlessly and it needs sorting now. MacAskill's "it wisnae me" is unacceptable. This story deserves much more attention than it's had. The Government has been found wanting twice, and earned the wrath of the Inspector for its failings. Yet you'd think it had never happened if you read the papers and watched the news. Why are news editors' priorities so skewed?


Malc said...

I may be reading this differently, but isn't Brian Taylor's point that Willie Rennie diluted his question by making it about 2 things rather than one? Ie - its more of a stylistic criticism than a criticism of his choice of topic.

I have to say - if it is the way I'm reading it - I couldn't agree with Brian Taylor more. Willie Rennie doesn't have the opportunity to cover more than one topic now, given he only has one question. Therefore he needs to make it succinct and specific.

Perhaps if he thought the Cornton Vale issue was that important, he should have asked only about it - especially since Gray & Goldie had already led on the other topic.

Unknown said...

Not that I'm cynical or anything, Malc, I suspect that Willie wouldn't have been featured on the news at all if he hadn't led with the Lord Hope thing.

I actually think including the two topics in one question highlighted the skewed priorities of the Government quite well.


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