Why did nobody question Brown when he made his worthless pledge?
Commentary by G.A.Ponsonby (15 Oct 2014)
Reblogged from Newsnet Scotland
Who would have thought it eh? The promises made by Gordon Brown in the final days of the referendum campaign were not worth the airtime they were given.
It's almost hard to believe given the final result, but the Yes campaign had just taken the lead in the opinion polls – two surveys, one by Yougov and a private poll carried out by the No campaign pointed to a Yes victory on the 18th.
Alistair Darling's Better Together campaign was heading for the rocks until Brown gave a surprise speech to party activists pledging Home Rule. The backbench MP also laid out a timetable within which these significant extra powers would be granted if Scots voted No.
Brown's address to the nation was broadcast live by the BBC as the corporation set about flooding its news platforms with the former Labour leader's two key pledges.
For days we were bombarded by bulletins and sound-bites from the broadcaster and others. What authority Brown had to speak on behalf of the three Westminster party leaders was never fully explored nor was any attempt made at defining what powers Brown was promising.
It was the last days of the campaign and the Scottish media, Unionist to its core, and fearing a Yes win simply abandoned all pretence of proper journalistic scrutiny and parroted anything leading Unionist figures said. Alistair Darling appeared on BBC Scotland and Jackie Bird fed him her now infamous 'Devo Max' line.
What this media failing led to of course was not just a No vote, but a constitutional mess evidenced by yesterday's House of Commons debate. The debate was supposed to be a platform to discuss the extra powers pledged by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband in their famous Vow, hawked by the Daily Record, but that proved impossible when all three failed to turn up yesterday.
Brown's own contribution turned out to be a plea not for more power for Scotland, but for less. In his speech the Kirkaldy MP actually argued for the Conservatives to offer less income tax powers than they had proposed during the referendum campaign. To break their vow no less. Has any Scottish outlet picked this up?
Brown seemed more worried that Scottish Unionist MPs might lose influence at Westminster. SNP MPs already refuse to vote on English only issues.
His speech, which you can watch below, makes it clear his referendum pledge, and the so-called vow, were panic measures that had not been agreed or worked out. Indeed in the video below a desperate sounding Brown is clearly only now trying to come up with a workable plan.
Note in the interview above [5 mins 40 secs] it is revealed that the Conservatives did indeed warn that English Votes for English Laws [EVEL] would be tied into the Scottish Devolution issue if Scots voted No. John Redwood's revelation calls into question Labour claims that David Cameron's announcement outside Downing Street the day after the referendum, came as a complete surprise.
Indeed three years earlier the leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling had himself pointed out that any further devolution of power to Scotland would have consequences and that difficult questions had to be answered before people went to the polls.
But it's too late for questions now because we have already gone to the polls.
So where do we go from here? MPs in England, mostly Tory, have now hijacked the Scottish debate and are pressing for equality in Westminster voting. If they are to be denied voting on Scottish only matters then it is only fair Scottish MPs should be denied votes on English only matters they say.
The situation has arisen precisely because the Scottish media allowed eleventh hour pledges and promises to corrupt the independence referendum. The three Unionist parties had not prepared for the late Yes surge and had cobbled something in a last desperate attempt to prevent No losing.
Of course the people charged with asking the difficult questions had no interest in asking them. They're sole goal was to prevent Yes winning the referendum.
The British Labour party and its referendum allies the Tories have now little interest in Scotland as evidenced by the absence of their leaders from the debate yesterday. The Scottish media, in particular BBC Scotland, were partly responsible for ensuring the current situation arose. They have betrayed a nation.
The final insult is that these three leaders will appear on our televisions next year as part of the UK general election campaign. Missing will be the party of government in Scotland, but Farage is scheduled to appear in one of the three debates. Somehow I don't think Scottish Devolution will be high on the agenda in these debates.
BBC Scotland presenter Gary Robertson doesn't seem to believe the SNP deserve to be included in the UK wide televised debates because they don't field candidates in England.
(SNP MP Angus Robertson interviewed by BBC's Gary Robertson)
Isn't it weird that regional presenters like Robertson have ammunition ready to deploy when faced with calls for Scotland's voice to be heard, but who were struck dumb when Brown and others were making vacuous pledges and vows.
[I am currently writing a book which chronicles the BBC's handling of the independence referendum and its conduct in covering Scottish politics from 2007 up until the day of the referendum. The book will aim to expose the corruption at the heart BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs and the influence the corporation had in the final days of the referendum campaign. The provisional title for the book is - 'How the BBC Stole the Referendum'. I hope to have the book finished for the early part of 2015, well before the UK General Election.]