Guilty! Thrice guilty! To the Tolbooth with them…let them dance to the hangman’s tune. How the mob love a lynching. There is part of us all which exults in punishment when it applies to someone else, as if their fate exonerates us. Holy Willie calls down the wrath of God on the Presbytery of Ayr but pleads remember me and mine wi’ mercies temporal and divine…
Burns came to mind when the sanctimonious Jackie Baillie hove into view on television to demand action against the evils of the SNP…pass not in Thy mercy by them, nor hear their pray’r, but for thy people’s sake destroy them, an’ dinna spare.
One of the SNP Presbytery was accused of grave misdeeds and at such times it is the moral duty of those with superior standards to judge them. Yet I am here a chosen sample, to show thy grace is great and ample; I’m here a pillar o’ Thy temple, strong as a rock, a guide, a buckler, and example, unto a’ Thy flock.
Ms Baillie, as Labour’s longtime Queen of Cant, has a blameless past. She couldn’t have been the one of Wendy Alexander’s shoulder when the election expenses scandal broke or the same woman on the board of Better Together which did such sterling work in reviving Labour fortunes…and she could never be accused of being soapy or sleekit.
This of course is the case of Michelle Thomson who may become the first casualty of the SNP surge, guilty or not. In politics, it isn’t the facts that count but the perception which is why David Cameron’s youthful encounter with tete de cochon continues to resonate without a single open voice of confirmation or any graphic evidence. It isn’t even clear to me what precisely she may legally have done wrong but no matter – she has had the whip removed leaving her politically unprotected and therefore, by popular acclaim, guilty by implication. She has been the target of a group in the constituency which has waged a campaign to vilify her asking what her true business credentials are. A dirty business.
We can’t know where a police investigation will lead but the questions will surely include what knowledge she had, if any, of the activities of the solicitor now struck off. You can go to jail for mortgage fraud.
Even if no charge results, the voodoo of partisan politics means a toxic potion of guilt by association with dodgy lawyers and making a quick profit from other people’s wasting assets will be left bubbling on her MP’s desk. It happened before she was a politician! She wasn’t elected! So what? These games are played by different rules. In the housing business if you are desperate to offload and then undersell a property which subsequently resells for more, the answer is caveat emptor. Do the same thing in a party rosette and it is mens rea – you had guilty intent. It means there may already be no way of saving a nascent career. You can promise to press the nuclear button or do a dirty deal to get Saudi Arabia on to the UN human rights council as Britain did, but if it looks like you’re exploiting the voters for profit, you’re doomed. If she’s guilty, so be it. We look forward to Ms Baillie’s master class in hand-wringing.
This looks to me like a matter on a different scale completely to the ‘crimes’ of TinthePark. And yet here too the Holy Willie prosecution continues through sly implication. First it is cronyism which allows a former adviser ‘special access’ to ministers – no evidence. Then it’s the arrangement of a meeting – which she didn’t attend. Next she secures a grant – negotiated by the company boss in her absence. Lastly, the award was unjustified as the company made a profit – a new criterion for the award of public funds. The Reality – a dirty wee game to smear people by implication.
If there is some wrong-doing buried in here, it has yet to be unearthed, rather like Salmond’s dirty dealings with Donald Trump which revealed precisely nothing (apart from Annabel Goldie’s lightbulb expose that he travelled to a meeting in his ministerial car). But the Labour chairman of the inquiry still intoned gravely how the First Minster had to be more careful, watch his step etc, etc…imply, suggest, wink, wink.
Of course Jennifer Dempsie, the ex adviser, has now stepped down as a candidate and must therefore be silently conceding her guilt, according to the witchfinders. Or maybe she’s just sick of being attacked through innuendo and hung out to dry. Maybe another young female is now lost to public life through a low-level witchhunt. Who knows?
I wonder too how the TinthePark people feel about the clear suggestion behind this episode that they were complicit in corruption. After all, if she was their agent acting on their behalf and if she helped secure money to which they weren’t entitled, given as a favour to a political pal, well then, they’re guilty too, aren’t they? If it were me, I’d be tempted to pull out and take the event elsewhere. Why should a company allow itself to be the brunt of someone’s oafish campaign of denigration?
I’d be asking too when making a profit was a bar to securing public funding…organisations with money in the bank and companies in the black all qualify for support if they meet the criteria. They don’t have to show an empty account to get cash. Follow that logic and there would be no inward investment. Why would you back a business that was failing by inviting it to set up in Scotland? Look, we’re so unsuccessful, we’ve no money in the bank. Help us out, minister. The whole point is that it is successful companies making a profit and looking to expand whom you encourage to locate here with free factories, land, rates holidays and tax breaks.
But why bother with logic when you can chase someone out of public life, run down the reputation of a successful and revenue-creating project and smear your opponents?
Once guilt is confirmed, the culprits must suffer. That is part, not just of the judicial process but the democratic one. It’s what happened to Wendy Alexander, Mike Watson, Chris Huhne, Jim Devine, Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitken, Denis McShane and Bill Walker.
But, please, spare us the sanctimony and hypocrisy.
I bless and praise Thy matchless might,
When thousands Thou hast left in night,
That I am here afore Thy sight,
For gifts an’ grace
A burning and a shining light
To a’ this place.