Journalists don’t like being questioned. It’s one of the ironies of the main stream media that those who rely on others answering questions have difficulty answering them themselves.
On Monday the latest instalment of ‘Project Protect Ruth’ aired on the BBC Scotland morning news programme Good Morning Scotland.
The programme focussed on last week’s general election and its aftermath.
Throughout the morning the thorny issue of Theresa May’s on/off coalition with the DUP featured. The DUP is the Northern Irish equivalent of … well there isn’t really an equivalent. The DUP is a rather unsavoury one-off.
Think Protestant fundamentalism, sectarianism and homophobia and you’ll get an idea of what we’re talking about here. The DUP also has well documented links to Loyalist paramilitary groups.
According to Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow, the DUP is one of the most extreme political entities in the British Isles.
But the DUP is the only thing keeping Theresa May in Downing Street. Without its support, the Tory party can kiss goodbye to power.
So when Good Morning Scotland aired I was surprised to hear presenter Gary Robertson tell listeners that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson had voiced concerns at the proposed coalition.
What concerns was she now willing to air I wondered? There were none. Good Morning Scotland was exaggerating comments Ruth had given that weekend.
All Ruth had in fact done on being questioned about the DUP coalition was to seek assurances from Theresa May that LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK wouldn’t be affected. Pressed in a Channel 4 interview on whether she backed words of praise for the DUP uttered by Theresa May, Ruth fled the interview.
I posted the following message on twitter: “Gary Robertson tells GMS listeners that the coalition with the DUP is “causing concern” for Ruth Davidson. Get her on then. @BBCGaryR”
Remarkably I received a reply from a Radio Scotland journalist called Charles Wands who informed me that David Mundell was scheduled to be interviewed after 8 am. Why Mundell, I asked? Ruth Davidson was the Scottish Tory leader. BBC Scotland was lauding her as the general election winner. The thirteen MPs – including Mundell – were Ruth’s MPs. Had she been invited?
“Yes”, came the reply, the Scottish Conservative leader had indeed received an invite. No further details were forthcoming. All we know is that she had declined to appear.
When the Mundell interview aired it was disappointing. Gary Robertson had refused to bring up the most controversial issue of all regarding the DUP, namely the party’s links to Loyalist paramilitary groups.
I asked Charles Wands why Mundell hadn’t been confronted with the paramilitary aspect of the DUP’s history. That’s when the conversation stopped.
There was no further response from the Radio Scotland journalist. Well not until I posted a criticism of the refusal to address my question. You can see the full exchange below.
Charles Wands could of course have satisfied myself and others who asked a perfectly reasonable question. He could have explained why the issue of paramilitaries was not raised. He chose not to explain why the issue had not been raised by Gary Robertson.
Two days later, Gary Robertson eventually did confront a representative of the Conservative party with the DUP’s paramilitary links. You can hear the brief exchange below.
But what nobody at BBC Scotland has seen fit to do is to confront Ruth Davidson on the issue. The DUP’s paramilitary links has been covered by the BBC south of the border. In Scotland it’s been the issue they dare not raise.
The Scottish Tory leader has enjoyed a criticism free ride courtesy of the BBC in the aftermath of the general election. The coverage has presented her as a de-facto First Minister with footage of her strolling into Downing Street and headlines implying a status she does not have.
Senior BBC Scotland reporters are too busy burnishing Ruth’s image as the ‘winner’ of the general election in Scotland to bother her with uncomfortable questions.
Ruth makes herself available for interview on her own terms. There’s a pattern here. Monday wasn’t the first time Ruth Davidson had declined to appear on Good Morning Scotland. She did it during the council elections. This was at a time when her party was becoming embroiled in a mini-scandal involving council election candidates posting alleged racist and bigoted messages on social media.
On Sunday past, just as controversy over the DUP coalition was growing, the Scottish Conservative leader was again unavailable for interview when the Sunday Politics programme extended an invite. In fact nobody from the Scottish Conservative party was available.
On Wednesday morning her Scottish MEP Ian Duncan refused an invitation to appear on Good Morning Scotland.
There is very clear circumstantial evidence that Ruth Davidson and/or her party representatives do a disappearing act when controversy raises its head. They can’t be questioned on anything if they don’t appear.
So BBC Scotland can’t or won’t question them, and we can’t question the BBC. What a stitch-up eh?
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