Sunday, 4 March 2012

Baillie and the blankets

Jackie Baillie - lying for Britain
It's party conference season in Scotland and that necessarily means a plethora of speechifying and even more poring and pondering in print and pixel over the content of said oratorical offerings. Pundits, commentators. journalists and bloggers will spend countless aggregate hours in minute examination of our politicians' offerings like priests poking through the entrails of some sacrificial animal seeking portents - and, for the most part, finding only the crude makings of a pudding.

Talking of puddings, what's yon Jackie Baillie all about? Lest the lady doesn't loom as large in your life as she might wish, she is the individual who has had thrust upon her the unenviable task of shadowing the estimable Nicola Sturgeon's health remit at Holyrood. The result of some particularly bad karma, one suspects. You may remember Ms Baillie from an episode about a month ago when she sought to score some political points by rushing out a press release castigating Sturgeon and the SNP administration for what she claimed was their appalling record of failure in dealing with hospital acquired infections. She fell victim to her own poison barb, however, when it transpired that she'd got hold of old data and the appalling record to which she referred was that of her own party back in the days when we had a pretendy wee "Executive" instead of a proper Scottish government.

Well! She's been at it again! Addressing the assembled puddings of the British Labour & Unionist Party's North Britain branch in Dundee, Baillie blurted out a story about patients in a Scottish hospital being obliged to "share blankets" - ostensibly on account of "SNP cuts".

No explanation was offered as to how this supposed blanket sharing scheme actually worked. Was each blanket used by a number of patients on a rota basis? Were blankets being divided into portions to be distributed among patients? Or were patients being obliged to snuggle together in twos and threes under one blanket? We need to be told! The public has a right to know! And so on...

But wait! Once more it turns out that Jackie Bailie has blundered. The whole blanket thing is, it seems, an old story that has been both denied and disproved by the hospital concerned. Baillie lied! Or did she? Bear in mind that an untruth is not strictly speaking a lie if the person offering it does so in ignorance of it's falsity. It's not a lie if Bailie believed it. So, does that make it OK? Does that justify this calumny against health service workers? I don't think so! And I will explain why.

While some may dismiss this as trivial and no more than part of the "rough and tumble" of politics I see in such episodes a very serious malaise. It is not the veracity or otherwise of these claims that is important but the fact that Ms Baillie and her ilk simply don't care whether or not there is any truth in what they tell the Scottish electorate. The blanket story passed muster as a smear against the SNP, and that was all that mattered.

It is possible, as I say, that Baillie actually gave credence to the story. But this in no way mitigates her offence. That she was so eager to accept such an outlandish claim tells us nothing at all flattering about the way her mind works. That she didn't even consider it necessary to check the facts speaks of seriously perverted priorities and a casual contempt for the people of Scotland.

Jackie Baillie exemplifies an attitude that sadly pervades the entire anti-independence campaign. An attitude of arrogant self-righteousness which holds that any conduct at all, no matter how reprehensible by the normal standards of society, is justified if it is done in defence of the British state.

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