Last night on Twitter the front cover of the Daily Telegraph was causing a great deal of uninformed stushie.
Clare Lally is a notable campaigner and a full-time carer: she has two daughters, one with severe disabilities, for whom she is the primary carer with her husband Derek. In 2010, she was voted Tesco Living’s “Mum of the Year” in 2010. She was interviewed by the BBC 2011 electoral campaign as part of the launch of Manifesto for Carers: she’s also a Carers Champion.
Jackie Baillie is the Labour MSP for Dunbarton. Clare Lally is one of her constituents. West Dunbartonshire tends to vote Labour: the Regional MSPs for the West of Scotland reflect that – three Labour MSPs, two Conservatives, two SNP. The West Dunbartonshire council gained two seats for Labour in the last council elections, and the SNP lost three: the council also has one of the few Scottish Socialist Party representatives. It was an SNP commitment at the last local government elections to appoint a Carers’ Champion for every local authority. Labour appointed a Carers’ Champion to speak to their Shadow Cabinet: Clare Lally was a natural choice.
The Daily Record, 28th August 2012 reported:
Clare Lally is to join Labour’s shadow cabinet as their first “Carers Champion”.
The role will see the 31-year-old, who has no previous political experience, advise Johann Lamont’s party on the challenges facing Scotland’s 660,000 carers.
Clare, of Duntocher, Dunbartonshire, said she was delighted to help influence key policy.
She said: “I have always been a Labour supporter. But to actually be able to contribute and help make a difference is a better opportunity than I could have asked for.”
“My focus is to just do what is right for carers. I am there to listen to them and take what they are saying back to the cabinet.
“It’s not all about money or services. It is time to stop talking about cuts and start talking about what to do about it.”
In September 2012, Jackie Baillie MSP reported on Clare Lally’s first visit to the Scottish Parliament
“I was delighted to be joined by Clare at the Parliament this week to discuss the issues being faced by Scotland’s carers on a daily basis.
“It is great to have someone from West Dunbartonshire on Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and I know Clare really understands the concerns of carers.”
Everyone entitled to vote in Scotland has got to make up their mind how to vote on 18th September, and we have to remember: whether Yes or No gets the majority, pretty much everyone is trying to decide or has already decided how to vote based on what they believe will be best for Scotland, even if we disagree what that is. Turnout is predicted at over 80%, and that level of involvement makes the referendum successful whether Yes or No gets the majority.
When Better Together launched their 100 Days campaign, Clare Lally was one of those asked to speak, as her MSP tweeted:
— Jackie Baillie (@jackiebmsp) June 9, 2014
The Times and the Telegraph reported this, and “Rev” Stuart Campbell got a snit on. If you have not yet heard of “Rev” Stuart, he lives in Bath and runs the site “Wings Over Scotland” (not an official Yes Scotland site; it supports Yes Scotland in much the same way as the Daily Mail supports the Tories).
He discovered the Daily Record story about Ms Lally, and he also confused Clare Lally, the Carers’ Champion, with Claire Lally, the daughter-in-law of a former Lord Provost of Glasgow.
Stuart Campbell is a petty, mean-minded man, who apparently compensates for his inability to vote in the independence referendum by attacking those who can and who have decided to vote No.
Cybernats is the term coined for those who troll and attack No voters online: cybernaws those who do the same to Yes voters: and both campaigns have their poisonous trolls who think political debate should be abusive, not respectful. Unless they get threatening (in which case, report them to the police) none of them deserve any attention by either side.
I don’t link to the Wings Over Scotland site and I don’t have much respect Yes campaigners who do: Stuart Campbell (“RevStu“) is a cybernat. His views from Bath on Scottish independence should be treated with the same respect as the views of David Coburn from Kensington. His experience in journalism is reviewing computer games: he went from games review to games design. He founded the Wings blog as an alternative to shouting at Newsnight.
Stuart Campbell’s complaints that Clare Lally’s involvement in politics via her experience as a full-time carer makes her “political elite”, smells like the frequent Ukip complaints that political activists have been “planted” in the Question Time audience when the Ukip panellist gets asked a difficult question.
In the Telegraph this morning a story bylined by Simon Johnson, their Scottish Political Editor, claimed that Alex Salmond had “spearheaded” a “disgusting smear campaign” against Clare Lally. The evidence for this appears to be that Campbell Gunn, a special adviser to the First Minister’s office, contacted the Telegraph and told them what Stuart Campbell had “reported” in Wings Scotland.
[Campbell Gunn has since been ordered by Alex Salmond to apologise to Clare Lally, who has declined to accept his coerced “sorry”. Brian Taylor notes that the most charitable explanation for Gunn’s email is that he forgot he was no longer a political journalist but a civil servant.]
The Telegraph seems to think it was the other way round, saying his email “was echoed by a prominent nationalist website”. The Wings Scotland blogpost about Clare Lally was posted about 10am on 10th June. To diehard nationalists, Wings Scotland is treated as a news site: it never seems to occur to its loyal readers that Stuart Campbell is a blogger, not a journalist. He finds things out the way any blogger does; by searching online. To his devoted followers, however, this is treated as if it were properly researched news from a respectworthy journal: and my guess would be that Campbell Gunn read the blogpost, never thought to check in with anyone at the First Minister’s office, and simply emailed what he thought was a valid correction to the Daily Telegraph.
If this proves anything, it proves that some Yes Scotland supporters take the blog “Wings Over Scotland” entirely too seriously. If Campbell Gunn is required to resign for that injudicious email to the Telegraph, he is at fault not for “spearheading” or “coordinating” a personal attack on Clare Lally, but for not remembering that Wings Over Scotland is just another blog: Stuart Campbell doubtless publishes the truth as he sees it, but he is a biased and partial political campaigner, not a journalist.
I don’t doubt that Clare Lally and her supporters got abused on Twitter by the cybernats. Stuart Campbell is a provoker of such attacks. But the Telegraph’s claim that she was smeared is as much a distortion of the truth as the Daily Mail’s report on the wheelchair ramp in the Lally’s front garden. It is not a smear to say that Clare Lally has been invited to sit on Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and join in Policy Forum discussions: it’s true, and a respectworthy achievement.
Clare Lally is the kind of Scot whose experience as a carer and campaigner, whose contributions to welfare policy and to the independence referendum, are worthy of nothing but respect: shame on Stuart Campbell for attacking her for them, and anyone else who followed his lead.