Alex Thomson's View

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April 16, 2015 4 Comments

A clubby, chummy, synthetic encounter with Cameron

Partly it is general caution about security. Partly it is specific caution about another Gordon Brown “bigoted woman” moment. But it is all about caution.

16 cameron r w A clubby, chummy, synthetic encounter with CameronPicture: David Cameron arrives on Thursday at the launch of the Scottish Conservative manifesto at the Emirates Arena.

Voters need to know that what is daily passed off as an election “campaign” at times feels like nothing more than an antiseptic exercise in keeping our party leaders away from real voters and real situations at all costs.

So I will tell you what these events are really like.

This morning the Prime Minister came to “Scotland” to launch the Scottish Tory manifesto.

This is what happened.

First, the warning sent the night before: the PM is coming to the Emirates Stadium in Glasgow’s East End but you cannot say that in advance. That’s in red ink.

The idea may well be rooted in genuine security concerns but the unfortunate by-product is that it all helps keep away any real voter who might try to come into contact with the PM. For that could be catastrophic in an election couldn’t it?

The stadium is cordoned off. It’s well away from any normal human life anyhow.

You are directed to a desk where they give you a plastic wristband to distinguish media from party supporters who don’t look like they’ve necessarily come from Parkhead.

You are escorted to a lift. Another official escorts you to a media room where you are corralled.

Then it is time. You are led to the media section in the hall where a seat says: “Reserved for Media”

I am media. I sit. Big mistake.

I am told I can’t sit. I tell them I am media and I am indeed sitting. I show the media wristband. They say I must move but won’t say why.

I refuse, telling them if they want to sling Channel 4 News out of a general election event then get on with it.

Because here’s the game. These seats are reserved for the known correspondents – the Scottish Tory Leader will call them all by first and surnames and organisation.

It is chummy. It is clubby. I doubt she knows my name. Doubt any party political leaders do and long may that remain so.

Because what is being passed off live and in edited sound bites is a pretend press conference. It is nothing of the sort – just the known names.

I have asked in advance politely to ask a question. The Tory press officers are primed.

Some questions are asked. The microphone never comes my way. Fascinatingly it is never given over to any of the names who do ask questions. The party press officer holds onto that microphone for dear life – not the journo.

This is what they once tried on at a government press conference in Beijing – the difference being in Communist China you can get away with holding the microphone. Not here it seems.

Perhaps they knew I would have grabbed it as any journo should for the follow-up question, given the near certainty that the party leader will not answer the question first time around.

This is standard protocol the world over. Not at this press conference. Not at this election. I checked with a friend and colleague covering this day in, day out. I was told they never actually give you the microphone. Ever – god no!

So I dangle my arm in the air like a numpty sensing what is about to happen. At 15 stone and 6’4″ in the front media row, no one managed to see me there.

Predictable horror and outrage when I try to ask David Cameron a question as he is hustled away from the hall by a combination of officials and close protection police officers.

And here’s the sting – I just wanted to him why he wasn’t doing a walkabout to meet voters in Glasgow outside this synthetic event.

“I’ll talk to you later,” said The Prime Minister as he was hustled away.

A press officer claiming to be from The Prime Minister’s office apologised several times after this nonsense was all over.

As I left the stadium one of the invited Conservative party guests there turned to the security guard:

“Can I get a train or bus from here to the city centre? I’m not from around here.”

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April 15, 2015 1 Comment

Hillsborough: the real truth, 26 years on

Spare a moment for those who lost their lives in such terrible fashion, but pause too for all those who struggled afterwards amid pain and grief.

April 14, 2015 2 Comments

Fears for Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, behind bars in Egypt

The plight of the Al-Jazeera three has focused the spotlight on the dark side of the Egyptian regime, including the case of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa.

April 13, 2015 5 Comments

Trident: is our nuclear deterrent really independent?

Both main English parties pretend incessantly that our Trident missile system is an “independent” nuclear deterrent when it never was, is, or could be and both Cameron and Miliband know

April 9, 2015 3 Comments

Pro-Russian rebels accused of Ukraine ‘war crimes’

Long suspected but short on the vital evidence, Amnesty International has now accused pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine of war crimes: namely the execution of captured Ukrainian soldiers.

March 28, 2015 20 Comments

Don’t care about your vote? Beware the alternative

Remind yourself there are other ways of conducting power and politics – and cherish and respect what we have, even if you can’t love or even like it.

March 26, 2015 13 Comments

Richard III: it’s all about the relic, the tourism, the cachet and the cash.

Leicester’s claim to Richard III’s bones is disputed, but there’s no doubting the enthusiasm of the local authorities, of church and state, to make the most of his arrival.

March 20, 2015 11 Comments

Jeremy Clarkson and the outrage industry

In an age when rock stars, sport stars – indeed stars of all sorts and political stars most of all – are essentially dulled by walls of PR and PC flummery, Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear

March 19, 2015 3 Comments

What happened when we tracked down ex-HSBC boss Lord Green

He’s ordained, he’s a former HSBC boss, and he’s the man public accounts chairman Margaret Hodge wants to question over those Swiss accounts. I caught up with him yesterday

March 12, 2015 16 Comments

The strange case of Rangers and the Prophet Mohammed cartoon

An ill-judged tweet alleged to have come from a prominent Rangers supporter who is now a non-executive director at the club, should prompt an immediate apology.

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