By Mike Small
It’s a sad day when someone inadvertently puts one of their own to the sword. But that dear readers is the position this grey morning.
Yesterday was full of fevered speculation about who wrote ‘the Vow’. It’s become up there with Shergar, Lord Lucan and the Crystal Skulls. It seemed that, for whatever reasons, the author felt no pride in their historic wheeze. So we plodded on in sublime ignorance, and out of boredom and some kind of purgative duty began leafing Alan Cochrane’s splenetic ‘Alex Salmond: My part in his downfall’.
This was a task we thought unnecessary after the cautiously brutal review by Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review. Reading it you are caught between admiration for the writers wonderful indiscretion about the Scottish media and a prose style that is like Giant Haystacks ghost-writing a new Enid Blyton series. The whole book is like a map of the inner circles of the Labour-Tory media political elite as they connive to hold sway on the body politic with endless networking, rumours and backstabbing. One reviewer says: “Cochrane reveals the truth about how the UK was won, offering biting analysis, telling detail and often trenchant wit.”
But one gem pops up on p. 312 amongst the ‘lashings of Monople champagne’ venison and vitriol:
The day of the Vow. Amazing front-page declaration in the Record from all three party leaders, signing up to deliver a solemn promise that they would grant Scotland massive extra powers AND keep the Barnett Formula. Gordon Brown is getting all the credit for making sure this was done, but I hear that the man responsible was Murray Foote, the Record’s editor. He is a brilliant tabloid operator and has made the Record one of the most intelligent red tops around – taking it back to the way it was thirty years ago, before it was ruined by a bunch of nonentities who made it a joke.
It was Murray who invented the concept of the Vow and put all their signatures on what looked like vellum on a ‘poster’ front page. It was pure journalistic hokum. Still, it has become a sort of second Magna Carta. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t being taken so seriously. Great stroke and put it one ahead of The Sun, which, since its no longer backing the Nats, looks absolutely crap.
It’s a beautiful extract, rich in insight.
You’ve got to love the notion of the ‘second Magna Carta’ and the Record as ‘one of the most intelligent red tops around’. Perhaps a low bar? But which wise and cunning editor wouldn’t lay claim to the second Magna Carta?