I don’t mean to cast aspersions on a man’s skillset, but Gary Ralston is a football writer who shouldn’t even be writing about football.
His work is sophomoric if we’re being generous, and moronic if we’re being honest.
One of the Scottish game’s self-styled “experts”, his knowledge of our national sport is pitifully weak and his ability to analyse it is notoriously bad.
Today Ralston is branching out into political analysis, a vastly more complicated arena where nuance is important and some kind of basic understanding is absolutely vital. Does he know the first thing about the political world, other than how to put a cross in a box?
I suspect not, and in no universe is he even remotely qualified to be writing on the subject.
Yet here he goes, right into a world he doesn’t understand at all.
You can tell where this is going, right?
Ralston has waded in with his big clown feet to one of the darkest areas of journalism, and he might not even realise he’s done it.
The basis of his piece is that Susan Aitken, head of the council, has tried “to smear” her political “rival” Frank McAveety by wanting a picture of him in the Ibrox executive box “leaked”.
But the picture – which is the main one for this story – has been “out there” for nearly five years.
Ralston and others seem to have taken up the hysterical claim that Susan Aitken’s jokey suggestion is an attempt to use sectarianism as a political tool.
In point of fact, it is they who are stirring the sectarian soup with this risible and potentially libellous claim.
Ralston’s article paints a nice flattering picture of McAveety, as an innocent man falsely smeared.
In fact, McAveety, who is a darling of the media for reasons passing understanding, is a pure fool who’s continued political rise could only have happened in Scottish Labour.
(And I write that as a long time former member of the party, who quit in disgust and has never returned to the fold and who never will. I know what Scottish Labour is, and I know its murky past far better than Ralston does or ever will. If he wants to discuss sectarianism in Scottish politics I can give him a full seminar on it, and Labour’s use of it as a weapon. And before he or anyone else starts, I am not an SNP member either and have frequently had a go at them on this site.)
McAveety is a politician who has already twice seen his career crash and burn in flames.
The first time was over his failure to turn up for ministerial questions whilst holding a cabinet post in the McConnell administration. He said he had been delayed on business; in fact, he was in the canteen stuffing his face with a pie.
The second time was when a live microphone caught him making some smutty remarks about a female in the parliament, who a newspaper later alleged was still in her teens.
He’s also part of a dying breed; a right-winger in a city which has just about had enough of those. I remember him turning up once at a May Day rally to lambast striking council workers from the rostrum. That got the response you would expect from the crowd.
I’ll tell you, if Susan Aitken was attempting to smear him by showing him – a Celtic fan, as everyone is more than aware – sitting in the Ibrox directors box it’s one of the weakest and tamest smear jobs I’ve seen in a long time studying the political ins and outs of this city.
I’ve seen the real kind, and this is about as far from that as it’s possible to get.
The smear-job being done on Aitken, on the other hand, is far more sophisticated.
And she’s not the only one being smeared of course, because the other target is her party, and let’s not forget that’s a factor here, and a big one; the Glasgow media’s cosy relationship with Labour’s right flank is an established fact as anyone with the slightest knowledge is well aware.
The way the pressure is being turned up over this is a naked attempt to label the entire SNP administration in Glasgow as anti-Ibrox and even anti-Protestant.
It is a well-co-ordinated campaign, with friends in the media and in the political class. That it involves also climbing into bed with some of the dregs of humanity doesn’t bother them one iota. That it risks turning parts of Glasgow into a facsimile of Belfast in the 1970’s clearly doesn’t concern them.
Listen, everyone who keeps his or her ear to the ground in this city knows that this is the objective.
Labour’s collapse at the last council elections brought the gravy train to an end for a whole of people and they are determined to climb back on top next time around.
There are fortunes in expenses claims and via other avenues up for grabs after all, something McAveety and his buddies in that picture are well aware of, as the Bella Caledonia piece makes clear. They were involving in a number of such scandals including one where they all took a wee jaunt down to Manchester for a “fact finding mission” which coincided with the notorious UEFA Cup Final down there. All had to repay money to the public purse when the organisations they were meant to be meeting denied any knowledge of such sit-downs.
Does Ralston know that he’s knee deep in something much bigger than he is?
Does he care?
I get the impression someone’s fed him his lines here and wound him up and let him go, that he’s playing the role of useful idiot, but it’s a dangerous game he’s involved in whether he’s simply somebody’s stooge or actively engaged with the program.
I am certain he has not thought it all the way through.
It’s no coincidence that this story comes at just the moment the unionist and orange communities are whipping their members into a frenzy over bans on parades and such like. The shadowy organisation Scottish Protestants Against Discrimination recently protested in front of the city chambers because they weren’t allowed to take one of their bigoted marches down past a church. The efforts to paint the SNP council leadership as motivated by bigotry is not a new approach for Glasgow politics, and that elements within the SNP’s rival parties are content for this perception to grow is absolutely without dispute.
Of course, the Tory Party in Scotland has always been quite open about playing on its unionist and orange credentials …
But the creation of this toxic myth that Glasgow now has “no go areas” for Protestants is one of the most deplorable uses of the sectarian card that I have ever witnessed in a long, long, long time, and Ralston, whether he knows it or not, is playing right into the promotion of that dark idea.
This is so far above his head that it’s a wonder he isn’t choking on it.
Let’s take a couple of moments to examine the article in all its stupidity. And we have to start with the first line which is a perfect example of atrocious writing from somebody who clearly hasn’t yet mastered the art of putting together coherent sentences.
“There is a grubby democracy at the heart of Glasgow politics that blights its ambition to become a mecca of sporting excellence.”
I like to think I’m a fairly intelligent person, but I’ve read that line a half a dozen times and I still don’t know what it means.
It’s waffle. It’s nonsense.
Frankly, I cannot believe that an editor read that line and allowed it to go into a major publication, even one with standards as low as The Record. Honestly, it’s not even an acceptable effort for a first year journalism student.
You’d lose marks on a High School English test if you turned that in.
“How can SNP council leader Susan Aitken promote the country’s biggest city as a centre of sport when she has a major issue with one of its major football institutions? What other conclusion can be drawn after revelations of her cack-handed attempt to smear Labour rival Frank McAveety?”
How about the conclusion that she was having a joke, in a private chat, with other members of her team?
Which is the explanation she’s offered and one that seems reasonably easy to believe.
You have to be looking to be offended to take that any other way.
And how do you get from trying to smear Frank McAveety to the idea that she has a “major issue” with the Ibrox club?
Actually, the Ibrox club has a major issue with her, as its shareholders and directors have made clear … but that’s not the same thing, is it?
“It’s fair to conclude he didn’t burst into a chorus of Follow Follow but McAveety knows how his city works and has won a reputation over many decades as an honest broker in his dealings with both clubs.”
It’s not all he has a reputation for, but I’ve gone into that already.
“His attendance at Ibrox was no more extraordinary than a local councillor, MSP or MP accepting an invite to Parkhead, Pittodrie or Penicuik Athletic to maintain courteous relationships.”
It’s not unusual at all, but these visits aren’t about maintaining “courteous relationships” or any of that nonsense, as Ralston should be, but perhaps isn’t, aware; they are networking events. Usually with a three course meal and a free bar thrown in for good measure.
Which is why they’re popular.
Which is why a die-hard Celtic fan is happy to show up at Ibrox on a day when our own club isn’t playing there.
“The fact a group of city councillors set up a closed social media discussion group, with all the transparency of a brick wall, is bad enough.”
He’s really going to have to explain that one.
He appears to be in complete ignorance of how politics works in any environment, even in traditional workplaces.
Closed social media discussion groups are ten a penny, across the spectrum, in every field and in every business.
School kids do this, for God’s sake.
I have about ten different “closed group” chats on Facebook alone, including one for my family, one for the admins of the CelticBlog page and another two for mates of mine so we can plan what days we’re meeting in the pub.
And yes, they have become a frequently used tool in the political sphere.
Campaigns are run on them; during the Tory leadership election in 2016 each of the competing campaigns had their own closed circle. Networking takes place on them. They are the technological equivalent of caucus meetings.
There is nothing whatsoever either unusual or controversial about this.
Somewhere, on a Scottish sports media WhatsApp group right now, his own colleagues are calling him a tit for trying to make a big deal out of this.
“Aitken’s lack of discipline and political nous and the vibe of recklessness she has given off in her dealings with Rangers – like Celtic, a major employer in the city – discredits her office.”
Now, before I even start, I tidied that paragraph up because the guy who’s lecturing people on standards at work initially spelled her name Atkins and, shock horror, the Record’s blinding editorial team let that one through as well.
For someone without the slightest knowledge, or understanding, of the political arena to question the “political nous” of someone who’s been in that arena and served as an elected official for the past seven years is kind of breathtaking.
This “lack of discipline” refers, as I’ve said already, to an off-cuff remark in a private communication chain.
It’s not like she – to use one example – made highly inappropriate remarks about a teenager into an open microphone or anything like that, is it?
“Aitken and McDonald have never given a convincing response to claims they intervened in the application at a meeting on August 1, outside of due process for a quasi-judicial hearing.”
Actually, they did.
It’s just that the moon-howlers on Follow Follow and elsewhere didn’t accept that explanation, seeing conspiracies everywhere, and The Record itself, which “broke the story” didn’t want to let go of a perfectly good stick that they could beat the council leadership with.
“Aitken was reported to the commissioner for ethical standards by Glasgow MSP Adam Tomkins for that one and McAveety has also gone to the door of the watchdog in light of her latest blunder.”
You mean this guy? That Adam Tomkins?
“The SNP have dismissed her Facebook post about McAveety as a “joke” but Kevin Bridges will hardly be rushing to pick up on her one liners.”
No, the real joke is Ralston and his paper raking through muck and, whether they know it or not, playing the sectarian card with gusto.
Ralston says Aitken should “consider her position”.
Well I think it’s high time he considered his, because he’s either been done up like a kipper here or is willing stoking tensions in a city where that’s the last thing it needs.
He should be ashamed, but I already know he has no shame.