For a while, before, during and after the General Election of 1997, I was a volunteer at Scottish Labour HQ as the party first prepared for, and then entered, government. I learned a lot, particularly from the guys who worked in the media teams, partly on rebuttal and on correcting the record as it appeared at that time in the mainstream press.
It was there I learned how easily those in power, or soon to have it, can bend the media to their will. I also saw how the media plays favourites and picks sides in a way I had never appreciated before.
I saw how easily a negative story could be removed from the national discourse, after a little pressure was applied to the right people. I’ve never forgotten that, witnessing McLeish and others (Jack McConnell was Scottish General Secretary at the time and was always around) working the phones and hammering those on the other end for anything they even perceived as being wrong or biased or just something they didn’t particularly like.
Years later, when I first heard the term “succulent lamb journalism” I knew what it meant without needing to wait for the big explanation.
The phrase may have originated with Jim Traynor’s notorious sucking-up to David Murray but I knew how it all worked before that. I am not in the least bit surprised by anything I find out about the press and its cosy relationships with certain instructions and individuals.
But the press isn’t supposed to tolerate being lied to.
Even the Daily Mail and the Telegraph get pissed off when Boris Johnson makes a mug of them. This is why I am surprised that the press doesn’t get more pissed off about the way Ibrox leads them a merry dance.
You don’t have to look much further for an example of that than with Joe Aribo as he enters into the last year of his contract.
For a long time now the media has been punting the idea that he would cost potential suitors in excess of £20 million … this is clearly a figure fed to them by those inside the walls of that club. And it might have been revealed to be a lie.
Because now the press is talking about a £10 million release clause in his contract.
That’s clearly a strategic leak to the media itself, advertising his availability to any club that might have previously been scared off by the lunatic fees all involved were promoting.
If the £10 million clause exists, then the press was lied to all this time or went along with the lie. If it doesn’t exist they are being lied to right now, or helping prop a lie up. The objective is the same either way; to lead the Ibrox fans up the garden path and convince them that they are on the verge of great riches even when this is not the case.
But now, with the clock ticking down, the crazy valuations are one by one being dumped overboard as the reality of their position becomes clear.
They need to get rid of these soon-to-be out of contract players, and they have to do it before this window shuts … and having spent years telling their fans that they would get megabucks for them the reckoning has arrived.
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