I was surprised this week that Tony Blair's former director of communications, Alastair Campbell, was on the airwaves in Scotland delivering a coruscating attack on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Much of the criticism seemed to centre around Mr Campbell's view of Boris Johnson's background and education. His time at Eton had given him a sense of entitlement that made him impervious to criticism. That, apparently, helped explain his attitude towards the alleged Christmas parties held in Downing Street at the height of the Covid pandemic almost a year ago.
Mr Campbell is hardly the best person to be offering criticism of this kind. He was very much involved in in giving Mr Blair advice on how the conduct of the Iraq War should be portrayed. The matter caused great division in the country, particularly over the quality of intelligence advice offered. Although both Mr Blair and Mr Campbell were vindicated by various inquiries, many people remain sceptical about the integrity of both men. Did Mr Blair's education at Fettes College furbish him with an arrogance that explains his approach? I doubt it.
But Ayesha Hazarika should try to recall the public disquiet over the way the war was handled, and the lasting damage to the image of government involved.
For the sake of the reputation of government and the feelings of all those affected by the Covid pandemic, I hope the inquiry into the party reports quickly. Whatever its outcome, we should remember that it is not the first time the probity of a Prime Minister and his advisers has been called into question.
Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife
J ohnson’s failings
Too often Boris Johnson of “own-goal” fame tries to laugh things off, leaving a trail of doubt and suspicion, then distrust and condemnation, and finally outright disbelief in whatever he says – about straightforward things for which there should be no doubt whatever, whether it’s the number of his offspring, who paid for his Caribbean holiday or refurbishing No 10, and latterly his “car-crashes” over MPs’ standards and (whatever full facts may emerge) an alleged Downing Street party.
His staff’s PR presentation skills, and his own, are abysmal – from Huawei to HS2 to Covid and others – and why on earth does he think photo-op visits to hospitals, schools and a police drug-busting break-in help his public image? I’m sure most of us think them a waste of his and his hosts’ time which would be better spent running proper cabinet government.
Finally, why does an apparently professional and high-flying experienced publicity officer on £125k pa require several “rehearsals” to tell us what the government has done each day?
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
So in Holyrood Nicola Sturgeon claims the alleged Downing Street Christmas party means Scotland should be independent.
What? Johnson doesn't float my boat either but you don't break up a 300-year old political, financial cultural and social union for the sake of a couple of inappropriate glasses of fizz and Christmas cracker.
Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders
The Labour Party, and the SNP, have both called for the resignation, or removal of Boris, over the Christmas party mess. Bearing in mind the damage Boris is doing to his own party, you would think they would rather he stayed.
William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian
On 9 December, The Scotsman published an excruciatingly biting editorial listing the many and varied faults of our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Among other things it mentioned that Mr Johnson had been sacked twice for dishonesty and included a comment from his former aid, Dominic Cummings who said the Prime Minister "lies so blatantly, so naturally, so regularly" that he can no longer tell the difference between that and the truth.
This part of the Scotsman appears to have passed Ken Currie by. He says only (and with touching loyalty) that the PM "needs to up his game" (Letters, 10 December). Mr Currie prefers to concentrate on a litany of criticism of Nicola Sturgeon, which, set against the background of what we are hearing daily about the actions of the PM and his staff, has made the saga of the missed meeting and other criticism levelled by Mr Currie and the thrust of his letter look more than a little quaint.
Gill Turner, Edinburgh
After 20 months of pandemic, I have had enough of a certain, deliberate linguistic inaccuracy. Preventative public health measures are not “restrictions”. They are measures designed to protect public health, a fundamental moral and legal duty of care of every decent government.
“Restrictions” is an emotive word trap. It engenders an emotional reaction to resist being restricted. It is a wholly inappropriate term to use under the current conditions.
Corneilius Crowley, London
During the pandemic there has been a high level of public compliance with control measures, not least in regard to vaccination, yet Covid continues to threaten public health partly because of an unvaccinated minority.
As a member of the compliant majority, I wonder why the Scottish Government continues to consider society-wide control measures, some of which could ruin already fragile businesses, but stops short of compulsion for those who have thus far declined vaccination? There is the associated issue of loss of confidence by the majority, whose subsequent compliance could be compromised. It’s time this nettle was grasped.
RA Wallace, Kincardine, Fife
I am sure we are all familiar with the old joke: "What is the definition of an alcoholic? One who drinks more than their doctor.”
I am now entreated to have an LFT before embarking on social occasions. All medics will be familiar with the abbreviation LFT – liver function test. It took me a while to cotton on to the current interpretation of LFT – lateral flow test.
Initially, I was touched by the altruism of family and friends who were clearly concerned about my alcohol intake during lockdown, until I realised they were more bothered about whether I was a super spreader of the dreaded virus.
So what should I do? Well, in the best interests of others and my liver, I think perhaps I should have both tests; and recommend this strategy to all doctors.
Dr SR Wild, Edinburgh
In this week’s budget, the Scottish Government, by freeing local authorities to raise their local taxes, failed to address how the ordinary citizen was to be able to afford to keep warm, whilst paying essential travel or inflated grocery prices due to the recent huge rises in gas and electricity prices.
Nothing has been done to re-instate essential fixed price contracts no longer being offered by the wealthy energy providers. People on fixed incomes and low earnings have been particularly hard hit. This is especially true when the Scottish Government’s Covid reduction plans encourage people to avoid group activities and to work from home, without considering the additional energy costs incurred.
A much greater national effort and investment drive is overdue, to reduce rapidly rising fuel poverty. This would increase general economic prosperity – not only from new measures to curb excessive profiteering by the major energy suppliers, but by changing tactics to better utilise Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas resource, using carbon capture and storage and other clean technologies where possible. Until renewable energy assets are fully developed long-term planning is needed for at least the next two decades that it will take to bring about major changes in energy use.
A total change in strategy is demanded to avoid the financial meltdown now threatening many domestic budgets from the indiscriminate local government taxation rises likely to occur on top of huge hikes in energy costs.
Elizabeth Marshall, Edinburgh
Tomorrow the Pacific Island of New Caledonia will be holding a referendum on independence from France. This is against a backdrop of a boycott by pro-independence parties who oppose holding the poll amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and risks of outbreaks of violence.
The Noumea Accord of 1998, which set out a path for potential independence, agreed three referendums to determine the future of the country. This is against the wishes of indigenous Kanaks and has drawn condemnation in neighbouring Pacific islands where sensitivities over colonisation are high.
With the two previous polls, in 2018 and 2020, resulting in a narrowing of the "No" vote from 57 per cent to 53 per cent, Sunday's vote presents the last opportunity for the "Yes" campaign to achieve a simple majority.
Pro-independence groups have however accused France of refusing to delay the vote until later in 2022, as allowed under the Accord, with the backdrop of Covid reducing the chance of a "Yes" vote.
For those in Scotland looking to hold an independence referendum, timing as highlighted here, is crucial.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh
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