Iain Dale reports today of an attempt by persons unknown to persuade him to write an entirely false posting about the imminent defection of a Labour MP to the SNP. To his credit, Iain checked out the story and, inevitably, it didn’t stand up. Less to his credit, he makes the assumption that this is an attempt by left wing bloggers to smear and discredit right-of-centre bloggers. Unfortunately, this is a theory that has been enthusiastically embraced by those commenting on the post.
But I can shed some light on this, because it is eerily reminiscent of a similar attempt to smear the Labour Party 18 months ago, when Paul Hutcheon, political editor of The Sunday Herald, wrote a front page splash announcing – guess what? – the imminent defection by a Labour MP to the SNP. No evidence was offered by Hutcheon to substantiate the story and he was unable to stand the story up. That didn’t prevent the editor splashing the non-story all over the front page, generating acres of speculation and suspicion (as was presumably the intention), not least in the Scottish blogosphere.
Inevitably, no defection occurred. Equally inevitably, neither Hutcheon nor The Sunday Herald offered any form of correction or apology. And as is the way with Scottish politics, Hutcheon was subsequently honoured as Scottish Political Journalist of the Year.
Someone did try to play you for a fool, Iain. But that “someone” is almost certainly not a Labour supporter; far more likely he is a Scottish nationalist hoping to gain advantage for his party in the Glasgow East by-election. And what does it tell you when a Tory blogger carries out more checks on a story in order to maintain his own credibility than does a full-time journalist for a Scottish Sunday newspaper?