For the benefit of newcomers, I’ve timelined this one… watch as Elizabeth Smith is seen to attack survivors of the Dunblane massacre, before standing up for them… and then sitting down again:
Sunday 8 March
Elizabeth Smith MSP is quoted in an article by Paula Murray about survivors of the Dunblane massacre:
MSP Elizabeth Smith, Scottish Tory spokeswoman for children, schools and skills, said: “I have to say personally I’m not happy. Some of the things that go up on these websites are very unfortunate and I don’t think they give a very good picture about the youngsters. Some of them are in great bad taste and I am quite worried about that. I feel embarrassed about it and I’m sure other people do too. In some cases the people are still really young and you can’t really expect them to have a sense of responsibility. I’m sure that when they look back at what they have done in 10 years time they will be cringing with embarrassment.” (archive of source)
Monday 9 March
In response to widespread outcry from “mass bloggers”, Smith issues the following statement to ‘Catkins’, a comment-contributor to Anton Vowl’s weblog:
“My comments were not made in the context of Dunblane. The journalist did not ask me anything about Dunblane nor did I comment on it or on any individual involved. It would be quite wrong for me to do so. I have made comments recently to several newspapers about the issues related to young people using internet sites and the inappropriate use of that material. It is in relation to these views that I was approached and I can assure you there were no references to Dunblane. What the Sunday Express chooses to print as the context is a matter for the relevant editor.” – Elizabeth Smith (source)
Wednesday 11 March
Your humble author (and notorious “mass blogger”) chases Elizabeth Smith with a polite email, and asks specifically if she is claiming that her interview was conducted with no mention of Dunblane or any of the survivors. She replies:
“May I give you a categorical assurance that, in her press enquiry to me, Ms Murray did not mention any names of the individuals involved in Dunblane and may I also repeat the fact that the journalist did not ask me anything about Dunblane nor did I comment on it or on any individual involved.” – Elizabeth Smith (via email)
Various writers and editors at Express Newspapers are notified of this, and asked for a response. A number of ‘read’ receipts arrive, but the only reply that day comes from Daily Express editor Peter Hill, who dismisses it as somebody else’s problem, especially now that the article has been removed from the (shared) website at express.co.uk
Thursday 12 March
A report about Smith’s claim is published on Bloggerheads in the wee small hours. Later that morning, a response from Express Newspapers finally arrives via Derek Lambie, editor of the Scottish Sunday Express, who claims to have a transcript and recording of the Smith/Murray interview, and (eventually, when prompted) disputes Smith’s claim:
“Liz is on tape speaking about this. We have full transcript. I hope the personal attacks on paula murray will cease or further action will be taken.” – Derek Lambie (more)
[“I note that in your email you don’t dispute Elizabeth Smith’s claim… Do you dispute Elizabeth Smith’s claim?” – Tim Ireland (more)
“Dispute that and as I say it is on record. This should be the end of the matter.” – Derek Lambie (more)
A request for an extract from the transcript is ignored. Twice. Needless to say, no recording is produced or offered, either.
[Psst! Lambie rather hopefully (and a bit snippily) declaring the entire issue to be closed on the basis of what he claims about a single aspect is quite possibly my favourite thing ever. Include the ‘no comment’ card, the ‘abuse’/victim card and the non-specific-threat wild-card, and it’s identical to the hand Paul Staines has played for everything from his 1986 adventure with the BNP to his mysterious encounter with bankruptcy. See? I keep telling you he’s got Teh Skillz.]
Meanwhile, the PCC are in touch and wanting to know if Elizabeth Smith wishes to proceed with a complaint about this aspect of Paula Murray’s Dunblane article. I relay the question to Smith.
Friday 13 March
Elizabeth Smith contacts me via email with the following message:
“Thank you for your enquiry yesterday. A satisfactory resolution has now been reached between myself and the [Scottish] Sunday Express and, as a result of that, I have no further comment to make.” Elizabeth Smith (via email)
Your humble author (and notorious “mass blogger”) responds and asks quite specifically if she will be withdrawing her earlier claim. She responds:
“I have made it clear that I am not prepared to make any further comment on this matter. I am very satisfied with what has been agreed with the Editor of the [Scottish] Sunday Express.” Elizabeth Smith (via email)
1. The editor of the Scottish Sunday Express is Derek Lambie, who appears to enjoy conducting the bulk of his public-facing affairs in a most secret fashion. I sense, at the very least, the sweet tang of hypocrisy from this tabloid editor that could lead to some conflict between us.
2. The following is the official current position of Elizabeth Smith, Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament for Mid Scotland and Fife on the subject of a petty and needless media attack on survivors of the Dunblane massacre in which she appeared to take part:
“______________________________________________________________________.” – Elizabeth Smith, MSP
Elizabeth is the education spokesperson for the Scottish Conservative Party, and was once a teacher. Her experience in dealing with vulnerable young people speaks volumes… but I guess it has to when she won’t say anything herself.
(Note – So far, no-one from Express Newspapers has been in touch to demand that I remove/quantify Smith’s claims. Email correspondence with advertisers will continue shortly.)
UPDATE (6pm) – Entry corrected. Derek Lambie is editor of the Scottish Sunday Express, and the man Smith is referring to. My bad. Typing in waiting room. Muzak numbs mind.