Elizabeth Smith MSP wishes to sit this one out

Posted by Tim Ireland at March 13, 2009

Category: Old Media, Tories! Tories! Tories!

This entry was posted on
Friday, March 13th, 2009
4:14 pm and is filed
under Old Media, Tories! Tories! Tories!.

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.


  1. Pete Connolly says

    Good work Tim. This really is sloppy, lazy, opportunistic exploitation from Murray and Lambie. A pathetic excuse for a 'story' that anyone with some google practice could produce, were they bereft of human compassion and understanding. It smacks of desperation on behalf on Express Newspapers to produce a story – any story – that might get eyeballs on their product.Methinks Elisabeth Smith needs to get on the (morally) right side. She doesn't need the good favour of the Express in this dispute more than she needs to be seen to be doing the decent thing.

  2. Sim-O says

    She said what?!Elisabeth Smith either gutless, doesn't give a toss or the Express has something on her.Aren't politicians supposed care about what they say being taken out of context?

  3. Manic says

    Pete Connolly: Cheers, fella. Duplicate comment removed, BTW. That's my glitch, not yours. Don't sweat it."She doesn't need the good favour of the Express in this dispute more than she needs to be seen to be doing the decent thing."That said, think about all the nasty shit Iain Dale and Paul Staines have said and published about me because I've criticised the way they mistreat (certain) people and cheat their readers. The people who hear that noise are kept well away from the reason they make it, too.I don't want to assume to worst of Lambie – or Smith, for that matter – but it would be foolish to think Derek Lambie a saint if he considered the Dunblane article not only fit for publication but worthy of a front page (plus, I really don't see how anyone could have enjoyed a long career serving under rogue proprieter and pornographer Richard Desmond without denting an ethic or two)… and he's in a good position to withhold publicity from an MSP or – to put it delicately – accentuate the negative from time to time.Sim-O: See above, and let us see what Sunday brings:https://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/03/its_…The agreement Smith speaks off could include a lovely apology on Sunday, plus a free puppy for everybody whose feelings were hurt by Murray's article.

  4. Sim-O says

    Maybe I'm expecting too much of a politician to stand up for people that have done nothing specifically wrong, and yet are being demonised by the press and also having a quote mis-used like that.But as you say, lets see what happens on sunday.

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