We were intrigued by a piece we read on the Sunday Mail’s website today. It centred on last Thursday’s session of First Minister’s Questions, when Labour MSP Michael McMahon used (rather improperly) a constituency question to make a political attack on Alex Salmond. The FM slapped the question down, angrily noting that McMahon’s allegation about Salmond calling HMRC on behalf of Sir David Murray with regard to Rangers was categorically untrue, and later issuing a statement pointing out that his only call to HMRC came eight months AFTER Murray sold the club to Craig Whyte.
In the Mail’s story McMahon’s subsequent posture was full of bravado, insisting that he wasn’t about to apologise. “I stand by my comments and Alex Salmond knows they are true, as his response showed how much the truth gets under his skin”, he retorted, but what he said next demonstrated an admirably bold and inventive redefinition of the term “standing by my comments”. See if you can spot the difference.
FIRST MINISTER’S QUESTIONS VERSION:
“The First Minister was quick to call HMRC for his friend Sir David Murray“
“I STAND BY MY COMMENTS” VERSION:
“The First Minister has shown in the past that he is happy to come running to the aid of his bigwig friends when they are in trouble. For example, the way he tried to pressurise HMRC to apply special treatment in the wake of the damage caused to Rangers by his pal Sir David Murray.”
Keen students of the English language may have spotted a subtle alteration there. In the first version, Salmond was allegedly trying to use his influence for the benefit of Sir David Murray personally, on account of their supposed close friendship. In the second, the First Minister was allegedly trying to assist Rangers Football Club, owned by Craig Whyte, to recover from damage CAUSED BY Sir David Murray.
(This would presumably imply that Salmond was also a friend of Craig Whyte, an assertion which must be sailing fairly close to defamation in the current climate. And since Murray has repeatedly publicly claimed that both he and Rangers were “duped by” Whyte, it’s rather stretching the bounds of plausibility to imagine that Salmond could have been helping Whyte at Murray’s behest or on his behalf.)
Wings Over Scotland would like to applaud Michael McMahon for his bold and courageous refusal to back down on this issue, and that furthermore we’re standing by those comments when we point out that in fact he’s a contemptible liar who even lies about his lies in an impressive illustration of the fine art of meta-lying, in order to cover up what was in reality a weasel-worded and entirely craven retraction of them. And you can, or possibly can’t, quote us on that.
The story is even more interesting than we thought, because after we initially published it an eagle-eyed viewer dropped us a line to tell us he was sure that the paragraphs containing McMahon’s “defence” of his comments hadn’t been present when the story was originally published on the Daily Record site on the Thursday, but had apparently been added later without any acknowledgement of the fact.
We had a wee rummage around the internet to see if we could find any evidence for that claim, and sure enough we turned up this piece in the Record’s sister paper the Dumfries & Galloway Standard, which is identical except for the last five paragraphs, where McMahon performs his reverse-ferret. Perhaps the member for Uddingston & Bellshill would have been better advised to, in the words of the old maxim, keep his mouth shut and been thought a fool rather than open it and remove all doubt.