Friday, January 8, 2021

Check your attic for this key Question Time footage

In the unlikely event that there is a Plan B enthusiast out there with a complete collection of Question Time episodes from the last thirty years, here's what you need to seek out.  I am fairly sure (like 95%+ sure) that there was an episode in the mid-to-late 1990s in which Donald Dewar was on the panel and a very youthful Nicola Sturgeon was in the audience.  She was already reasonably well known in Scotland by then, but of course it's not unusual for a Question Time audience to be stuffed with political activists.  She was called to speak, and she challenged Dewar on something Tony Blair had said - he'd suggested (gasp) that a referendum might be required for Scotland to become an independent country, because in his view the SNP winning a majority of Scottish MPs at Westminster wouldn't be sufficient.  

Ms Sturgeon was incensed that Blair had ripped up a decades-long consensus on the means by which Scotland could legitimately express a desire to become independent, but Dewar stood his ground - he pointed out that it was possible/likely that if the SNP ever won a majority of seats, they would do so on a minority of the vote, and that couldn't possibly be a mandate for independence.

Essentially Dewar was making a lot of the points Ms Sturgeon now makes about the nature of a 'legitimate' indy mandate, and yet Ms Sturgeon emphatically rejected them at the time and branded them a democratic outrage.  She was adamant that the truly legitimate path to independence was one that didn't even involve a referendum at all.  

Given the circumstances, that might be a rather useful piece of footage to have, although it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  The only people who may have a realistic chance of tracking it down would be BBC employees with access to 'BBC Redux' - a sort of on-demand digital archive of all BBC programmes going back many years.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

I'm warning you, if you say "Jehovah" once more, or "England" to a former leader of the Liberal Democrats...

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

A small, cowardly man pursuing a bitter personal vendetta: Stuart Campbell's late night legal threats against me

As I pointed out a few hours ago, it's fairly likely that Stuart Campbell broke some law or other yesterday by sending me an unsolicited, highly abusive email, calling me a "wretched little c**t" and a "pathetic, snivelling coward".  

This was not part of some ongoing correspondence - it was a bolt from the blue, and the first email I had received from him for nine years.  However, I made clear that I did not intend to pursue the matter.  Since then, I have had to wade through a sea of drivel from his apologists: "Grow up, James!  You must have led a sheltered life, James!  You're so bitter and twisted, James!  You could have just sworn back at him, James!  Be a man, James!"

Well, I now expect to hear no more of that nonsense ever again, because I have just received a lengthy email dripping with menace from his legal representative (a man who I had previously assumed to be a friend) implying that action may be taken by Campbell against me.  Why?  Because he doesn't like a comment that was posted on this blog by Douglas Clark, and rather than do what normal people would do and just post a response (it's not as if the guy doesn't have a platform) he wants to censor it out of existence, and if I refuse to censor it out of existence he wants to get revenge.  Not against the person who actually expressed the views, but against me, who did not.  Don't anyone ever tell me that this isn't a small, cowardly man pursuing a nasty, bitter personal vendetta.  Until I get some sleep, the only action I intend to take is to post the entire correspondence so far and allow people to make their own minds up.  The only part I'll leave out is the quote of Douglas Clark's comment - ironically if I include that Campbell will probably claim it as "defamation".

To be abundantly clear, Campbell and his friends have been peddling a number of falsehoods today to prepare the groundwork for this stunt.  They have suggested that my statement that I had turned on pre-moderation of comments amounted to an "admission" that I had "actively passed" Douglas Clark's comment.  That is categorically untrue.  It was auto-published *before* I turned pre-moderation on.  They have claimed that Campbell asked me to delete the comment.  As far as I can see, he did not - he sent me an abusive email, but he didn't bother to explain what he was actually angry about or ask me to take any specific action.  Pretty much the only thing he did was call me a "c**t".  Therefore the claim that I "refused" to censor Douglas Clark's comment is also patently untrue.

David Halliday:

Hi James. I wanted to let you know that I am just about to send an email to you from my work account and to explain that the reason for sending it so late in the day is the urgency to things. I didn't want to send it without prior comment or letting you know it's on its way - you'll understand when you see it, I hope and I hope too that we'll be able to get the issue raised resolved.


OK, no problem, I'll look out for it.

David Halliday: 

Dear James, 

I think you know that I act for Stuart Campbell. Stuart has asked me for advice about the btl comment posted on your site by “douglas clark” on 4 January at 6.28 am. I attach a screenshot. The concern is particularly about the following section:


This section repeats more or less exactly a false allegation made some time ago by Ewan McColm (sic) in a Scotsman article. It is entirely untrue that Stuart has ever said, or believes, that the victims at Hillsborough were to blame for their deaths. That would clearly be an absurd proposition. Claiming that someone believes it is equally absurd. It is also defamatory. What Stuart believes is that other Liverpool fans were among those responsible for the tragedy. When the McColm article was written, I raised defamation proceedings on behalf of Stuart against the Scotsman and we were, fairly swiftly, able to negotiate a five figure settlement with them. Having been forced to go to that trouble Stuart is not going to let others repeat the absurd, defamatory falsehood with impunity. The following is an extract from the letter I wrote to Johnston Press at the time and I’m hoping it’s a useful summary:

“We have been consulted by Stuart Campbell in relation to material published by you at page 6 of today’s issue of “The Scotsman” newspaper and at the url 

There, you say of our client: 

“The claim about Ms Lally first appeared on the Wings Over Scotland website, run by former journalist Stuart Campbell, who has built a following among nationalist campaigners but caused outrage for his views, which include blaming the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster for the crush that killed them. … 

The civil wrong of defamation is committed by the communication of a false statement or idea which is defamatory of a person. A statement will be defamatory if, amongst other things, it makes harmful imputations against that person’s character or reputation, or exposes that person to public ridicule, hatred or contempt. Imputations against a person’s moral character or an allegation of behaviour or conduct generally or usually regarded as dishonourable will be defamatory. 

The Hillsborough disaster of 1989 was one of the world’s greatest ever sporting catastrophes. 96 people died and hundreds were injured. At the time, the disaster prompted expressions of horror at what had befallen its victims, and of sympathy for their families and the survivors, from people throughout the world. Decades on, the anniversary of the disaster is still commemorated throughout the country. Public inquiries have been held into the cause of the disaster and the plight of the families of the victims is regularly and sympathetically reported by the media. In short, the Hillsborough disaster was and remains an event of national and international significance and the victims and their families are the object of immense public sympathy and support. 

Against that background, it is difficult to imagine of a more egregiously defamatory imputation against a person than to say that he holds or has held the view that the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster were to blame for their own deaths. No right-thinking, ordinary, reasonable, decent person could conceivably hold such a preposterously inaccurate and ridiculously offensive view. Your own words confirm that you accept as much: you say that the views which you claim our client held “caused outrage”. Such views would undoubtedly cause outrage. By claiming that our client holds them, you have exposed him to just such outrage. 

What you say of our client is, however, simply and entirely untrue. He has never held or expressed the view ascribed to him. There can simply have been no possible grounds on which to assert, in any kind of good faith attempt at accurate reporting, that he has because in fact he has repeatedly and in very trenchant terms expressed the clearly and unequivocally opposite view: the victims were entirely blameless for the crush which killed them because that crush was caused by other people. Your conflation of the dead victims with these other people may or may not have been wilful. At the very least it was recklessly and irresponsibly inaccurate. To suggest that our client believes the contrary is not simply to suggest that he holds views which would be incalculably offensive to overwhelming public sentiment and mood. It is to ignore and deny the reality of the views that he has actually expressed and, moreover, expressed in a form which rendered them readily accessible to, and retrievable by, anyone interested in accurate and honest reporting as opposed to, say, advancing a political cause by smear.” 

I understand that you are able to delete the comment and that Stuart has asked you to do so but that you have refused. I am hoping that this message will let you understand that, and why, Stuart feels so strongly about the allegation and that you will decide to delete the comment forthwith. You’ll probably be aware of this already but my view would be that once the defamatory nature of a btl comment is brought to the attention of a blog publisher then that publisher risks himself being liable to the person defamed if he or she refuses to remove it. As I say, the purpose of this message is very much to explain things to you in the hope that you will decide to delete the comment and I’d be grateful if you would let me know once you’ve done that. 


Yours sincerely, 

David Halliday


I am absolutely astonished at the email you've just sent me, David. Before I do anything else I'm going to let my readers know what is happening - in the context that your client sent me an email calling me a "c**t" only yesterday, this is frankly outrageous. No, I had absolutely no idea that you act for that man - how and why would I have known that? You've always been friendly towards me in the past, so the last thing I expected was a threatening email from you.

David Halliday:

Me acting for Stuart in the action against Kezia Dugdale is a matter of public record. The email really wasn't intended as threatening (and I don't think it reads a such). It was intended as an effort to getting an easy and quick resolution to things. I'll leave you to deal with things as you see fit though of course. 


Whether it was a matter of public record or not, it was something I was totally unaware of, and I've no idea why you'd expect me to know that. There is an implied assumption at the end of your email that I will take a certain action - that seems to me to contain an air of menace. If that's not the case, I can therefore assume that no action will be taken if I uphold free speech and do not delete Douglas Clark's reply? I look forward to your confirmation. 

David Halliday: 

OK - I just thought you might know and didn't want to presume you didn't. The assumption behind the message was that, once you knew the comment is false and defamatory, and what the background to things is, you'd delete it. I didn't - and to be fair still don't - see why you wouldn't. I just asked you to confirm once you'd done so so that I didn't need to keep checking to see if you had. If you don't then you'll understand that Stuart will decide what he wants to do, not me. I'm acting for Stuart so can't claim to be an honest broker but I did genuinely hope that my message might diffuse things. I'm sorry if it's not had that effect but, as I say, the background and history of this specific allegation is such that Stuart feels very strongly about it and I'd hoped that my message would explain why, in a useful way that might take the heat out of things. 


There are two inaccuracies in your email that I think should be addressed - your client has not at any point (as far as I can see) directly asked me to censor the comment, and I therefore did not "refuse" to do so. Would you acknowledge that, please? Would you also acknowledge that he has been falsely claiming today that I "actively passed" the comment through moderation, and indeed falsely claiming that I "admitted" doing so? Thanks in advance. 

David Halliday: 

I will certainly pass that on, yes, see what Stuart says and get back to you. I should maybe say that I have not been following the exchanges between you so don't know what either of you have said about the other beyond what's said in your post to which the comment was appended. In return, can I ask that you think about whether you'd be prepared to delete the post now you know of its falsity and you can maybe let me know what you've decided to do if you've reached a conclusion when I get back to you (probably tomorrow now, I'd imagine). I can't see that anyone is morally obliged to advance the cause of free speech by providing others with a platform to spread defamatory untruths. I quite appreciate it was on a much smaller scale than your site, and that you're entitled to take a different tack, but during the referendum I single-handedly ran a Facebook page and an associated blog and I was forever telling people (friend and foe) that I owed them no obligation to them to provide them with a forum to defame others. 


"Now I know of its falsity"? What? I have no idea whether it's false or not - all I know is your personal opinion of it. For now, my main priority is making people aware of what is going on. This is a man who sent me an unsolicited email yesterday calling me a "wretched little c**t" - if there should be legal threats flying around, I think you and I both know they're flying in the wrong direction. Why don't you take this up with Douglas Clark, given that he actually expressed the views that Campbell simply can't bear? Rather than me, who did not express those views? Well, we both know that too. This is a nasty, bitter personal vendetta.

*  *  *

UPDATE: I'm grateful to Douglas Clark for emailing to let me know that he's deleted the comment himself, so the above threats are now academic.  Make no mistake, this was never about protecting Campbell's reputation (to the extent that he had any reputation left to protect) - the idea that a single sentence in a reader's comment on a blogpost was in any way equivalent to an article in the Scotsman newspaper is risible.  It was never any threat to him, and if it really bothered him that much, he had a highly privileged platform with which he could have countered Mr Clark's claims.  Indeed, he could have done so in a comment here if he had wished - but, predictably, he blew that chance by launching foul-mouthed personal abuse at Mr Clark in the reply he attempted to submit.

Nope, this wasn't about Hillsborough, or about defamation - this was purely and simply a stunt to attempt to humiliate me by getting me to dance to his tune.  That stunt failed, as it thoroughly deserved to.  I have taken no action at all.  Please note for future reference, Stuart - the moderation policy on this blog is a matter for me and not for you.  Rather than getting solicitors to send me threats late at night, a better channel for your energies will be addressing the frequently grotesque state of the comments section at Wings Over Scotland.

Monday, January 4, 2021

An embarrassment to the Yes movement

In what technically counts as Stuart Campbell's 679th article about me, he complained today about an unnamed blogger who had supposedly made a "completely gratuitous and unprovoked personal attack" on him.  I was slightly bemused to follow the link and discover that he was still going on about me calling his views on Nicola Sturgeon "comical".  I must say that for a man who routinely calls people "c**ts", he has an insanely low threshold for what constitutes "personal abuse" in the opposite direction.

Just to further demonstrate what might be charitably described as a monumental double-standard and/or failure of self-awareness, I received the following email from him this afternoon.

From: Reverend Stuart Campbell
To: James Kelly
Date: 4 Jan 2021, 16:58

Subject-line: You pathetic, snivelling coward

Text: So you're happy to let people defame me with lies but I don't get to reply? What a wretched little c**t you are.

It's been pointed out to me that a highly abusive, unsolicited email of this type is almost certainly against the law in some way, so he should count himself lucky that I'm not going to pursue it.  This episode is revealing in more than one way, though, because it also speaks to Stuart's narcissism.  What he appears to be angry about is the fact that I've switched on pre-moderation for comments.  He just assumed that was about him, in the same way he assumes that everything is about him - but it wasn't.  As regular readers know all too well, the comments section of this blog has been plagued by a hardcore troll called "Poppy", and for months now I've been switching pre-moderation on when he's around, and back off again when he disappears for a while.  He turned up this morning after a gap of a few days, so I switched pre-moderation on.

Incredible though it may seem, there are some things that happen in this world without being a conspiracy against the Reverend Stuart Campbell.

*  *  *

UPDATE: Just a quick reply to some of the points that have been made on social media.  First of all, yes I'm sure the abusive email genuinely came from Stuart.  I was able to check, because he had previously sent me an email in 2012, and it came from the same address.  

Obviously Stuart's diehard supporters will always give him a free pass no matter how outrageous his behaviour becomes, so I'm not going to worry too much about them.  What troubles me far more, though, are the people who say "James, you and Stuart are both valuable to the Yes movement and this silly squabble needs to stop, we need to bash your two silly heads together".  I would just ask those people to take a step back and consider how they'd feel if they received the email that I received from Stuart.  Or how they'd feel if a close friend or family member received it.  Would they really regard it as just silly knockabout stuff?  Just part of a silly squabble?

Or would they not, in fact, regard it as totally unacceptable behaviour?  Because, frankly, that was my reaction, and the reaction of the people I showed the email to.  I'm not sure about anyone else, but I am not accustomed to receiving emails out of the blue calling me a "wretched little c**t" or a "pathetic snivelling coward", and the day I do become accustomed to that or start to regard it as normal, something will have gone very badly wrong.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

New article, and Somerset stalker update

First of all, I've written today's National Extra piece on the subject of Boris Johnson's suggestion that Scotland won't be allowed a say on its own future for another thirty-four years.  You can read it HERE.  

Secondly, I regret I have to report that my long-term stalker from Somerset has written yet another article about me on his website.  This is at least the 678th time it's happened, and as usual he's howling in barely coherent rage.  Yes, I'm weirded out by his creepy obsession, but I can't deny I do feel slightly sorry for the guy as well.

(For those who don't understand the concepts of irony and sarcasm, I'll explain the above paragraph when I have eight months to spare.)

The trigger for Stuart's fury on this occasion was something I tweeted yesterday - 

"Stuart Campbell's earnest belief that he can get rid of the wildly popular Nicola Sturgeon in the next four months is bordering on comical."

He then set about trying to 'disprove' the premise of my tweet in a really rather odd and counter-productive manner.

"So, for the historical record: I have no belief whatsoever, earnest or otherwise, that I can get rid of Nicola Sturgeon in the next four months.

I’m an idiot..."

No comment.

"...with a website."

This is indisputably true.

"I have no power."

Agreed - hence the word 'comical'.

"This site has for some time called for Sturgeon to resign because it is our belief that she’s going to have to anyway."

So to sum up - you're putting pressure on her to go and actually think she will go, and yet you think that's somehow different from having an earnest belief that you're going to get rid of her.  Well, all I can say is that I admire the exhibition of advanced hair-splitting, but it doesn't change my assessment that it's all rather comical.  Nicola Sturgeon has reached almost unprecedented levels of popularity in public polling, and has taken the independence movement to sustained majority support for the first time ever.  The notion that she's on the brink of being deposed is fanciful in the extreme, and can only really be explained by heavy-duty wishful thinking on the part of people who are blinded with rage towards her.

The rest of the article is an extended, unhinged and utterly unconvincing waffle about the reasons Ms Sturgeon will supposedly no longer be SNP leader in four months' time, which culminates in quite possibly the most bonkers sentence Stuart has ever written in his life - 

"And let’s be clear: the only thing the Unionists fear is Sturgeon going in the next few weeks."

The terrifying thing is that he probably believes that to be true, even though anyone who hasn't lost the plot can see that it's self-evidently the polar opposite of the truth.  Whatever anyone may think of Nicola Sturgeon, she's plainly one of the finest political communicators in the entire English-speaking world, and her opponents would think it was Christmas all over again if they were suddenly facing someone less formidable.

"they’ll celebrate the near-certain avoidance of an SNP/indy majority, aided by the idiotic “both votes SNP” argument (ironically promoted by James Kelly) that ensures hundreds of thousands of pro-indy votes are wasted"

Oh dear.  Don't tell me I'm going to have to remind Stuart yet again of his splendid "both votes SNP" article from the run-up to the 2016 election in which he sagely explained to readers why attempts to game the electoral system were "a mug's game".  You know what?  Some of us understand that the way an electoral system works doesn't magically change just because our feelings towards it change.  Electoral systems are stubborn in that way.

"Information to which I’m privy would get me put in jail if I published it"

Here's the irony of this situation: I'm fairly sure I'm also privy to at least some of the information Stuart is referring to, and it leads me to have great concerns about the events that led up to Alex Salmond being put on trial.  I'm on record as saying that if Mr Salmond were to set up his own party, I would probably support it, which would put Stuart and I on the same side.  But being a supporter of Mr Salmond doesn't preclude me from having a sense of realism about Nicola Sturgeon and the vital role she will have to play if Scotland is to become independent any time soon.