4 May 2015

Jim Murphy confronts ‘the ugly face of nationalism’

At last! The election gets real, unscripted and interesting.

The ScotLab boss Jim Murphy and comedian Eddie Izzard were on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street this morning where their speeches were drowned out by loudspeakered protesters, and their plans to give interviews afterwards descended into chaos: minor scuffles and a retreat to what was, in effect, a getaway car.

So – let’s get the language right. I spoke to most of the key disrupters and asked how they should be described. They described themselves as “socialist”, “class activist”, “people of Glasgow”, “Marxist” and “nearly Marxist”.

None used the word “nationalist” until I asked about that. Then all said they were not members of the SNP – but all said they would vote SNP on Thursday.

And that is why what Jim Murphy did today is maybe one of the most effective single pieces of campaigning of the entire British election.

Because free speech was unquestionably denied on Buchanan Street today. It was ugly and it was perpetrated by people who say they will vote SNP.

Read more: Election 2015 live blog

It was undeniably intimidating to some – I saw parents herd small children away. It was aggressive but it was not violent.

You could not hear either Murphy or Izzard. That is shameful in a democratic election.

The last time Murphy spoke here protesters did allow him to get his message across, albeit with near constant heckling. This was different.

As Jim Murphy said, with protesters shouting in his face as he tried to get to his car: “This is the ugly face of nationalism.”

And that is a problem for the SNP. The disrupters said they would vote SNP, ergo they are SNP supporters (whatever else they may be).

The SNP has defended its supporters in the past. During the referendum lead-up last September, then leader Alex Salmond said of the party’s proponents: “You must allow people to express a view in a peaceful and joyous fashion. That is part of the democratic aspect of politics.”

Current leader Nicola Sturgeon spoke to Channel 4 News a few hours after the Murphy incident, as more than 2,000 people gathered in the seaside resort of Largs to see her.

She told me what happened in Glasgow today was “disgraceful” and “nothing to do with the SNP. All parties have the right to be listened to respectfully.”

Of course every mass movement attracts its ugly fringe and the party cannot be expected to police those outwith its membership.

But maybe it’s about time it got its supporters to these events and made some attempt to police an anti-democratic fringe who are – they tell me – also its supporters come Thursday.

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99 reader comments

  1. Ewan says:

    these were definitely NOT SNP members. The leader of the group admitted he had got prior notice of the event from Scottish Labour. This was staged for the camera’s benefit and has been spun out via the MSM. Utterly shameful

    1. Andrew says:

      Opps, I guess that was more SNP lies. Both have been suspended by the SNP

  2. Margaret Hart says:

    A fair blog tho not sure how the SNP can police people who aren’t actual members or even usual SNP voters. I do think not allowing Murphy to speak just plays into his and the Scottish medias hands as they like nothing more than to portray the SNP and nationalists as evil vile and abusive. Best thing to do with the likes of Murphy is treat him like Katie Hopkins and just deny him the publicity he desperately seeks. It is tiresome seeing the churnalism in Scottish media, the succulent lamb isn’t just reserved for sports journalists!

  3. Chris Cunningham says:

    The entire point of these events has been to provoke some nutter (in this case, a notorious self-publicising heckler invited by Murphy’s own staffers) into doing something that would get onto the news. The idea that this is stymying free speech when there were more hacks than onlookers (as usual) is incredibly naive.

    It took less than a week for you to have gone from seeing right through these phony rallies to be complicit in pushing Murphy’s agenda, and all it took was for the right button to be pressed: the farcical idea that four men shouting down a rally of forty paid activists + the same number of cameramen is somehow an assault on free speech.

  4. Andrew Morton says:

    Hi Alex,

    I’m a keen supporter of yours and I was thinking of going out to rob a bank next week. I suggest that you follow me around so that I can’t carry out my dastardly plan.

  5. Edward Andrews says:

    Come off it. How just do you suggest that people “police their Supporters” given that the grounds for calling them SNP supporters is that they would vote for the SNP on Thursday. Are you seriously suggesting that the SNP should steward any Labour meetings to protect them from the threat of not SNP members, but people who might just be going to vote SNP? DO you really think that suggestion has any traction? Did anyone think of a black op by Murphy?

    1. paco mcsheepie says:

      Er, so why were two of these ‘not SNP members’ suspended by the SNP. You apologists for abusive, undemocratic behaviour are starting to look a bit daft.

  6. mairi says:

    Would just like to apologise to Eddie Izzard (as am sure no-one from the SNP fold will bother)this behaviour is not representative of “the Scottish people” nor is it democratic.

    1. Joan Edington says:

      What on earth has Eddie Izard got to do with voting in Scotland anyway? Can Murphy not find a single Scottish celeb to stand with him?

    2. A J Thomson says:

      Apologise? – naivety in the extreme. Regardless of one’s political position this was staged. No problem with that – that is what two losers will do in order to gain maximum publicity. Neither of them will shed a droplet of sweat following the expected reaction that emerged.

      What is very worrying however is the extent of collaboration in the garbage reporting that followed;Thomson (C4) and Cook (BBC) together! Where is this being orchestrated from?

  7. Rob says:

    Interesting last paragraph, Alex. So, you would be in favour of Labour activists policing Conservative functions, for instance?

    Of course the solution to all this might be for parties to hold carefully staged meetings that precluded this sort of thing, which is what they’ve been doing for the most part.

    If, however, you choose to hold open air meetings chances are that you won’t attract a completely un-critical audience. As John Major found out when he took to his soap box all those years ago

  8. Gregor Addison says:

    I see around four people with megaphones barracking Mr Murphy. Now I’m sure they have as much right as he has to block the streets and shout and ball as passersby try and get on with their shopping. Did they stop Mr Murphy being heard? No. Because he has access to the media and they seem happy to run stories on his behalf. Much of the group there were Labour activists. One of the key figures shouting Mr Murphy down was none other than Sean Clerkin who famously harassed Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray into a sandwich shop a few years ago. This is a set up and will be shown to be such within the next 24hours. Already other images are circulating showing only a small crowd (mostly the media and those Labour activists that Mr Murphy brought along for the event). We are getting used to this kind of cynical ploy from Labour as they try and fight their “pavement war”. But it’s surely not beyond the media to do a little proper investigating, especially when you were there.

  9. Ian ferguson says:

    What a load of tosh.

    I walked by and saw at most half a dozen of Glasgow weirdos doing their thing, one on a mobility scooter playing music loudly another couple waving home made cardboard posters I saw Jim Murphy and who I thought was a lady being shouted at by these guys.

    Bad manners but not a big Political protest by any stretch of the imagination. I saw no women or children being intimidated or being shepherded away.

    If I said there were fifty people in total in the whole area it would be an exaggeration. I stopped to listen to the nonsense and realised it was a man in makeup with Jim Murphy. Surreal…I laughed and left.

    Everyone has the right of free speech, so did the weirdos, I disagree with what they did but if the police felt it was intimidating or illegal THEY should have taken action. I have seen Jim Murphy shout over others often, that seem s to be his forte.

    If that was anti democratic and extereme in your view Mr Thomson I would like your opinion on the English Press continual denigration of Scots, it seems we were OK… Until we want a say in things then it’s Their Parliament.

    I will be voting SNP for the first time and given the reaction against my right to do this by the Unionist Parties it will not be the last time I vote this way.

  10. J Duncan says:

    But maybe it’s about time it got its supporters to these events and made some attempt to police an anti-democratic fringe who are – they tell me – also its supporters come Thursday.

    Oh, please! Get a grip. It’s not for the SNP to police Labour party mini rallies. It’s for the Police. Normally like your posts, but you’ve just bought into the mainstream media hysteria with this stuff.

  11. R Godsword says:

    So, to confirm, this was nothing to do with the SNP, but you’ll drag them into anyway? This was not the ugly face of nationalism, it was the true face of the very real contempt for Scotch Labour.

  12. Henry bruce says:

    Good article as usual HOWEVER the question to be posed is did Murphy stage manage this? He has form in trying desperate things like this, remember the ‘egg” incident last year, no publicity about the man before it….. There was as much shoving and pushing by the SMALL group of Labour activists, I say small only because it wasn’t tiny! This is the last dying throw of a possibly second rate politician who is clinging on to avoid dropping out of the amateur leagues even.

  13. CWH says:

    As you say Mr Thomson the SNP cannot police those outside its membership so why does the headline give the impression that the people protesting were SNP members?

    Perhaps a better question to ask is how did the protesters know where Mr Murphy would be today and when because that information is usually kept under wraps. Some reports of this incident suggest that it was someone from within Mr Murphy’s circle who tipped them off.

    The person leading the protest seems to be a serial protester. His finest hour was getting Ian Tray to run into a branch of Subway to avoid answering his questions during 2011 election.

  14. Bill McLean says:

    Like so many of us ex-Labour supporters you have fallen for another of Murphy’s carefully laid anti-nationalist ploys. Sean Clerkin was alerted to this meeting by disgruntled Labour supporters.
    Vocal and vigorous protest has always been part of politics in Scotland. I’m sure you bosses at CH4 and the further British media would like to close that down as evidenced daily by the media in England and some in Scotland. It will not work. JUstice will be done and dishonest people like Murphy, who destroyed the Labour party in Scotland, will be discarded like the old duds they are. Sharpen up Alex and take a look at the picture Murphy doesn’t want you to see!

  15. Jane Russell says:

    So it’s OK for Jim to shout over everyone else but us democratic when someone shouts over him. Bit hypocritical isn’t it?

  16. Independence Live says:

    Sorry Alex, maybe you forget previous elections when the same sort of thing happened but no big deal then. What’s the matter skin not thick enough. Glasgow has some of the worst poverty in the UK an blame labour. People up here are angry. Keep your false tears.

  17. mike annis says:

    Funny how all these rowdy protesters knew bold Jim’s agenda. Hints at the protesters being used to suit Jim’s anti- Nat agenda.

  18. English Observer says:

    Is this not the SNP through and through though? Nicola Sturgeon is openly bullying – albeit verbally – the English electorate by telling them that they- the SNP- will do anything and everything to keep the Tories out of power – even though the majority of English voters may want that.
    Cameron has admittedly poured fuel on the fire but his stance is understandable. The SNP apparently hate Labour in Scotland but openly want to get into bed with them in Westminster. The SNP’s position is creating a lot of unhappy people in Scotland- all those who voted No in the referendum- and may well create a lot of even more unhappy people in the rest of the UK.

  19. Thepnr says:

    If any politician turns up with a group of 30 or so supporters already brandishing that politicians message on their placards into any city street in the UK, then opponents of that politician have a right to put their own message to the public at the same time.

    No political party or politician has exclusive right to shout through a microphone in a public space without expecting those of an opposing view to challenge that them.

    “You could not hear either Murphy or Izzard. That is shameful in a democratic election.”

    Are you saying then, that the 75% of the Scottish public who do not intend to support Labour should “shut up” and not challenge what is being said?

    Here’s me thinking too that you were arguing for freedom of speech. I guess we just have differing opinions as to what that actually means.

  20. Sam Paterson says:

    Jim Murphy and the Labour Party condone nuclear weapons which are the most violent thing imaginable.

    Don’t pretend your a real journalist unless you look at this issue.

  21. Frank Kerr says:

    I can not see how the SNP can be dragged into this. As you said, the demonstrators were not members of the party and many people will vote for parties they don’t join or fully support. This is like saying that because Cyril Smith was a member of both the Labour and Lib-dem parties and also a paedophile, that both these parties support paedophilia. A very weak case for the procession.

  22. Andy Nimmo says:

    Jeez, how many times does Jim ‘two crates’ have to repeat this stunt before the media wisen up.
    It is the easiest thing in the world to plant a few fifth columnists with the tools to disrupt in this way.
    I know it’s virtually impossible to prove but surely his past record of this kind of behaviour should throw doubts on the issue.
    Remember the saying
    ‘Fool me once etc etc.

  23. ZN says:

    This is the same treatment that Farage was given not too long back in Edinburgh, but no one was willing to condemn it then. Now, they are suffering from the same treatment by these nationalist thugs.

  24. Jim McLean says:

    It just shows that you don’t have to be a member if the SNP to hate Labour. Most of the people in the crowd scenes were camera/newsmen and only about three of four men in the crowd were mainly activists. Chaos on the streets of Glasgow? I don’t think so.

  25. Orla says:

    So the SNP are now to blame for *not* showing up to heckle Jim Murphy?

    I bet there are BNP people who vote Conservative in Lab-Con marginals. Is the Conservative Party thereby responsible for everything the BNP does, to the point of following them around and stopping them? In those marginals I bet some RCP and Socialist Worker types (like Clerkin) vote Labour, too, so is Labour responsible for controlling their behaviour? Clerkin regularly heckles the SNP too. Is Jim Murphy therefore to blame for failing to show up and stop him? How will the SNP find out in advance which shouty numpties are going to vote for them? (If any burglars vote SNP is that the party’s fault too…?)

    I like Alex Thomson’s writing, but his logic here only works from the metrocentric viewpoint in which the only politics in Scotland is the SNP, so whatever happens, it must somehow or other be explained in those terms. Just because the SNP is the only story for which Scotland gets on national news doesn’t mean nothing else exists here. This was an example of a non-SNP news story, so you need to find a new narrative and analysis.

  26. Brian says:

    Yet you described them in the 1900hrs bulletin as “extreme nationalists”.

    Despite the fact that you said none of them described themselves as “nationalist”.

  27. Colin Douglas says:

    Are you seriously suggesting the SNP should/could police Jim Murphy’s campaign events to prevent ugly scenes like this? What a daft conclusion. For a start, it’s the Police’s role to intervene if violence ensues. Aggressive heckling is not against the law, as far as I am aware. Jim Murphy is not averse to the odd aggressive heckle himself, as demonstrated on TV the other night.

  28. the_corbie says:

    Alex, I have a lot of time for this blog usually, but this piece is just dreadful.

    The notion that a demonstration where people chanted anti-austerity slogans should be described not as an anti-austerity demonstration but a nationalist one, because some of those involved said they’d vote SNP, is dubious – why not simply accept that people were there for the reasons they said they were there?

    But the notion that it’s the responsibility of a political party to police demonstrations that were not organised by them, that they did not know about in advance, but that might happen to have some people involved who might intend to vote for that party, is simply absurd. Is the SNP to detail its supporters to attend any and all events held by rival parties just in case? On what authority are those supporters to tell any demonstrators who might turn up to be quiet?

    I struggle for polite words to describe how badly you’ve got this one wrong.

  29. Cindy Sanders says:

    Really disappointed by this biased piece of reportting- a change from channel 4s usual high standards. The SNP voters have a right to be heard too. They are not ‘extremists’ just very angry & disillusioned at what Labour has come to represent as well as its new Scottish leader Jim Murphy who is himself a member of what could be called an extreme right wing organsation by the name of the Henry Jackson society.
    Contrast this with the less accusatory langauge in the report about Nigel Farage- the extreme right. The SNP are a slightly left of centre neoliberalist party- Supporters vary but many are not ethnic nationalists but believe in social justice- unlike Mr Farage & his supporters. Lets have a bit of perspective can we?

  30. A J Thomson says:

    Alex Thomson has lied about what took place in Glasgow today. Similar lies and a gross exaggeration of the extremely small scale protest to the amateurish double act of a third rate performance from Jim Murphy and some fourth rate ex-entertainer, have been repeated by James Cook of the BBC.

    Where does the real threat to the freedom of expression during an election campaign lie? In hearing one man in full verbal throttle, seeing another man being shoved by Murphy’s minders or in reading (because there are no images to see it!) the malicious garbage that attempts to smear and belittle the democratic expression of a significant number of the Scottish people A few weeks ago, the real purpose behind Frenchgate failed. So too will Scufflegate!

  31. James Alton says:

    Can you prove that black is white – no, you can only agree on what black and white are and hope that your interlocutor remembers and gives their honest opinion when they are asked about what is black and what is white. With the leaders of the SNP it is likely that they know black and white when they see it but are dishonest when they come to identify those qualities.

    I can remember seeing the street meetings and displays of the nationalists during the referendum, and they were undoubtedly fervent and somewhat menacing to those with other views. And when the menacing or aggressive nature was broached with the SNP leadership it was always brushed aside as being “exuberance and joyousness”. Now we have people clearly trying to deny free speech who say they sympathise with the SNP but are not SNP members. Whether they are or aren’t SNP members they represent a nasty underbelly of SNP supporters that is quite evident and is not being discouraged by the SNP leadership. Instead their reaction is that it’s “exuberance” or “joyousness” or “nothing to do with us, gov”. They’re being dishonest about the recognition and distinction between black and white. But then the leadership of the SNP in the form of Nicola Sturgeon is gradually becoming a fuhrer – a idolised leader who promises a great future for a great Scotland and who will trounce other nations for that goal. They don’t much care about how their goals are achieved.

    Jim Murphy suffered a drowning out of his views – can you imagine what these SNP voters would have done to David Cameron or Nigel Farage?

  32. Joe Low says:

    You seemed to have tapered your Pro Westminster views last week so today’s spectacular of misinformation regarding one man, a bike and a megaphone, suggest to me that your elitist masters must have threatened you with your job?

    I’ve viewed all of the videos and pictures along with comments of the general public with no vested interest, other than they would expect some degree of factual reporting on the most minor event ever discussed in Glasgow.

    Labour are about to get everything they deserve from Scottish voters and their £millionaire MPs and Steering group know it. They have bused in the same group of 40 supporters they use for every event, had a member tip off a nut case of the where and when, and tried on a last gasp stage managed event where they could play the poor wee victim.

    The same heckler has form for trying to prevent Nicola Sturgeon from getting on with her business, so she is unlikely to hire him to turn around her incredible success.

    Murphy never generates a crowd at these show case events.
    They are purely scripted shows for his media friends, and the single deck bus that brings along the very few remaining Labour activists.

    Strange how every news channel and every newspaper huddle in shoot the very limited numbers at all their “events”.
    The bigger story is why Labour advertised the St Enoch escapade on social media and through all the party faithful,but did 10 people from out with the party turn up to see Murphy? Did he attempt to take any questions? Did you see a Listening Labour Party?

    I have seen more chaos and physical contact from 2 we girls in our local nursery!

    Does the heckler have any less right to use a megaphone than Murphy?
    The answer you are looking for is no. Did he attempt to make physical contact with anyone who wasn’t pushing him, stick with me on this, the answer is No, did the police arrest anyone, was an ambulance called to assist, Fire brigade, No, No, and No!

    You then scurry down to Largs to confront Nicola Sturgeon, who doesn’t maintain contact with obsessive complainers or Better Together sponsored reporters, to confront her on what she is going to do about it?

    Your biased brothers on the BBC just reported the farce with a well worded tone that Nicola Sturgeon denied her part in this?

    You and your organisation are a genuine danger to democracy!
    If you succeed, it will soon be highest bidder only who gets anything positive in any report.

    Your schemes impact on the kids eating in food banks, the disabled kicked out of their adapted homes via the bedroom tax, and the honest hard working classes who get poorer every year while the elite can double their incomes every 10 years.

    May God have mercy on your soul!

  33. extremereading says:

    Pretty much what happened all through last summer right up to the referendum. If shouting down an opponent is ‘winning the argument’ then forget democracy … roll on absolute government.

    A sad and sorry state to be in. Not sure who I should feel most sorry for – Murphy, Sturgeon, the Scottish people or the street numpties.

  34. Don Macleod says:

    As i read the first part of this report I thought ‘Yes, good getting to the facts – these people describe themselves as socialist, marxist etc’. No surprise that Jim Murphy would describe them as nationalist. I am surprised and disappointed however that you lay the responsibility for this deplorable behaviour with the SNP. You heard directly from Nicola Sturgeon on that yet you continue to describe these people as the ‘ugly fringe’ of the SNP. They are nothing to do with the SNP. The fact that they said they were intending voting SNP is their democratic choice. Beyond ludicrous to suggest that the SNP and indeed any party has the power or ability to vet each and every intending voter.
    I also saw your report on Channel 4 news this evening. You close this report with a call again to the SNP ‘to name and shame’ these people. Firstly, Please refer back to your interview with Nicola – these people are NOT connected to the SNP. Secondly you can refer to the BBC report that identifies that ‘The protest was organised by Sean Clerkin, who described his group as “anti-austerity campaigners”.
    He told the BBC that details of the event had been passed to him by a disillusioned member of the Labour Party in East Renfrewshire.’

  35. Mr Carson says:

    Jim Murphy is the “ugly face” of unionism,
    so what exactly is your point CH4?

    This kind of journalism completely misses
    the point. The people who drowned out
    Murphy today were angry. Why? That
    is the real story. Labour have made
    people angry because they have betrayed
    the people and the country.

    Plus they were socialists, not nationalists,
    just to get your facts straight. If you even
    care about the facts. Shoddy journalism
    Mr Thomson.

  36. Peter Mitchell says:

    Born in Scotland travelled the world ,always proud to be a Scot….but when I read the antics of these supposed SNP supporters……I AM ASHAMED

  37. douglas clark says:


    I have admired your journalism on Glasgow. It is insightful and interesting.

    There is a however, however.

    Free speech is a two way process. Especially during an election campaign. So, I have a few questions for you, if I may?

    Why is a public place demarcated for Jim Murphy and his megaphone? Why is his megaphone priveledged over anyone else’s megaphone, or shouty voice? If I stood up at the same place tommorrow and started shouting would you instantly determine that I had the right of it? I trust the answer is no.

    It seems to me that the Labour Party like the concept of a hustings, but hate it when people disagree with them. In other words they are trying to sterilise the very concept.

    You appear to support the political class in preventing people expressing themselves unilaterally. You say:

    But maybe it’s about time it got its supporters to these events and made some attempt to police an anti-democratic fringe who are – they tell me – also its supporters come Thursday.

    Quite apart from the interesting concept that Jim Murphy must be heard and protesters against him must not, exactly how would this holier than thou group control the protesters?

    In any event, what is anti-democratic about challenging Jim Murphy?

    There was no violence, there were a lot of verbals. To describe this as anything other than a hustings is hyperbole.

    Best wishes.

  38. Terry Ohare says:

    Don’t see what SNP Can do,if the police deemed it not worth getting involved,then would also be deemed un democratic to stop the other people getting their point across in what was an obviously stage managed encounter

  39. Peter Piper says:

    This is nonsense Alex. You seriously expect a political party to POLICE any event organised by any other political party, just in case its suppoded supporters (not members) turn up to disrupt it? Do you want Scotland to be a police state? I don’t.

  40. Malcolm Cullen says:

    Call this journalism? You should be ashamed of yourself.

  41. Craig Sheridan says:

    “one of the most effective single pieces of campaigning of the entire British election”

    This is a very interesting quote. The quote can actually only be true if you believe the media to be not only hugely biased but fundamentally dishonest. If what actually happened is only to be reported in a literal way then there is not much to report. Half a dozen people turn up to shout over shouty Jim Murphy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think these 6 protesters do more damage than good, it’s counter-intuitive and all sides have a morale right to be heard. Let’s be clear. They broke no law and one may even argue they are exercising their own right to protest.

    More importantly, what about the morale right for the BBC for example to let all sides be heard equally and events to be reported fairly, not to mention the other branches of mass media outlets that are shocking in their so-called reporting.

    Your quote really does hint towards the real story/problem that exists in our ‘democracy’.

  42. ken maclean says:

    I am not a member of any political party, I have not attended any political event or rally and enjoy the reporting of political events, however now i am s
    tonished but your reporting of a minor shout out in Glasgow today, negatively weighted agains the SNP whom I have not previously voted for. One can see that that a minor group of aaprox 50 haraunged by a about 5 half wits is exaggerated into so.mething of a brawl. Its a falsehood crafted by lazy journalism. Look on the net and you will see pics of this small nonsense
    Come one, do better and view the pics.
    Still I suppose many in greater Britain will have no problem in their journalism being usurped.


  43. Xxxxxx says:

    I feel disgust at the behaviour of those in Glasgow today as a Scot I have often all through this nationalist rubbish,that sooner or later they will show their true colours,and today was a prime example of what these people are
    really all about.
    I grew up with a staunch SNP member and know how they think,if people think the BNP are bad look closely at these animals supporting the SNP .

    I’m a Scot and proud. I don’t hate English people I don’t agree with breaking up the union,
    I don’t hate David Cameron or his party,even if I did I would listen to what he had to say just as the labour minister should have been allowed to speak that’s what a democracy is all about.

    Nicola Stirgon can’t ignore the biggotry that the SNP has stirred up in Scotland it makes me sick to see my country decent into chaos on the streets of our City.
    I hope you fully understand if SNP have there way Scotland will be saturated with foreigners I know how intolerant Scots are and won’t hesitate to make them a target.

    I watched the discussion yesterday asking about foreigners in Scotland the minister Refused to answer the question just as Alex Salmond before him so you people need to be careful what you wish for as we don’t have the population in Scotland to sustain jobs freeloaders or front line services.

    As a scot I would like to say stop embarrassing yourself and the rest of us in Scotland with your behaviour as far as I know we do still have DEMOCRACY in Scotland and no one has the right to take the freedom of opinion from ANYONE who has a different opinion to the SNP, socialist, labour conservatives,greens or any other who wish to make their opinions heard.

    Right Now I Am ASHAMED to be SCOTTISH.

  44. Andrew Dundas says:

    Scotland is an authoritarian State. That ugly scene is reproduced all over Scotland. It’s the taste of things to come.

  45. Mike Gogan says:

    What absolute rubbish to say that the SNP are in any way responsible for the behaviour of the protestors. They all described themselves as Socialists, etc. None of them described themselves as nationalists, as stated in the article. The fact they are voting for the only party in Scotland with a chance of displacing Labour says more about Labour than it does about the SNP.

  46. CWH says:

    Freedom of speech – how does C4 define that?

    Just as well the founding fathers of the USA did not have to run the American Constitution past the C4 moderators. It would never have seen the light of day. A bit like the posts that I am sure have been submitted to Mr Thomson’s article above.

  47. chris says:

    Alex, really disappointed you fell for this – such an obvious a set up from desperate Labour in Scotland. I thought you were better than this, what with all your experience from reporting from REAL war zones around the world.
    And anyway, does ‘freedom of speech’ only belong to those with a microphone and the loudest voice? What gives Murphy the right to spout his point of view, then go off in a manufactured huff (stopping of course to get some interviews first) when hes faced with a bit of heckling?
    And why again do the cameras turm out in such numbers for yet ANOTHER of these staged events by Murphy? This was not a ‘rally’ – it was the usual couple of dozen hired labour ‘activists’ and the press yet its treated like some hugely significant democratic event that is threatened by some evil anarchists causing chaos. What a shambles, what a shocking display of compliant, naive jornalism. I really did think you had started to get a hold on what was happening
    in Scotland Alex. Turns out you are just like the rest. .

  48. Stephen Lynch says:

    Hi Alex,

    I love your honest approach to the electioneering in scotland and especially enjoyed your challenge to Ed Balls and Jim Murphy on the Zero hours contract fiasco. I am however disappointed that while you do acknowledge that these protesters/nutters/hecklers were not SNP members you alluded to the fact that as they intended to vote SNP they were supporters – come on, you are worthy of better than this. By the way why isn’t anyone especially you not asking – Eddie Izzard – WHY?

  49. Phil Lawrence says:

    I agree with what you say in principle but in practice what are you asking? Should the SNP expect to be informed of every Scottish Labour branch office photo-opp and send a flying squad round to police the fringes? I can’t see that working somehow.

    Sean Clerkin and his band of radicals seem to have been very well briefed on the movements of Scottish Labour’s high hied yins for several years. Several more cynical heads than mine have been postulating that their presence plays nicely with the Labour party’s narrative of nasty cybernats and these people actually coming out to play shows that there is a “substantial” wedge of Scottish society prepared to play fast and loose with free speech. Is there a mole inside ScotLAb or does this cabal fit ScotLab’s own highly choreographed agenda?

    You know that there were less than 50 people in attendance today including the choreographed Labs and the press pack. Clerkin and his gang numbered around 6 at most by best estimates.

    I am not suggesting that this is a non-story because it clearly is not, but I would strongly suggest that the reasons for the story occurring at all need to be explored more diligently. Smoke, fire, you know the agenda.

  50. paul says:

    For the life of me I cannot understand how Jim Murphy has any more right to stand up in a public thorough and shout through a loudspeaker than anyone else.

  51. Iain says:


    This is Miliband being loudly booed and heckled at a TUC rally. Was his ‘democratic expression’ denied? Or has this behaviour been part and parcel of politics since…?

  52. Mac Tomas says:

    Alex you are quite correct to call out the unreasonable behaviour today, however there is a far higher degree “un democratic” behaviour by supporters of the Union which mysteriously is by passed by mainstream media. In Edinburgh on Saturday three SNP supporters were “assaulted” by unionists & an SNP candidate endured sustained abuse & threats by a Unionist mob on 18th Of April in Glasgow’s West end. The Wings over Scotland website will supply you with further evidence of such activity.
    Also for the record, there is No such entity as Scottish Labour, it is the Labour Party of Great Britain!!!!

  53. David says:

    What happened in Glasgow was, quite simply, deplorable. It is equal to the behaviour that occurred the day after the referendum. The mob mentality will get no-one with anyone.

    Freedom of speech is something everyone should cherish and be allowed to express, though would this not include the ‘protesters’ that turned up? Some of these (I could see 2/3 from the coverage) over stepped the mark, they too had a right to be there and express their opinion. But then push comes to shove and things get heated. Those on the Labour side would have been equally as responsible.

    Jim Murphy knew exactly what would happen this morning. The announcement that he was going to be in the centre of Glasgow for a rally was shown up on social media a few days before. Of course a few numpties would turn up. What I don’t really get is why? Why have another rally (3rd in the space of just over a week) in the Glasgow centre. The first two obviously never received the reaction he wanted. Because no-one turned up to it, including Labour supporters. But given the tensions and flair’d passions in the city, aided by Mr Muphys unique debating style shown in the leaders debates, it would be the equivalent of walking into a Rangers supporters club while wearing a Celtic strip (and vice versa).

  54. Donald MacKenzie says:

    Jim Murphy is denied the chance to speak. Well, that’s just the way he behaves towards others.Those who have watched the TV debates will be well aware that all Murphy does is out over the others so that their views cannot be stated.

  55. RascalRachael says:

    There is so little of this happening and it is such of a low level – at the end of the day, benign- let’s just leave it to peter out.

    It’s not worth the bother.

  56. Damian says:

    The SNP are meant to send official activists to every Scottish Labour photo op with a celebrity to police unofficial protesters (undoubtedly members of radical left organisations unaffiliated with the SNP but in favour of independence and opposed to Labour)? If there had been such a presence there do you not think Murphy would have made much of that? He would almost certainly have said the two groups were one. The Scottish Labour Party are an organisation which exist purely to hate the SNP. In Murphy’s own acceptance speech in 2010 he said nothing of the fact that his party would soon be out of Downing Street and proceeded to rant about how the SNP had gone into reverse

  57. Jim Byrne says:

    Don’t be ridiculous; you can’t ask the SNP party to police every press event on the off-chance that someone will try to disrupt it; as they might be SNP voters. Maybe you should police these events yourself – you are there – and they might be Channel 4 viewers.

  58. Mark says:

    I quite like Alex Thomson and but I have to disagree with this post. Free speech, it turns out, runs both ways. If Jim Murphy wants to turn up in the streets of Glasgow with a PA system and talk nonsense to the people of Glasgow then surely the protesters have the same right. Or to put it another way couldn’t we say that Jim Murphy was denying the protesters THEIR right of free speech by shouting over them through a PA? In the interests of free speech shouldn’t he have let them make their point?

    And to reply to the last two comments. why should the SNP be responsible for the behaviour of non SNP members, should every party now send members to events held by every other party to attempt to police hecklers? What about the hecklers right to free speech?

  59. Phil Ross says:


    From what I can see in the video, Jim Murphy tries to get a crowd of his supporters to chant “Get the Tories Out”, and some hecklers shout “Get the Red Tories Out” i.e. Labour and that “Labour has let down the working class”…

    …so Jim Murphy calls them Nationalists and aggressive.

    You spoke to them and none of them mentioned Nationalism until you effectively put words in their mouths, and give credence to Murphy’s tenuous claim.

    Surely the story is that Labour is facing a crushing defeat because it has moved to the right.

    People are flocking to the SNP not because there is another Independence Referendum on the table, but because they have policies that strike a chord with the working class.

    There’s an enormous gap to be filled by the lack of a party of the left in the UK…and I’m sure millions of people in England feel aggrieved that they have Podmos, no Syriza, and no SNP to represent them.

    That’s the real story here, no?

  60. Helen says:

    I saw you there Alex Thomson. I saw you near Sean Clerkin who was a former SNP candidate. Why are you pretending none of the protesters were Nationalists? Why did you not show the footage of the journalists who were knocked over? Or the child caught up in it all?

  61. Alison Dowling says:

    I’m afraid that what happened in Glasgow is parr for the course in Scotland now. If you’re not a nationalist or SNP supporter then you’re fair game for abuse.

    It’s deeply worrying that these eejits, individually and when roaming about in their People’s Army mobs, have been given so little challenge by the media to question what the hell is going on.

    The SNP have also been largely given a free pass by the UK media during this election, with very little scrutiny of their dismal, Tory-lite record in office.

    The result is a culture of intimidation and aggression that emboldens the nationalist movement to do and say whatever advances their cause, democracy be damned. You’re either with us or against us now, and if you’re against us you’re traitorous, quisling scum (AKA a Red Tory).

    It’s Scotland’s shame.

    1. David says:

      I’m sorry Alison, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this point.

      Whilst political tensions are obviously high, it would be more fair to say that there are eejits on all sides. To say that this is par for the course is incredibly naive. Its quite simply a disgrace for anyone to act aggressively to someones point of view, political or otherwise. The number of times I see the word ‘Nazi’ thrown around on social media is quite simply disgusting. But you will always have fanatics on the fringe. Now that Scotland has woken up politically it gives these nutters something to focus on.

      I can’t see your point in the SNP being ‘Tory-lite’ as they have aided Scotland far more in the past years than the Torys or Labour ever have. Free education and prescriptions to name two forward thinking policies.

      Also, what free ride are you taking about? All I’ve seen is nothing but contempt in the news, ‘most dangerous woman in Britain’ etc… Within the leaders debates Nicola Sturgeon comes across rather well, which isn’t difficult compared to Mr Murphys style of debate. Its saying something when Ruth Davidson sounds more eloquent.

      Scotlands shame are those who wish to react with aggression and small-mindedness. Which was ever more highlighted with the ‘celebrations’ on September the 19th. That, is Scotlands shame..

  62. WesternWelsh says:

    Murphy is the ugly face of British nationalism. Like a big kid, he goes onto the streets with a gaggle of party faithfuls to make grand speeches to no-one but empty squares and compliant journalists. He dreams of confrontation and never looks happier than when he gets a response. Ask yourself – who tipped off the protestors about this fake rally? It was a set up and Izzard should also
    be concerned about being used for such skullduggery.

  63. marydoll says:

    This was an obvious set-up and should’ve been reported as such. Isnt it a coincidence that Channel 4 , who until now have been fair, were there and this ‘suddenly a ‘nationalist ‘ outrage happened. We’ve all been here before and know a set-up when we see it.

    Jim Murphy doesn’t give way to anyone when he shouts so he will make sure he is never denied freedomof speech

  64. ianmc says:

    Hang on a minute Alex. In what way was it “undemocratic”. The assumption being that Murphy had a right to be heard but the hecklers did not?

    You also say this was ” unscripted”. No it wasn’t. Labour blogger Hotersall was even bragging about a stoosgie before it happened. Hoping cameras would be there. Funnily enough Murphy, who had mostly been doing these photo-ops with his paid enteourage at 7am in the mornings, tweeted the place and time and turned up with numerous photographers and tv for a normal event. Since when did Murphy get his own retinue of press? Something had clearly been planned and I’m sure the papers and telly sent their people along knowing like the Labour orgabisers did that there would be a possibility of a stooshie.

    Alex. You have been the most honest journalists throught this election. You have said it how it is, but even you must know that this was well planned stich up of some nutters so that the SNP can be slighted. It’s the sad way the established parties do things.

  65. Morgwn Davies says:

    So all political parties should be responsible for every person who votes for them. Have you thought this though. How can a party take responsibility for the millions that vote for them? What a ridiculous idea. This has been a complete overreaction from the media, yet again. In particular the BBC. Unfortunately the numpties gave Jim Murphy excately what he wanted and the media an excuse to blame the SNP.

  66. Miranda MacDonald says:

    Hang on a minute, if they were socialists and Marxists surely they were disgruntled Labour supporters ?

  67. anthony says:

    So disappointed in you AT. … the truth will out and your description of events is up there with Scottish football journalism.

  68. Johnny Farrell says:

    Its both disingenuous and hypocritical for the press to berate the hecklers for blocking freedom of speech when they were, in fact, exercising their own right to that very same freedom. To lay responsibility for policing them at the SNP’s door is another example of the hypocrisy of the British press and media, who have not only allowed the Westminster parties free reign to bully SNP candidates and supporters during this election campaign, they have actively encouraged it. Does that mean Westminster is responsible for policing the press and media ? Poor from you Alex. Very disappointing.

  69. Mary Catterson says:

    Dear dear Alex,

    Where are all the comments you have undoubtedly had to this very biased reporting. I would suggest this is an anti SNP article with almost nothing based on fact. This actually surprised me as I usually enjoy your reporting. Sad to see you have joined the fabricated, gutter press.

    Channel 4 News & SNP supporter. M Catterson

  70. Civic says:

    Shameful: your deliberate conflation of “voter” and “supporter”.

  71. george mcgrory says:

    Why is it when asked who they supported they replied that they were not there to represent any party but were all anti austerity.why state they were snp or nationalists,? I agree the handful that turned up were in their faces but the actual violence if you can call it that was predominantly from the labour activists or brit nationalists. You knew fine well this was a set up amyway and your acting like the bbc now and report what your told to. Another broadcaster for the british state

  72. Peri Urban says:

    So, it’s OK to turn up on the street with 40 followers and harangue people with an unpopular minority view through a loud PA system, but it’s not OK to shout your opposition back?

    Perhaps the street belongs to all of us, and anyone who abuses their right to it should expect some resistance.

    I agree that the activists who do this are just playing into Murphy’s hands, but only because the press (forming a good part of the 40 strong mob that Murphy takes with him) will see his side of the story whilst ignoring the outright violence that extreme supporters of the Unionist position have engaged in. Death threats have been made, people have been intimidated in their homes, at least one actual riot happened and arrests have taken place.

    Where is that side of the story in the media?

    Jim is desperately trying to provoke outrage amongst his supporters, adding fuel to the fire. There are nutboxes on both sides and the last thing anyone should be doing is inciting them. Murphy should be ashamed of himself. There’s fighting for your position, and then there is slash and burn.

    If Murphy manages to survive this and remains as the leader of Scottish Labour he will be leading a decimated party that will likely suffer further humiliation in 2016. There comes a time when the wise and compassionate leader would understand the mood of the country and simply make things easier for everyone.

    Murphy can get all his political points across without this kind of show boating, but he does it because he knows what it will look like once spun by the media, safe in the knowledge that those who transgress in his name will never be held to account.

  73. Chris Munn says:

    ah, modern day Scotland. Nothing to do with the yesnp or the yestapo. Actually they need a new name since they lost big time last September.

    1. Bill McLean says:

      Amazing how it’s always the self-righteous unionists who resort to name-calling. Grow up! This sort of behaviour is what has driven thousands of former Labour supporters, like me and my wife, to the SNP. Hopefully independence will allow these unionist dinosaurs to move on!

  74. allen ralston says:

    So if I read your comments correctly you want the SNP to send its members to Labour meetings and just why would they do that when Labour cant even get its own supporters to go to them ,

  75. William Duff says:

    What an utterly biased piece of reporting from the Establishment Mouthpiece.
    You are suggesting the SNP police people who attend Mr Murphy’s rentamob campaign events?
    In Scotland we have some specially trained people called the Police. It’s their job to uphold law and order. Was anyone actually arrested yesterday? No. Therefore no laws were broken, in the Police view. Kind of makes all of your hyperbolic drivel a waste of cyber ink, doesn’t it?
    If you had any journalistic integrity or ability you’d be wondering why only Mr Murphy encounters these types of people.
    Perhaps you’d then find out that it was a labour activist that told the protesters where to be and when?
    Or would that not fit your perverted wee agenda?

  76. Andrew Stone says:

    The real story here is the media distortion. The real information the public wants to see is how tiny the group supporting Jim Murphy is. The film is cut and edited to as if there was a large boisterous crowd instead of a couple of dozen (at most) Labour party supporters.

    Now if you ran Jim Murphy’s crowd alongside a Nicola Sturgeon crowd – the public would get and instant idea of the level of support for both groups.

    One could also comment on the irony of Jim Murphy who claims to be a socialist, being shouted down by socialists for not being socialist enough.

    But none of this follows the establishment agenda. . . . . . so the story is never going to go that way.

  77. Malcolm Cullen says:

    Not opening this for comments, then?

    To think I used to consider C4 news impartial. What was I thinking?

  78. Disgracio says:

    Turns out one of the main hecklers IS a member of the snp. However, when the snp membership pass this;

    “accept that no member shall within, or outwith the parliament, publicly criticise a group decision, policy or another member of the group”

    it’s little wonder that Sturgeon won’t take action.
    Conveniently gagged by her own gagging order!

  79. stephen windsor says:

    Has anyone thought to ask who tipped off this nutter as to where and when this meeting was taking place. Try and ask Murphys commander in chief who has plenty of previous for this kind of thing.
    What disturbs me most, although not unexpected, is the media’s distortion of the facts . There was no mob, they were nothing to do with the SNP and the real story being that it was a set up.
    I never read in the MSM about labour supporters on the Scottish Labours web site calling people Nazi scum, fascists and worse. I never read about the same offensive comments on the pages of our so called national newspaper the Daily Record.
    I never read about the assaults on SNP supporters, the vandalism to their cars and property or about a pregnant woman being kicked in the stomach.
    People, it is you they are lying to not I.

  80. Duncan Laing says:

    why haven’t you reported from a distance??? .. 30 feet from the 40 or so press and the 20 or so Labour activists ordinary people/families are standing around with their hands in their pockets watching Jim Murphy scream at the people …. the photo with the 10yo girl holding aloft a small Saltire standing next to 2 men holding Union flags (one of the 2 men is convicted terrorist John Montgomery) .. your bias and that of Channel 4 is plain to see and conducive to SUBVERSION OF DEMOCRACY … You’re an embarrassment to the Free Press and beginning to be Globally recognised as a tool used and abused by a FASCIST Westminster. GO HOME CHANNEL 4 , YOU’RE DRUNK !

  81. Michael Cameron says:

    Thanks for the most even handed coverage I’ve seen but I’m not sure I agree that the SNP have a duty to encourage the attendance of a large delegation to another party’s campaign events.

    Can you imagine if Jim Murphy had been confronted by several hundred (or indeed thousands) of the more peaceable (sentient?) supporters who are turning out at events day in, day out? How would the press have reported that? Would the word “intimidation” not still be tripping joyously off the wagging tongues that seem so eager to play this up into something meaningful?

    I firmly believe it was a stunt designed by a desperate politician, lapped up by a compliant media with the normal retinue of outraged Labour supporters now frantically calling for “something to be done”. You don’t need to worry, what you wanted done has already been done.

  82. David says:

    SNP members should anticipate where some non member supporters are going to disrupt an event and go along and police it to allow Jim Murphy his right to free speech??? Who tipped off the non SNP disruptive elements? Why did they not let the SNP know? Why is that a political party as huge as Labour is supposed to be in Scotland unable to attract any real support from ordinary members of the public? Was this whole thing a set up by the desperate Scottish Labour Party or who was really behind this “event”? Why is Eddy Izzard letting himself be used in this way?

  83. Damian says:

    Perhaps the Police should police such events. In this case, they were almost certainly there. No arrests though. If free speech is a right, so is protest and it’s odd for (the often brilliant) Alex T to suggest that protestors should be subject to volume control. Mr Murphy is in favour of violence when it suits him. He voted for the Iraq war. He has defended this decision. Pointing this out at any volume is fair comment.

    Eddie Izzard is a very clever man; an excellent comic and a talented actor. He is entitled to whatever political view he holds and to share that view publicly – even in a busy street with a PA system. But freedom of speech in the public street cuts both ways.

    The protestors were not SNP members and they were not nationalists. At a push you could describe this as “the ugly face of radical socialism” but that’s not such an easy thing for Mr Murphy to say. It would be truer though. Nevertheless, however “ugly”, they were not violent, they merely voiced their protests above the volume of Labour’s PA system.

    Whether Labour like it or not, the SNP are seen as more radical and far stronger than them in Scotland. Scottish Labour would dearly love the sort of working class grassroots support the SNP are currently (and perhaps temporarily) enjoying. They can’t get it. Labour are a party of the middle class and so they are doing their best to portray the SNP as facists. They are not. They are social democrats who believe that Scottish society will benefit with as much autonomy as possible.

    Looking forward to seeing the results come in, whatever happens (still a lot of people undecided).

  84. Rachael says:

    How are the SNP supposed to have policed what was apparently a secret event? If it wasn’t secret why the accusations of a leak?? Seriously don’t get it!!

  85. joolz says:

    No self respecting crowd of SNP supporters would turn up at an anti Smurph rally without badges, banners or saltire flags and only one saltire tshirt between them.

    Just because they are voting SNP doesn’t mean they are supporters any more than the Tories switching to vote for Murphy, to keep the SNP out, are Labour supporters.

    Nice coincidence that they told you they were voting SNP though, eh? Did you ask them why? Or which policies they support? Or didn’t the truth really matter when you could ‘blame’ it on the SNP?

  86. manandboy says:

    Those of us who have seen all the previous episodes of the ‘Jim Murphy Street Show’
    know that yesterdays edition ‘Mugging the SNP Again’ was scripted from start to finish; no detail overlooked, with all the actors paid by the BBC.

    And yet Alex, you reported this as authentic. Do you watch Eastenders believing it to be real.
    No, I didn’t think so. This was a bad fumble, Alex. You are highly regarded up here, but this has done your good name no good at all.

    Next time, interview the real victims – in this case the SNP.

  87. June says:

    Finding the whole reporting on this incident quite breathtaking considering all MSM totally ignored the appalling scenes in George Sq perpetuated by Unionists which did include violent attacks on ppl. Also no reporting if the intimidation of SNP canvassers & supporters throughout Scotland. Surely we all deserve equal reporting.

  88. Mike Harland says:

    After two decades of admiring your fair and unbiased journalism, I have today decided you are either out of touch or you have been “got at”. I can never again believe what you are reporting.

    I even now wonder if you have gone over to the ‘establishment’ that you resisted so well in N Ireland, given the global implications of any break-up of the UK and what certain people will do to prevent it.

    Nuff said … very sad day for independent journalism!

  89. May wilson says:

    I find blogs such as this no better than scandal rags sold for 20p! Your sensationalist headline may draw the eye but the rest of the article has little impact on the brain! Your inaccurate reporting of such a small scale demonstration can only indicate that you have little or nothing else to pin on the SNP. Four guys and a sound machine does not constitute a riot, certainly not in Scotland. Now, had the crowds that appear for Sturgeon, descended on Sauchihall St i might have thought you had a point. However, you’ll have guessed by now that neither Jim Murphy nor Eddie Izzard hold much appeal with us scots. Sorry we never provided your news with the aggression and rioting you thought byt this stage we would!

  90. Angela Connor says:

    Tut,tut and shame on you, what a massive distortion of the truth you’ve put to print, hope you feel stupid for being duped by muppet murphy and his desperate attempt to re-enact his 5 mins of fame in the spotlight playing the victim. Totally staged and pre-emptied attempt to manipulate the media and sway undecided voters and you’ve just lost any creditability you had amongst most of your Scottish readers by being sucked in big time. Disappointed doesn’t come close to what I feel about this article.

  91. Raymond Soltysek says:

    ‘The disrupters said they would vote SNP, ergo they are SNP supporters (whatever else they may be).’

    Are you seriously going to hold party leaders responsible for the actions of people who are not party members, Alex?

    I can almost certainly guarantee that the intelligence officers from MI6 who took active part in the illegal abduction, rendition and torture of British nationals in Libya will vote Tory. Does that make David Cameron a torturer too?

    Don’t answer that one.

  92. Johanna says:

    A echo of the behaviour by minority in Scotland again from referendum. Shocking and embarrassed by behaviour of fellow Scots. Brings shame to the country.

    1. hoddles says:

      A minority of 4 in a population of 5.3 million. Meanwhile the English Tory thugs who attacked Miliband still haven’t been found, nor the English Labour supporter who threw an egg at Cameron.

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