I watched a very interesting programme on BBC2 this week- Horizon. It took me back to the days when the BBC could be relied upon for quality, informative and entertaining programming.
The subject matter of the Horizon programme was the cosmos and the observations by cosmologists that our universe seemed to defy the accepted laws of physics.
To paraphrase; heavenly bodies appeared to behave in a fashion that was at odds with how they should have been behaving. All scientific theory, mathematical formulae and accepted wisdom predicted that objects were orbiting at speeds that should have resulted in them being thrown about like the contents of a food mixer spinning without the lid. Also, the universe was expanding at ever increasing speed when in fact the gravitational pull of its constituent components should have now arrested this acceleration.
So, what was holding the universe together?
Well, the scientists had a theory for this, that there must be some kind of force influencing the universe that we can neither see nor detect. This strange phenomenon was termed 'Dark Matter'.
‘Dark Matter’! eureka I thought. For this theory offered an explanation as to how Labour in Scotland have managed to escape the Purcell affair pretty much unscathed. The world of Scottish politics must contain an equivalent force, a force that can lessen the effects of otherwise devastating revelations, gaffes and scandals – I have termed this hitherto unknown force 'Disnae Matter'.
'Disnae Matter' much like its cosmological cousin ‘Dark Matter’ is difficult to detect and cannot be seen, but its influence is there nonetheless, the humble Scottish newspaper often shows evidence of this mysterious force. How else could a scandal like the Stephen Purcell affair have resulted in so little by way of damaging media coverage for the Labour party? Moreover a look back at recent events and we can see some quite compelling circumstantial evidence for the existence of such a force.
The David Marshall resignation in 2008, amidst questions over his £500,000 expense claims, brought little by way of Scottish media scrutiny – why?; 'Disnae Matter'. Jim Murphy's false claim that the Dunfermline Building Society had acquired USA sub-prime mortgages; again 'Disnae Matter'. Jim Devine's revelation that he was instructed on how to fill in his expenses claim by a senior Labour whip; also 'Disnae Matter' and Jim Murphy's recent apology to the local Jewish community for attracting a BNP Westminster candidate to their area ... yes you’ve guessed it; 'Disnae Matter'.
'Disnae Matter' though appears to have beneficial properties for only one party, the Labour party. The SNP seem to be completely unaffected by 'Disnae Matter' which seems to pass straight through media stories dealing with the SNP leaving no trace. If anything, a completely different force seems to be at work that has the opposite effect on SNP stories.
What do to about my revolutionary theory? A paper surely beckoned, spin doctors, politicians and physicists would hail me as a visionary and genius. However the bubble was quickly burst when hidden within the data was evidence suggesting this mysterious force had an unexpected side effect.
It appeared that prolonged exposure to 'Disnae Matter' could compromise the judgement of writers and editors – seriously harming a paper’s circulation and reputation; ridicule often followed.
‘Disnae Matter’ it seems might well help Labour, but it also does to a journalist’s reputation what kryptonite does for Superman’s powers.