Frank McAveety

There was a rare consensus on last night's edition of Politics Now, on STV. The Times' Angus Macleod and SNP MSP, Christine Grahame, were both of the same opinion: the media have been over-the-top in its reporting of an unguarded comment by Frank McAveety MSP that led to him yesterday tendering his resignation as convener of an important Scottish Parliament committee.

Macleod described it as “kindergarden politics”, adding there is a “new orthodoxy” that whenever a politician makes a mistake, not only are his or her political opponents quick to seize the opportunity to attack, but so too the media.

Many worse gaffes have been uttered by politicians in the vicinity of a live microphone and it was Grahame’s contention he should not have resigned, thus leaving it to the third member of the panel debate – Scotsman columnist and former Tory MSP, Brian Monteith – to remind viewers that McAveety is a family man and of course no right-thinking family man, a few of them even newspaper editors, has ever found another woman remotely attractive.

McAveety had spotted – just as his committee was winding up its business – a woman in the audience. Under his breath, he uttered to a colleague how attractive she was.

It was bad enough a BBC microphone was still on; worse still the woman appears to be of school age, working on a placement with the Greens, though the heading in yesterday’s The Scottish Sun unfortunately gets itself into a fankle and ends up suggesting she is involved in something rather different: ‘MSP Sleaze Girl is Schoolkid’.

By the standards of the oggling that goes on a million times every day, McAveety’s comments were relatively tame, and therein was arguably his very public undoing.

The BBC could hardly disguise its glee at having recorded his inappropriate remarks. For the purposes of broadcasting, it helped that there were no profanities, no mention of sexual acts.

It would have been interesting had his unguarded moment been much less decent. Would the BBC have gone ahead with the broadcast had it been necessary to spare people’s sensitivities with a series of bleeps?

McAveety would have still gone – because it would have been rightly brought to his attention and he would have had no other choice. But it might have been done with less public prurience, with the sound of an outraged media ringing loudly in his ears.

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