Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Beware Eck, bearing gifts

The Times, 6 Jaunary, 2009

After years of uncritical support for the Scottish Nationalist Party, Sir Sean Connery is reaping unexpected rewards, receiving a succession of unsolicited gifts, courtesy of Alex Salmond, according to documents obtained under Freedom of Information regulations.

The First Minister, a long-time admirer of the veteran actor, has kept up a steady stream of offerings, including an early copy of the latest Sandi Thom CD, The Pink and the Lily, complete with a glowing appreciation of the singer from Mr Salmond himself.

That light, musical gift was followed a much heavier item, the White Paper on a “national conversation” over the country's future, signed by the First Minister.

To the untrained eye, Mr Salmond's behaviour might appear to be fawning, but psychologists say that in a celebrity-obsessed age, it is not unusual for politicians to forge links with famous people, in the hope that some stardust might rub off on them. In these circumstances, Sir Sean, often described as “the most famous Scot in world” is a natural target.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, said the relationship between leading politicians and celebrities could be traced back at least to 1960s America and the symbiosis between President John F. Kennedy and entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.

“It is a two-way relationship. Part of it stems from the celebrity's desire to be doing something serious, other than just singing songs or acting - he or she wants to show they have more substance.

“But in the multimedia age we live, and with issues such as the funding of parties, getting the support of celebrities becomes even more important to the politicians.

“They want to be linked to celebrities. It's good exposure in the public eye - because normally celebrities are far more significant than most politicians,” he said.

The correspondence shows that Mr Salmond wrote four official letters to Sir Sean's home in Bermuda in 2008. The first reads: “Dear Sir Sean, Sandi Thom has very kindly sent me an advance copy of her new album which will be released in the spring.

“I have greatly enjoyed listening to Sandi's album, so I am forwarding it to you in the hope that you will too.”

The letter is signed: “Best wishes for 2008 to Micheline and yourself. Yours for Scotland, Alex.”

The letters drew derision from opposition politicians and were described as “deeply embarrassing”.

“The way Mr Salmond comes across in awe of the rich and famous will make most Scots look askance at his spin-doctors' desperate claim that he is a man of the people,” a Scottish Labour Party spokesman said.

Mr Salmond has an enduring regard for Sir Sean, which he is unashamed to flaunt in public. Last August, he took a front-row seat at the actor's sell-out event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and in November spoke in glowing terms of Sir Sean's physique, at the unveiling of the Homecoming Scotland television advertisement, in which the actor makes a contribution.

“As for Sean, 78 years old and not wobbling at the knees. it's just not fair. What's he got that we've not got?” Mr Salmond asked.

On receipt of the answer - “a warm climate” - the First Minister refrained from further comment.


martin said...

Your latest tabloid journalism in the Times is disgraceful.

Could you please explain how the Fields of Athenrye is a Sectrian Anthem?

I await to be enlightened?

Mike said...

Hi Martin

The Fields of Athenry isn't sectarian, and the article doesn't say that. The headline might imply it, but I don't write the headlines.

The body copy does refer to the "allegedly sectarian" song - but that means its sectarianism was alleged by people quoted in an article in the the Glasgow Herald.

I was effectively writing in response to that article and the people I spoke to - academics, the song writer himself, and a fairly well known Rangers supporter, all agreed with me that the song isn't sectarian in the slightest.

Ray said...

Hi Mike, Edee's Mum here (from Lyceum and St Marys). U got an email / fone I can contact u on?

Fin :)))