Alex Salmond offered a junior reporter some sweets in a patronising stunt. Photo: Getty
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Alex Salmond labelled a "bully" as he offers a junior reporter some sweets

The Telegraph reveals Scotland's First Minister's literal sweet revenge on a young reporter asking difficult questions about an independent Scotland's future currency.

The Telegraph is running a piece about Alex Salmond being a "bully behind the mask", because of the way he treated a junior reporter asking him tricky questions about what the currency situation would be for an independent Scotland.

At a press conference, Scotland's First Minister announced in front of the press pack that he had promised to give 27-year-old Ben Riley-Smith, a Scottish political reporter at the Telegraph, some sweets. He handed him some Liquorice Allsorts, to which Riley-Smith reacted by saying, "and you don't think it's condescending at all to give sweets to a junior reporter?", and handing the sweets back. 

But that wasn't the end of Salmond's patronising stunt. Here's an extract from the article about what happened next:

After the question and answer session ended, Salmond again presented Riley-Smith with the sweets and said: “[Got] a wee fancy for Jelly Babies, son?, to which Riley- Smith said: "It just seems a bit patronising First Minister, doesn't it?"

First Minister: "That's OK, I'm perfectly happy to patronise you, Ben. [Laughs.] There's no harm meant."

Riley-Smith handed back the pack of sweets: "I just think it's a bit patronising, given I'm just trying to be professional."

First Minister: "You mustn't get irritable."

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.