Thursday, 27 April 2017

Stand By For Mayhem


Good Morning Scotland claims another victim.  I can’t blame my wife for banishing me to the spare room after I rudely awakened her by smashing the radio alarm to smithereens with a wooden coat hanger.  To be fair, I probably just dreamed the bit about the morning papers being reviewed by Margaret Curran, Darth Vader and the Duke of Cumberland, but it had the acid tang of plausibility.  After that, the real-life introduction of charisma bypass Miles Briggs was simply the final gamma-ray blast that stripped away my veneer of self-control.

In my reflective moments, when it’s just me, a bottle of wine and a couple of imaginary friends on the settee, I have to admit that my anger management could do with some work.  An adrenalin turbo-charge might be useful if my daily visit to the Co-Op were regularly bringing me face-to-face with a peckish sabre-tooth tiger.  But when the trip’s main challenge is a frantic search of the news-stand to discover where the local arsehole has hidden today’s National, it’s a myocardial infarction waiting to happen. 

Theresa May clearly has similar issues.  Tories don’t do reflectiveness, because if they ever peered into the abyss of their souls they’d all end up in straitjackets.  They don’t do detail either, as five nanoseconds in the presence of David Davis will testify.  But even a cursory self-analysis, scribbled on the bit of the Post-It note left over after she’s run out of ideas on Brexit, would reveal Theresa to be a spanner-bag of pent-up irritation.

This was true even before she drank the potion of powdered glass mixed with vinegar and poor people’s tears served to all incoming Tory Prime Ministers. Her policies at the Home Office were a shambolic cocktail of vindictiveness and counter-productivity, defended with the stubborn tetchiness of a politician who’d been absent getting porcupine quills fitted the day imagination was handed out.  Their legacy is still stinking the place out, with Highland villagers facing a 20 km round trip for a pint of milk after the closure of their community store because the family running it is being deported.  Rules is rules, chum, and you’re one jot short of a tittle in meeting the requirements, so you’re out on your ear, even though nobody this side of Alpha Centauri benefits.

Left to herself, I don’t reckon Theresa would have called the General Election.  Would she have wanted to have her ideas, in all their jaw-dropping vacuity, challenged by ordinary people?  She’d rather have had a bucket of tepid sick emptied over her.  It doesn’t fit the cover story, lapped up by the slavering sycophants of the BBC, in which she gradually warmed to the idea during a walk in the Welsh hills, with her hubby offering sage, owlish advice, fluffy Easter bunnies gambolling around and a male-voice choir humming Cwm Rhondda in the distance.  I suspect the bit that’s missing is Lynton Crosby screaming down the phone at her for two hours.

When it comes to the dark arts, Crosby is the 100% cocoa content guy.  Say what you like about the British having no negotiating skills, whoever brokered the exchange deal with Australia that sent hapless numpty McTernan to advise their politicians and laser-like assassin Crosby to advise ours is a freakin’ genius.  Crosby’s heart may be a shrivelled walnut and he may think scruples are devices for opening wine bottles, but he delivers the goods, even if it means kicking down every door in the street.

Crosby immediately sussed that there was no way Theresa could be exposed to bothersome questions from the public.  Giving innocent hairdressers from Macclesfield a death stare for politely asking why the local hospital has no doctors tends to give voters the heebie-jeebies.  So, even before the hideous screech of brakes accompanying the General Election U-turn had died away, shadowy sources were whispering that invitations for the PM to participate in a TV debate would receive a two-word response with some sexual content.

Instead, Theresa’s been on a triumphal tour, doughnutted by placard-carrying obsessives, taking no questions beyond Laura Kuenssberg enquiring about her favourite colour, and sweeping away in a presidential motorcade, enveloping crowds of energetic V-signers in exhaust fumes.  At Glaxo SmithKline, in her Maidenhead constituency, the workforce who’d been cattle-prodded in front of her were forbidden from answering media questions, and probably even had Special Branch tailing them home in case their spouses asked what sort of day they’d had.  Crosby’s got the whole shebang exquisitely choreographed.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Theresa has a cyanide capsule hidden in her necklace in case a journalist accidentally corners her.

There’s still the problem of her debating skills being unable to stand up to a gust of wind, so Crosby’s got her and the entire Tory parrot choir schooled in the key soundbites. I mean, bleed’n’ell, everyone, even the ones who need to follow a diagram to put their socks on. According to the mantra, the Tories offer “strong, stable leadership”, a world-view incompatible with sanity, unless “stable” means “thing that’s full of horse-manure” and “strong” just refers to the smell. 

Meanwhile, the opposition is alliteratively tagged as a “coalition of chaos”. Well, “coalition” seems fair enough, since even if the public chose to elect 650 Labour MPs and no-one else, Jeremy Corbyn still wouldn’t command an overall majority. “Chaos”, however, can occasionally be creative and has a theory attached to it, so you might be inclined to rank it ahead of the C-words you could place after “Conservative”.  Cluelessness, cruelty, criminality and catastrophe all spring to mind, and that’s just before the watershed.    

And is our media calling this guff out for the blatant kindergarten-level manipulation it is?  Oops, no, it’s set up camp in the same part of the dictionary: compliant, collusive, contemptible and crap.  On its jackboot wing, where they head-butt the Caps Lock key for fun, anyone seeking to frustrate the Tories’ will is threatened with being chained up in the Tower of London or worse.  On its propagandist conspiracy wing, the hotlines to well-connected liars are already smouldering like a pair of Carmichael’s pants.

Is Jeremy Corbyn doing anything to ward off this tsunami of tripe?  Oops, no, he’s declared that, instead of brandishing Theresa’s empty chair at the TV debate to show her up as a snivelling coward, he, er, won’t bother turning up either.  I swear that every time this man comes to a fork in the road, he makes absolutely sure it hits him in the face.  What are his advisers thinking, apart from “Wonder how long it’ll take me to tunnel out of here using this teaspoon and my bare hands?”

And so to Scotland, where as usual the rules seem to have been devised under the influence of industrial-strength hallucinogens.  If the SNP doesn’t win 56 seats out of 59 again, independence is a busted flush, Westminster will have us by the short and curlies in perpetuity and Tesco can safely start ordering in stocks of British haggis.  If the Tories win even one extra seat, all of the above statements apply, plus Ruth Davidson will be formally crowned as viceroy, with the right to take away your motability scooter whenever she fancies it.  If Labour gets 59 votes, that probably means that at least their candidates remembered to vote for themselves.

Back on Good Morning Scotland, here’s the review of this morning’s papers, and because of time constraints headlines from The National will once again be broadcast in semaphore.  Can you hear the flags swishing over Gary Robertson’s chortling?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Ready Or Not...


Now is not the time to return to blogging.  I’m just buried with paperwork right now, doing lots of good deeds vaguely associated with living in the early days of a better nation, and emphatically not sitting in an armchair eating baked beans direct from the tin and binge-watching old Countdown episodes.  My counsellor says that’s all in the past.

Nor, however, is it the time to be frogmarched to the polling booth to indulge a poisonous right-wing cabal’s power fantasies.  I mean, another bloody vote?  Bridge of Earn Village Hall will be charging us rent soon.  Including a Cooncil by-election, that’ll be eight visits to the polls since we moved back to Scotland less than four years ago.  That’s as many visits as I had in 15 years of living in Maidenhead, studiously body-swerving Theresa on the odd occasions she chose to bore her constituents to stupefaction in the High Street.

I suppose, looking back, it wasn’t the time last June for Scotland to be wheeched out of the EU as if we’d drawn the short straw on United Airlines.  Nor was it the time in November for the laughably misnamed “free” world to have a fickle tantrum-throwing six-year-old narcissist elected to its self-proclaimed leadership.  Nor, when the seemingly inevitable thermonuclear holocaust envelops us, will it be the time to be kissing my arse goodbye as the Faslane fallout floats across from Forgandenny.

So here I am, reporting for duty, feeling like it’s the first day of Primary 7 and I’m outdoors in my rugby kit, the wind whipping icy javelins of drizzle into my cheeks, dreading the moment someone throws me the ball and I get pounded so far into the turf that my atoms fuse with the earth’s crust.

I’ve been away so long it’s like a whole new induction course.  So much information to process.  Ruth Davidson and Kim Jong Un – how do you tell them apart?  Does the surname “Torrance” really mean “rivers of pish”?  Is Glenn Campbell’s resemblance to one of James Kelly’s haemorrhoids coincidental?  How long can Murdo Fraser go on telling jokes before someone laughs?  Which is worse, listening to Annie Wells or being repeatedly thwacked in the face with a wet lavvy brush?

At least there are some familiar sights and sounds.  Jackie Bird is still on the telly, so I’ve signed up for another course of hypnotherapy to stop me spray-painting “LIAR” all over the screen.  Kezia Dugdale, expertly tutored by George Foulkes in the art of irrelevance, is still getting an inordinate amount of airtime, sounding increasingly like a hearing aid on the blink.  Ditto John “Professor Branestawm” Curtice, seemingly the only life-form in the galaxy qualified to recite the bleedin’ obvious about voter intentions.  Meanwhile, Willie Rennie continues to amaze medical experts by holding down a job in front-line politics, despite having his brain replaced by a Tunnock’s teacake in 1983.

Meanwhile, there are the questions, always the damn brainless questions, fizzing with hostility, white noise searing the eardrums.  What currency will you use?  The poond? The pibroch? The Eck? The babybox?  Which way will the Queen’s head face on your stamps?  What will the forty-fifth word on page 69 of your constitution be?  What pension will my unborn grandchild be paid in 2088?  Won’t the United Nations declare you a pariah state?  How will you defend yourselves against invasion by Klingons?

And, of course, you have to smile benignly and take it, because any other reaction will be slammed as “Cybernat Abuse” and Daily Mail goons will be legally entitled to rake through your bins.  Unionist foghorns can proclaim that you’re a saboteur to be crushed, or a frothing extremist just a couple of doors along from the Nazis, and everyone from the Queen on down will purr in contented approval.  But if you dare to re-tweet something with the word “wank” in it, the faux outrage police will be all over you like chicken pox, the pillars of civilisation will cave in and the jaws of Hell will clank shut on us all.

“Here we go again, more Nat grievances,” intone the usual suspects, surreptitiously feeding copies of The National into a giant shredder. Yeah, whatever.  Personally, I think my grievances have a justification so gargantuan it possesses its own gravitational field, but I’m just a brainwashed, poorly-educated cult member, so what do I know?

Anyway, resistance may be futile, or it may turn out to be the spark that ignites the conflagration that reduces the Empire 2.0 mentality to a heap of smouldering ash, but we may as well have some fun while we’re about it.  You’ll already have noted that the ol’ sense of humour is rustier than a cheese grater left out in the rain, but stick with it and we might have a few laughs along the way.  And, even if we don’t, it’ll be more therapeutic than radio silence.

So now is not the time to return to blogging.  But there isn’t going to be any better time, so let the good times roll.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Queen of Maybe


Didn’t Theresa May’s inaugural speech last week warm the cockles of your heart?  Or perhaps that was acid reflux.  Either way, it was a timely warning that, no matter what back-stabbing chaos may temporarily afflict the Tory Establishment, you can never underestimate their ability to switch effortlessly back into people-shafting mode.

Not that you’d necessarily have picked that up from Theresa’s language, which was so touchy-feely it bordered on harassment.  Taking her words at face value, you’d almost have expected her to appoint John McDonnell as Chancellor, with Florence Nightingale in charge of Health and the Dalai Lama as Home Secretary.  Who wouldn’t follow that honeyed voice to the sunlit uplands of the brave new future, pausing only for a group hug before leaping over the Brexit precipice in the sure knowledge we’d sprout life-preserving angel wings?

Of course, it’s the oldest trick in the book for incoming Tory overlords.  You might call it the “reverse Ronseal”: the art of spouting screeds of high-falutin’ blurb from your policy tin before going gleefully on to do the exact opposite.  Maggie Thatcher was an early exponent, with her St Francis of Assisi tommy-rot, which conspicuously failed to mention “Where there is industry, may we bring a wasteland” and “Where there is community, may we bring isolated pockets of despair”.  Tony Blair, the party’s most celebrated undercover agent, glad-handed his way into Downing Street to the strain of Things Can Only Get Better, which was true only for his property portfolio.  And in 2010, in a historic moment for the vampire community, the key phrase was delivered by George Osborne, whose “We’re all in this together” was a bare-faced admission of guilt dressed up as solidarity.

Now, despite the tug of my genes and life experience, I don’t wish to be a cynical old scrote.  It’s juuuust conceivable that, despite having 21 years in the first-class carriage of the gravy train, a pension scheme devised by a fairy godmother and a City high-flier hubby wheeling a monthly king’s ransom home in a barrow, Theresa truly appreciates what it’s like to struggle to get by, knock your pan in around the clock and still be only a gnat’s ba’-hair away from rent arrears.

Perhaps her thoughts on the topic are scribbled on a Post-It Note, headed Ordinary Humans - Key Features, somewhere in the depths of her paperwork.  They sure haven’t shown up anywhere in her political choices, statements and actions.  Instead, as part of the Cameron coterie, she voted, with not a jot of queasiness, for policies that brought us the Bedroom Tax, Gradgrind economics and a million extra foodbank clients.  As Home Secretary she was about as authoritarian as you can get without actually donning jackboots, and if she ever helped struggling families it was by giving them a taxi ride and police escort to the airport.

I suppose you can’t really blame Theresa and her mates for the charade.  After all, how would it sound if they chose to be honest?  “Hi, we’re Tories.  If you’re drowning, we’ll throw you a rubber ring packed with bricks.  If you’re managing to stay afloat, we’ll empty a bucket of piranha fish into the pool.  In so far as we tolerate your existence at all, it’s because it amuses us to watch our sociopathic fat-cat chums rip you off at every turn.”

But I digress.  For indy-inclined Scots, sitting transfixed with horror as the wall-to-wall coverage juddered on, the key point in the speech actually arose earlier.  Bearing in mind the UK government’s discombobulation over Scotland’s reaction to Brexit, it came as no surprise when, only three paragraphs in, Theresa tipped a bowl of cereal over our heads with her eulogy to the precious, preciousss bond that is the Union.  

Between waves of nausea we pictured David Mundell’s wee tail wagging so energetically you could dip it in paint and undercoat the shed in thirty seconds flat.  And Ruthie Tank Commander, Theresa’s principal adviser on photo-ops for Thatcher-wannabes, proudly polishing her Privy Councillor prefect’s badge and dreaming of promotion to Westminster.  And, in a dank little editing suite at Pacific Quay, the Reporting Scotland team moaning ecstatically and having to go for a lie doon.

Theresa’s preoccupation with The Constitutional Question was signalled even more blatantly a couple of days later, when she body-swerved a COBRA meeting about events in Nice to materialise on Nicola Sturgeon’s doorstep at Bute House.  She couldn’t have got there faster if those red shoes had been Ferrari roller-skates.  (I know, I shouldn’t define a female politician by her fashion choices, but, hey, we all slagged off Cameron for wearing a pig’s head as a sporran, so I’m simply being even-handed.)

All leave was cancelled at the BBC’s mistranslation department, as staff swung into action to garble Nicola’s nuanced position, keeping all options firmly on the table, into “Ah’ve got a veto, so youse English basturts are stuffed!” Andrew Marr’s Twitter hit squad surpassed themselves by pumping out one lie, repeating it in a correction, then replacing both of them with a dollop of cloth-eared speculation.  Meanwhile, Gordon Brewer’s Sunday Politics Scotland conversation with Nicola continued his one-man project of failing to comprehend anything he’s told, however simple, and blaming it on the interviewee.

The more events develop, the more obvious it becomes that, on the squeaky-sphincter spectrum, the UK Establishment has moved well beyond “Occasional Embarrassing Toot”.  The level of anger in Scotland after last night’s Trident debate, when Theresa’s mask slipped and she went full Cruella De Vil on us, should keep their intestinal gases bubbling away nicely.  And when Nicola’s finished with them, it’s a fair bet that those Establishment sphincters will be playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee” all day and all night. 

If you’re thinking of entering the dry-cleaning business, go for it!  You couldn’t have picked a better time.