I wonder how José Manuel Barroso plans to strip me of my EU citizenship? I’ve spent 40 years helping to provide a lavish lifestyle for useless people like him, so he’d better put some effort into it. An incentive scheme where I chuck my passport into a giant skip at Tesco in exchange for 500 Clubcard points ain’t gonna cut it. I want a weekend in Brussels where I can have a free pass for the Holiday Inn minibar and enjoy a final piece of sight-seeing before being humiliatingly deported. Or a mass ceremony at Hampden Park, like a Moonie wedding in reverse, where unelected officials tell us to sod off in 28 different languages and we’re given a souvenir red card to take home for the mantelpiece.
Mr Barroso may have had nothing new to say about Scotland, thus sparing Andrew Marr the trouble of thinking up any worthwhile questions, but his comments were instructive. England, should it wish to leave the EU after the 2017 referendum, now knows it can avoid years of wrangling and negotiation simply by declaring its own independence from Wales and Northern Ireland and being immediately expelled. On the other hand, Scotland can, if it desires, erupt into civil war and instability without doing its prospects of EU membership any further harm.
In Aberdeen yesterday, the background noise from the soon-to-be-has-been Mr Barroso was unheeded by the First Minister as he addressed Business for Scotland. He was enjoying himself, partially because he was in front of an appreciative audience, highly unlikely to form a lynch mob, and partially because it’s always gratifying to give George Osborne a kicking. We even heard what appeared to be the odd chuckle, although that may have been George squeezing the throat of a voodoo doll 400 miles away.
The Chancellor’s speech had been “bluff, bluster and bullying,” declared Alex, showing David Cameron who’s boss when it comes to alliteration. His view of currency union had been “a caricature”, an assessment that seemed to lend Mr Osborne's fag-packet doodle some undeserved artistic credibility. Then came the headline-seeker, the “George Tax”, which may have sounded like a subsidy for the Royal baby, but in fact stood for the transaction costs businesses elsewhere in the UK would pay if Scotland had a different currency. Alex sensibly stayed schtum about the effects on Scottish businesses, relying on Better Together to find some way of shooting themselves in the foot with that somewhere down the line.
The BBC immediately went on to a war footing. Chief political spinmeister Norman Smith teleported in from a parallel universe, where Mark Carney had agreed with Osborne that currency union was nuts and the SNP were clearly in denial. David Cameron, whose PPE degree from Oxford trumps two Nobel Prizes in economics any day, was dragged out of a flood relief photo-op in Gloucester to opine that Alex was now “a man without a plan”. Which, apart from the plan he’s still articulating and the four other options set out in black type in a perfectly readable font on page 110 of the White Paper, he clearly is.
Earlier, in an Edinburgh coffee shop small enough for it to look like the other customers were paying attention to him, Alistair Darling had looked remarkably relaxed as he used his psychic powers to rubbish what Alex was going to say. Unfortunately, he’d then made the mistake of drinking some of the coffee. Hence his midday BBC News 24 appearance, where he became agitated about the timing of opinion polls and patronised his interviewer in the style of Peter O’Sullevan commentating on the closing stages of the Grand National.
However, that was nothing compared to his evening Channel 4 conversation with Jon Snow, who clearly hadn’t received MI5’s instruction that questioning the No campaign is taboo. “You people are panicking,” said Snow, and anyone who’d read the Ladybird Book of Body Language could only agree. “Oh, for goodness sake!” wailed Alistair, fending off Snow’s preposterous assertions that Scotland was not a third-world country and everyone would co-operate to make independence work. “A small country doesn’t have as much influence in the EU,” he spluttered, inadvertently driving a coach and horses through Barroso’s contention that Scotland would be blackballed. As the cameras moved away, a cleaner nonchalantly began to scoop him into a bin bag.
On STV, Bernard Ponsonby gave Alex Salmond a robust grilling and sacrificed his prospects of ever landing a job with the BBC by allowing him time to finish his answers. “You’ve got a Plan B, C, D and E?” he asked incredulously, as Alex got as close as he ever will to raising his eyebrows and going “Well, duh”. If only, we all thought, Bernard could be similarly incisive in interviews with people on the Better Together side. Then we remembered that he’d have to catch them first.
To round the night off, Newsnight Scotland gave us Gary Robertson’s weird fixation on bank bailouts in an independent Scotland, a classic piece of stonewalling by John Swinney on the costs of the “George Tax” for Scottish businesses and a comedy cameo from Alistair Carmichael, the thinking man’s Rab C Nesbitt. “A referendum is different from an election,” maintained Alistair, “because you can change a government.” Except for viewers in Scotland, of course. It’s probably not even true in England now, with the Lib Dems tarting themselves about to form a government with just about anyone, no matter what the voters say.
And so another day in the bedlam of the Scottish referendum campaign came to an end. No, I’ve nothing to say about The Agenda on STV, because I stopped watching it after I threw the first brick through the TV screen.
Seven months to go. 210 days of scare stories, increasingly non-compliant interviewers, meltdowns and interfering wastes of space from Brussels. The greatest show on earth. Join me soon for the next gripping instalment.