Tuesday, 18 March 2014

New Voices, Same Old Song


Six months to go!  Get your referendum personality bingo cards out, folks, it’s time for you to be subjected to some new voices in the debate.

Look, everyone, here’s Charles Kennedy!  He’s someone for whom people have a lot of time, although most of them refer to it as “the past”.  For those of you that were missing him, he’s just finishing a stint as Rector of Glasgow University, a job you can easily combine with being in hiding.  However, unlike his equally invisible successor, Ed Snowden, he hasn’t actually blown the whistle on anyone yet.  I imagine whistle-blowing is quite difficult when your jaw’s constantly on the floor at the sight of the party you once led zealously endorsing economic vandalism.

Anyway, Charlie’s keen political antennae have found a queue of roughly 5.3 million people who think the “No” campaign is too negative, and he’s decided to join it.  Better Together shouldn’t be grizzly bears growling at the public, he maintains; they should be care bears painting a picture of the Union’s benefits in lovely pastel shades.

Of course, they’d first need to conduct a comprehensive search for such benefits, possibly at sub-atomic level, but if they did manage to identify some, however frivolous, Charlie says these would need to be presented to voters “coherently”.  As he probably knows, this could best be achieved by kidnapping Alistair Darling, flying him out to the South Pole, where only penguins would be freaked out by his wittering, and replacing him as Better Together mouthpiece with a clever yet avuncularly laid-back debater such as…. oh, I don’t know… the Rt Hon C Kennedy MP, perhaps.  Could Charlie be angling to be a bonnie prince again?

Charlie’s well past the stage where he expects anyone actually to listen to him, but even he must have been taken aback by how off-message Jim “Why The Long Face” Murphy was when he galumphed into the debate yesterday.  Jim hides his personal charm well, particularly in his dealings with every other member of the human race, but he does have a wry sense of humour, which sneakily emerged when he of all people referred to the SNP as “fake socialists”.

Jim is old-school Better Together, in that he thinks “Vote my way and you won’t get your face smashed in” constitutes a positive message, and can’t understand how people have the cheek to believe otherwise.  The sub-section of voters he chose to fear-bomb was the “working poor”, a group that he and his Labour colleagues had spent 13 years assiduously creating.  These were plumbers, cleaners, nurses, bus drivers – terms that meant little to him, since he’d never had a proper job in his life, but, according to his advisers, real occupations.

They, and anyone else with a modicum of sense, might have concluded that the UK, where Oxfam had identified five families whose combined wealth was equal to that of the poorest 20% of the population, was about as crappy an economic model as you could imagine.  Not so, crowed Jim, dancing about in a scary bed-sheet like this week’s Scooby-Doo villain.  According to recent projections by fantasists, with independence things could get far worse.  

Mortgages, credit card charges and shopping bills would shoot up into the stratosphere, and even if they didn’t, we’d have no currency of any sort to pay them!  There would be no jobs for anyone, especially Scottish Westminster MPs!  The contents of honest working people’s window boxes would mutate into Triffids and devour them, if asteroids didn’t selectively destroy their homes first!  For pity’s sake, was Alex Salmond’s vanity project really worth this?

It would have been compelling stuff, if listened to with an uncritical ear in front of a pile of mind-altering drugs.  Unfortunately for Jim, his immediate audience was Hayley Millar of Good Morning Scotland, the morning after the BBC memo had gone out saying they’d better make an example of some No representatives to even things up.  It was difficult to counter Hayley’s diplomatically-worded argument that, on the basis of his own party’s catastrophic track record, Jim was a scaremongering, cynical toad whose delusions of adequacy merited urgent medical attention.  The best he could manage in response was a softly-spoken snarl, which died away pitifully as she triumphantly handed him his arse.

We’re looking forward to Hayley’s future work, although I fear that from now on it may be limited to traffic reports.  She would have been the most newsworthy BBC employee of the week, were it not for the previous day’s stushie surrounding Andrew Marr. 

Of course there’s no substance to the charge that in his fireside chat with Mr Salmond he ventured his own opinion, or that of the BBC.  As the Beeb stated in their cut-and-paste dismissal of the resultant tsunami of complaints, Mr Marr is a senior journalist with a Cambridge degree, and the BBC is a venerable British institution of unimpeachable impartiality, so of course they don’t deal in opinions.  Everything they say is A Fact, Because It Just Is, OK?

The row brilliantly masked the BBC’s real triumph of the day, which was the discovery of how to nullify troublesome agitators such as Alex.  Simply interview him remotely, bouncing the signal off Venus, round the back of Alpha Centauri and through a traffic jam on the Kessock Bridge, and the resultant time delay will make it look as if he’s got no idea how to answer your questions.  Nice work, Auntie.

All of which brings me to the final new voice of the last few days:  a purveyor of surreal, chaotic humour that appears to be stream-of-consciousness nonsense made up on the spot, but actually took several months to craft.  No, I’m not talking about Eddie Izzard and his upcoming “Please Don’t Go” concert in Edinburgh, funny as that may be in a kind of sad way.  I mean Labour’s Devolution Commission, which today finally cranked out a list of things they think Scotland should be allowed to control, if Labour MPs don’t mind too much. 

But that’s a tale for another time, when I’ve finally stopped laughing.

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