Tuesday/ Wednesday. 91 days of campaigning to go...
In a fresh blow for Alex Salmond, it suddenly turned out that a Social Attitudes Survey telling us what people were thinking 12 months ago was somehow important in the referendum debate.
“Arbitrarily turning back the clock is perfectly fair,” opined Professor John Curtice, his unbridled glee evident in the sparks flying from his hair. “Nobody in the survey had ever heard of the White Paper, but nobody had heard of Alistair Carmichael either, so it’s swings and roundabouts. But what’s most important is that, when you ignore all the evidence that’s subsequently accumulated, I’m shown to be right about everything, and the case for me getting my very own 24-hour TV channel becomes unanswerable.”
“The voices of people from the past have been ignored for too long in this debate,” declared Blair McDougall, munching a celebratory Empire biscuit as a tannoy broadcast the Carpenters’ Yesterday Once More all over Blythswood Square. “Naturally, we’ve taken their concerns on board and will be recycling them verbatim in our new £720,000 leaflet Ooh Look, Some Children Holding Hands, which will shortly be force-fed through every letter-box in Scotland.”
“This is fantastic, I can draw a line in the sand again!” exulted Ruth Davidson. “And this time I’m going to do it with the disappearing foam they use for free-kicks at the World Cup, just to keep my options open.”
There was some alarm about the survey appearing to indicate that 41% of Scots thought that Trident should be retained in an independent Scotland. However, it later emerged that the questioners hadn’t actually used the word “Trident”, but had instead asked respondents in Scotland about “cuddly nuclear submarine kinda thingies”. This is an example of a highly complex cutting-edge survey technique known as a “complete pauchle”.
Trident also featured in an interventionist bleat from another historical figure, John Major, who was from 1990 to 1997 the lead actor in the sitcom UK Government, best remembered for the cones hotline, constant sleaze, relentless back-stabbing and an economic policy run by George Soros. He sees everything in black and white, which is only fair, because we see him in a mixture of the two.
John was perturbed to a not inconsiderable degree, oh yes, by the thought of “the SNP’s threat” selfishly to demand Trident’s removal. Obviously, he spluttered, the only other place to put the nukes would be England, and people living in England would need to be complete berks to agree to a risk like that, so the UK’s whole nuclear deterrent would be kyboshed. The question “And your point is?” hung in the air, but, since the interviewer was Jim Naughtie, it was left dangling in frustration before finally unhooking itself and stomping off down the pub.
John’s last Secretary of State for Scotland before he drove the Tories to electoral annihilation was the execrable Michael Forsyth, now ennobled and impossible to dislodge, like a piece of rotting spinach wedged in a crumbling tooth. He shared a sofa on Wednesday’s BBC Daily Politics show with the SNP’s Angus Robertson, making it an unelected gravy-trainer with lifetime tenure versus an elected representative who’s working hard to make himself redundant. His Lordship duly displayed the full range of eye-rolling contempt for self-determination that made his photograph everyone's favourite dartboard during the Tories’ devolution hate-fest of the 1990s.
Still, even malevolent trolls occasionally strike a note of truth. When the opposition parties’ written-in-tomato-ketchup “more powers” guarantee came up, Lord Forsyth was very far from shaking a set of cheerleader’s pom-poms. It wasn’t an issue for before the referendum, he scoffed, as if brushing an earwig off his robe, and would be a matter “for the whole of the UK”.
In other words, after we’ve voted No like obedient kiddywinks, the contents of the mystery envelope will be submitted to 591 lukewarm-to-hostile English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs, perhaps including a small wasps’ nest of UKIP MPs holding the balance of power. Any vague hopes and dreams surviving that ordeal will be stretchered to the House of Lords, where an elegantly-conducted debate will throttle them for good. Alas, poor guarantee! Not worth the paper it isn’t written on.
Back in 2013, if they’d been asked, people might have given a tuppenny toss about an important bag of wind like the Premier of China saying that the UK should stay together, though it was a matter for the Scottish voterssszzzz. These days, sorry, we won’t even raise an eyebrow for anything below minor deity level. We’re all looking forward to David Cameron’s reciprocal remarks about Tibet, though.
Finally for nostalgia buffs, on Wednesday Jeremy Paxman, the ungladdest sufferer of fools yet to bestride the earth, presented his final edition of Newsnight. As a valedictory assignment, whether to take the piss or to get him closer to the main source of information, his producer asked him to interview Boris Johnson while sitting behind him on a pantomime tandem.
This surely deserved a zinging sign-off comment from Jezza, but in the end the great man just shrugged his shoulders and settled for “This is England, so I’ll just thank you for watching.”
“This is England.” Yeeeeeees……
Nailed it in three words, Jeremy.