Wednesday. 98 days of campaigning to go…
If you gave 100 people 100 seconds to name as many “bleedin’ obvious Unionists” as possible, the first name they would write down is “J K Rowling”, except for people in Glasgow, who would spell it “Jakey”. Photographs from Eddie Izzard’s Pleeeeease Don’t Go gig clearly show her demonstrating high levels of tolerance for Alistair Darling. She’s a frequent visitor to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown for tea, buns and office equipment throwing. And she’s never once Favorited anything “Muggles for Yes” have posted on Twitter.
Nevertheless, it was a big moment for the campaign when she actually trundled over to the headquarters of Better Together with a wheelbarrow containing £1 million in cash. Of course, she’s donated a similar sum to the Labour Party in the past, so her bank-rolling of lost causes fronted by charlatans does follow a pattern. If I ever invented a hair-dryer made of cheese, I’d certainly want her sitting opposite me when I made my pitch on Dragons’ Den.
But, under the rules of campaign donations established by Alex Johnstone MSP in the earlier case of Chris and Colin Weir, shouldn’t we be worried about this very thing? Is JKR giving the money of her own free will, or is she merely a pitiable dupe who’s been sent ga-ga by the hypnotic snake eyes of Blair McDougall? Scoff all you like, but let’s face it: here’s a person who’s immersed in a fantasy universe co-existing with our own, where adolescent wizards ride broomsticks at invisible schools and Ralph Fiennes is the embodiment of all evil. Before BT snaffles up the dosh, shouldn’t we at least get a social worker involved?
JKR’s a proper writer, who can punctuate and everything, so she was able to explain her decision on her web site in 1,576 expertly crafted words that nakedly paraded every nonsensical Unionist scare you could dream up, but still left you with a warm glow, going “Awww!” Unfortunately, a malevolent magician must have snuck an evil incantation into the text somewhere, because immediately a hidden chamber seemed to open and a many-headed filth-vomiting abomination was unleashed on the Internet.
It turned out we were witnessing a sudden perfect combination of storms, such as forecasters always manage to explain to you in detail just after it’s happened. At the very moment JKR’s bank vault was creaking open, the phenomenon known as “Lallygate”, which in most circumstances would by now have been wrapping chips, was taking on a chaotic new lease of life.
The tweets from both sides of the indyref debate, plus some agents provocateurs and troublemakers along for the ride, were everywhere, with people finding them even in places they weren’t. Questioning, supportive, cynical, sanctimonious, vengeful, rude, sarcastic, hoity-toity, filthy, illegal and downright hateful: you could have any flavour you liked, although a fair number tasted slightly fishy.
In the search for a Lallygate scapegoat the mainstream media had identified a Gunn, perhaps not smoking but certainly hired. Campbell of that ilk had written a 39-word e-mail that was 50% correct, albeit somewhat snide and unnecessary, and 50% pant-wettingly, embarrassingly wrong. Sadly, this crappy strike rate was achieved on the basis of just two measly facts, although it was still several notches above the output of a mendacious, back-stabbing toad such as Damian McBride.
Gunn apologised for his schoolboy howler, which seemed about right, although if it had been my call I’d also have told him to sit quietly in his playpen until further notice and keep his hands off the crayons. But the lynch mobs, amazed and delighted at temporarily occupying moral ground a baw-hair higher than its surroundings, bayed for more. To them, Gunn was the chief minion of Lord Voldemort (guess who?), transmitting poisonous thought commands to Death-Eating Cybernats from an underground bunker beneath Arthur’s Seat. Oh, and, by the way, all Yes supporters should just shut up shut up SHUT UP until 19 September.
With the spirit of Senator Joe McCarthy stalking the land, the rammy continued all the way up to STV’s Scotland Tonight. Here the nation was treated to a televisual glimpse of the Rev Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland, a web site whose demonization by the mainstream media is currently entering its final stages. He was in discussion with Susan Dalgety, a radioactive bay who used to be Jack McConnell’s advisor and is now forging a career as a professional interrupting machine.
Aided by some nifty refereeing from Rona Dougall, Rev Stu maintained his cool through all the “noises off”, and managed to put across his points. In a nutshell, these were that, unless you live in a reality constantly warped by wizards, Campbell Gunn’s e-mail was pretty damn lame, but wasn’t a personal attack, whilst Alistair Darling’s car-crash interview with the New Statesman had undoubtedly been both.
Annoyingly for his detractors, Rev Stu made these observations without swearing, heckling, trashing the set or instructing his followers to kill everyone without mercy. He was even remarkably restrained when Ms Dalgety tried to explain to him how the Scottish media worked, in a tone they must have used to tell Galileo the earth was flat.
As a febrile day limped painfully to its close, it was hard to see in what way the cause of democracy and civil discussion had been advanced, and not entirely clear how much longer it might survive.
But we could all be sure of one thing. For once, at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Alex Neil would be off the hook!