Tuesday. 99 days of campaigning to go….
As the placards, flags and rent-a-crowds all magically winked out of existence until the next time the TV cameras ventured up the A1, Scotland returned to the real business of the referendum campaign: getting huffy and petulant with one another on the Internet.
Much of the cyber-stushie centred upon the New Statesman, a publication whose once-unimpeachable integrity has, fittingly, collapsed to the level of Rik Mayall’s iconic creation Alan B’Stard. Under pressure from Blair McDougall’s Black Ops Team, it morphed into an ice-cream parlour of lies, its online version offering four different flavours of what Alistair Darling might have said when he effectively smeared two-fifths of Scottish voters as Nazis.
Sorry, that’s harsh. Making sense of an inaudible mumble is tricky, and can take a few attempts to get right, particularly when a campaign apparatchik is standing over you with a baseball bat. Life’s so much easier for the people editing the Chilcott Enquiry Bush/Blair tapes, who can just use a flamethrower and have done with it. Anyway, here at last is the definitive version of the transcript.
Interviewer: Blood and soil nationalism?
A plate of cakes is brought into the room.
Darling: A tart! . . .
There follows a pause, as Darling delightedly scoffs his chosen specimen. Then he goose-steps around the room like Basil Fawlty, shouting “Don’t mention the war!”
Jeez, can’t you stuffy Nats take a joke?
Elsewhere in the “Whoops, what have I said?” stakes, there was a spat between Alex Salmond and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who had warned last week of independence leading to the “Balkanisation of Britain”. A team of New Statesman voice experts was hastily convened to reveal that what Mr Bildt had actually said was “Vulcanisation”, and that he’d meant only that independence would be eyebrow-raising, so everyone would look like Mr Spock. “Nothing to see here,” said David Cameron, who was in Sweden for discussions about how to reduce annoying interference from Europe.
Back in the twilight world of the “social” media, the price of high horses began to soar, as someone portraying herself as an ordinary person was accused of being a political activist. Or perhaps someone portraying herself as a political activist was accused of being an ordinary person, which to a political activist is a really gross insult.
It seems that this poor lady, perhaps while trying to return a library book or find a decent public loo, kept inadvertently wandering into political conferences. Here she often bumped into Labour MSPs, with the shock of the impact inevitably triggering their iPhones to take selfies.
As time went on she became infected with several political viruses, such as absurd views on the viability of the Scottish NHS and the inability to walk past a microphone without speaking into it. Eventually she was persuaded to join the Shadow Cabinet, although, as New Statesman voice experts have pointed out, tapes of the incident clearly show that she thought she was being invited on a shopping trip to MFI.
This simple chain of events, which could happen to anyone, gave us “Lallygate”, an outbreak of online eye-gouging and shrieking whataboutery that threatened to make the Jeremy Kyle Show look like a Church of Scotland Guild meeting. It soon became clear that everyone needed to apologise, resign, be sacked and sit in a large vat of custard, dressed only in their pants, before honour could be restored. Meanwhile, an IPSOS Mori poll, drooled over by Professor John Curtice, indicated that the number of Scottish households likely to answer a canvasser’s knock had fallen by 99.999999% overnight.
Astonishingly, things were comparatively peaceful at Westminster, where Michael Gove and Theresa May had finished burning each other’s toys in their prams and were now simply exchanging murderous glances. Mr Gove pronounced that all schoolchildren must be indoctrinated with “British values”, or possibly “Brutish values” - still waiting for the New Statesman assessment there - and the search immediately began to discover what the hell these were. “Money talks,” was the suggestion of one William Hill punter, who I hope isn’t a senior officer in MI6 with insider knowledge, as he placed a world-record £400,000 bet on Scotland voting No.
Finally, a tip of the hat to lugubrious Jim Murphy, who flew from Barrhead to Barra on his “100 Corners” tour, which involves standing on two Irn Bru crates and scaring the living daylights out of local passers-by. So far the consensus is that Jim’s done OK, but the crowds preferred the scraping noise the crates made as he moved them into place. You can follow Jim on his travels by looking at Met Office forecasts and seeing where they predict deep depressions.
And the game continues…..