Flying back from my holidays at the weekend, wondering if the pilot would be able to avoid the clouds of volcanic pish spewing into the atmosphere through the efforts of Jim Murphy, I was blissfully unaware of the stushie that lay ahead. Thanks to a disastrous security lapse at YouGov, some truthful indyref poll results had accidentally escaped into the public domain, sending a ruddy great ferret up the trouser leg of the UK body politic.
In recognition of the national crisis, the BBC immediately abandoned its commitment to impartiality, not that anyone noticed much difference. Andrew Marr, his fingernails glistening with red, white and blue varnish, invited George Osborne on to his show to offer reassurance to the people, in so far as that’s possible for a creepy cadaver with coal-black eyes and no reflection in any mirror.
There would be no currency union, no way, no how, not on your nelly, re-iterated the Chancellor, sending sterling into a tailspin and his speculator chums into froths of excitement. But, by sheer coincidence, and in no way a colossal panicky bribe, this was the very week when the Unionist parties had been planning to announce some really bitchin’ extra powers for Scotland if it voted No.
It wasn’t clear what these powers would entail, although enhanced control of lightbulbs, pop-up toasters and the colour of men’s socks were just some of the mouth-watering possibilities. But, whatever they turned out to be, they’d make Scotland just the proudest subordinate region of a bankrupt, clapped-out colonial power led by lying charlatans you ever did see!
Hang on, said some annoying swots who’d read the Edinburgh Agreement, you can’t move the goalposts so close to the referendum, especially when so many postal votes have already been cast. The Internet began gently to smoulder as people Tweeted images of indignant e-mails they’d fired off to the Electoral Commission, under the misapprehension that this august body was any more useful than a wet wipe in a tsunami. They might as well have written their messages on leaves and entrusted them to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
It rapidly became clear that any prohibition in the Edinburgh Agreement on introducing faaaabulous new offers in the 28-day pre-referendum “purdah” period didn’t apply in this case, because (1) the Agreement wasn’t a proper treaty, suckers, just a wee pretendy scrap of paper signed by an oleaginous, dish-faced Tory with his fingers crossed behind his back, and (2) the three Unionist parties weren’t actually offering anything new, just the same unspecific mouldy old toot as ever.
As the Yes camp hooted in derision, the Establishment showed signs of being genuinely spooked. Alistair Darling, asserting to a slack-jawed John Humphrys on Today that all was going according to plan, had to be strapped into a life-size jelly mould so as not to slide off his chair into an amorphous mass on the studio floor. A Royal foetus, usually a dead cert to instigate a forelock-tugging epidemic, failed to lay a glove on the public imagination, with Nicholas Witchell’s fawning adulation becoming an irrelevant background drone. “10 DAYS TO SAVE THE UNION!” chorused the vassal press, in 30-foot high letters composed mainly of phlegm.
“Let’s publicly fly the Saltire everywhere, because that sort of patronising bollocks never pisses off the Scots!” declared David Cameron. But, alas, the Downing Street pole was too greasy, and the flag fluttered disobligingly back to earth, in an omen both sides immediately claimed as disastrous for the other. It was becoming increasingly hard to track down Tory MPs, most of whom had scuttled down palatial gold-plated rabbit holes. A human shield for the Westminster establishment was clearly required – but who?
Only one man had all the necessary attributes: elephantine lack of self-awareness, delusional faith in his own abilities and cast-iron certainty about the world, undisturbed by trivial distractions such as facts. A man still hugely influential in Scotland, according to BBC correspondents who either don’t get sarcasm or have been speaking only to folk who spent 1997 to 2010 goat-herding in Patagonia. A fitting wearer of the “out-of-touch political relic selling moonbeams to gullible peasants” mantle so infamously worn by Alec Douglas Home in 1979.
Yes, Gordon Brown, his world-saving superhero costume cunningly hidden under his trademark “sack of potatoes” suit, was back in the limelight. Just as well, with sales of his book ominously circling the toilet bowl. The BBC, whose standard-issue Sat-Nav had previously been unable to distinguish Loanhead from Bhutan, loaded its top news commentary talent into a fleet of articulated trucks and rumbled over the border to give us wall-to-wall coverage of Gordon’s manoeuvres to foil the insurgent natives.
We got Gavin Esler, who’d discovered the caterwauling Vote No Borders teenagers but completely missed National Collective. Huw Edwards, who managed to conduct an entire interview with Ian McDougall of Business For Scotland without apparently twigging that the organisation supported Yes. Robert Peston, bouncing up and down on his toes, either in eagerness to deliver the latest economic smackdown or because the Calton Hill breeze knifing through his loins made him want to pee. How heartbreaking it would be for Scotland to lose access to such expertise through the silly nonsense of self-determination!
The centrepiece of the media onslaught was Gordon’s Big Announcement, which the Beeb marked with a 50-minute party political broadcast for No that would have been the envy of any banana republic. Naturally, they reported that the great man’s words were pearls, dropping as the gentle rain from heaven, and that it would be unconscionably rude of Scots to reject such largesse from a generous, forgiving UK Government. Of course, they’d have been equally complimentary if he’d simply read out the takeaway menu from the Rawalpindi Tandoori, and on reflection that would have been more informative than what he actually said.
As you don’t need me to tell you, the whole palaver turned out to be about nothing more than a timetable, which, as anyone knows if they’ve ever been stranded on a platform with their nads freezing off, isn’t a great deal of use. It would also be fair, albeit uncharitable, to point out that not only does Gordon have no clothes, but he isn’t even an emperor. Never mind, we were told, the three main Westminster parties will endorse everything he says, as long as it doesn’t involve anything concrete. And they’ll start the meter running the very nanosecond after a No vote, assuming they aren’t too busy flicking V-signs at us and orgiastically drowning each other in champagne.
At the end of October, presumably the next time Gordon intends to bother showing up in the Commons, we’ll get a Progress Report, with him pronouncing everything hunky-dory in the same tone he used for the knock-down gold reserves and ravaged pension funds. In November we’ll get a White Paper, which if the Unionist cabal has failed to reach consensus will no doubt be covered in equally white writing. In January there’ll be a massive Commons mutiny over the proposals, in March the remaining few scraps will be sneeringly shredded by the House of Lords, and in May Nigel Farage will be elected Prime Minister, with a mandate to ditch devolution entirely and plunge us all into the abyss.
Not far away, but in reality a million miles, Nicola Sturgeon was on the campaign trail in Glasgow, livin’ the high life with actor Alan Cumming, who doesn’t have a vote - hey, neither does Dave, Ed or Nick - but is a fervent Yes supporter. Amongst Alan’s illustrious career highlights, as sad geeks like me know, is a role in the X-Men films as a teleporting mutant. The character also has blue skin, pointy ears and a forked tail, but let’s not stretch the metaphor too far.
There’s the whole shebang in a nutshell. In Loanhead, one superhero offering a vague timetable to who-knows-where, subject to irritating small print, unpredictable revisions and footnotes such as “Service may not run after May 2015 in the event of utter bastards taking office”. In Glasgow, another superhero advocating the chance for us to exercise our power and, in a puff of smoke, simply teleport ourselves away wherever we want to go.
No-brainer, isn’t it?