Well, thanks a bunch, guys. Leaderless, rudderless and beset by poll figures more terrifying than all the Halloween movies rolled into one, the Labour Party (North British Branch) has finally drifted beyond the reach of satire. At least, that’s my excuse for spending the past week periodically staring at a blank screen, muttering “Bugger it” and flouncing off to watch Family Guy.
Comedians usually have a gift for timing, but even that seems to have deserted Scotland’s natural party of merriment. Johann’s detonation of the world’s largest-ever irony bomb, featuring the nation’s sarkiest anti-independence campaigner girning about her work unit’s lack of independence, ensured that all eyes were fixed on Labour at the very time they’d organised a £200-a-seat knees-up in a city containing 34 food banks.
The Twittersphere was agog with the possibilities. Would Ed Miliband unphotogenically choke on a dodgy prawn? Would Margaret Curran place the poison capsules in the wrong wine glasses and wipe out half the Shadow Cabinet? Would Johann’s blood-stained ghost appear, anxious for a “debate” with her betrayers? Did Jim Murphy’s publicity-stunt grocery bag for the food bank protestors contain eggs, and if so was he trying to provoke them?
As the world now knows, the headline-snatcher of the evening was something no-one could ever have predicted. Anas Sarwar, whose reputation for uninterrupted inane wittering had been surpassed only by the legendary Havering Fruitbat of Madagascar, finally said something interesting. All right, it was only his resignation as deputy leader, but it got him the only standing ovation he’s ever likely to earn. As for his “soul searching”, did he really mean “shoulder-blade searching”? Always a possibility when the political “family” you’re constantly gabbing about turns out to be the Borgias.
But step away from the Kleenex, folks! We needn’t weep for Anas, for there’s always a place in Labour’s Westminster hierarchy for a privately-educated millionaire with a humungous inheritance in the pipeline. And if that doesn’t work out, his inability to shut up makes him a shoo-in for next year’s Mercury Music Prize, as part of the rap outfit “Young Fatheads”.
Observers of the bleedin’ obvious soon clocked that this was a complete stitch-up, paving the way for Jim Murphy to call the shots from Westminster, with a suitable poodle established as deputy in Edinburgh. In this context, it may be significant that Kezia’s surname is an anagram of “dug lead”. Of course, the rules will force Jim to shift to Holyrood by 2016, but that’s bags of time to adjust the Barnett Formula to cover his expense claims.
It’s difficult to imagine Ed Miliband enthusiastically endorsing anything, apart from possibly fratricide, but having Murphy in the hot seat here would suit him nicely. For one thing, it would give him one fewer explosive sociopath with a Messiah complex to worry about at Westminster. And, with Jim drawing most of his policy influences from the mean streets of Giffnock, there’d be no threat to the people’s flag remaining consistently Blairite beige throughout the UK.
Predictably, the broadcasters appear totally awestruck that a Westminster “heavy hitter” (hey, watch out for these elbows!) has deigned to take an interest in us. “He’s the candidate the Nats fear most,” runs their mantra, although the SNP’s biggest fear is of needing Paracetamol for their aching sides. Interviews, conducted with the ferocity of a Care Bears group hug, are painstakingly pitched to cultivate Jim’s image as “the self-deprecating bloke who goes to football”. Your granny would adore him, as long as she hadn’t attended one of his Irn Bru summits and asked an awkward question on Trident, or the Middle East, or student fees, or never having had a bloody job in the real world.
If you keep watching long enough, you’ll discover there are two other leadership candidates, who are generally given as many seconds on screen as a photo-fit on Crimewatch before we’re whisked off to the next gargantuan slice of Murphy hagiography. Yes, I know I myself haven’t mentioned them yet. Looks like bias is contagious, so after I finish this blog I’d better make sure I go into quarantine, preferably where there’s plenty of beer.
Sarah Boyack might, astoundingly, be a decent shout for the diminishing number of people who care whether Labour can ever pull its shivered strands together into a coherent political force. She’s reputed to have no enemies within the party, even though that’s technically impossible. And, while carrying out the 2011 review of Labour in Scotland, she managed to work with Murphy without smashing a chair over his head, indicating either Zen-like levels of calm or inability to recognise a chair.
Her problem is that, even though she’s been in the Scottish Parliament since 1707, half the media movers and shakers have never heard of her and the other half think she’s that wumman who sang "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain’s Got Talent. Still, she was once sacked by Jack McConnell, so that’s surely some sort of accolade.
Neil Findlay is definitely the candidate most likely to wear a T-shirt saying “This is what a socialist looks like”. His left-wing credentials, plus an interview with Andrew Neil best summed up in the words “rabbit” and “headlights”, got him soundly patronised on the BBC’s Daily Politics by irritating celebrity polymath Gyles Brandreth. However, at least it was a profile-boosting moment for Neil, since previously Gyles wouldn’t have been able to spell his name even if you’d given him 11 Scrabble tiles in the correct order.
Neil’s selling point is his “life experience”, which is (1) a neat counterpoint to cocooned greasy pole climber Murphy, and (2) his way of deflecting criticism that he’s only been an MSP for five minutes, albeit the same five minutes as Ruth “Instant Stardom” Davidson. His varied career has encompassed being a bricklayer, a teacher, a housing officer, a councillor and, in originally backing Gordon Brown for the leadership, a spectacularly bad judge of character.
Of course, the contest isn’t as open to media jiggery-pokery as certain other political events I could mention, because the choice will be made by an electoral college, not a sofa-supine public brainwashed by Jackie Bird while eating baked beans straight from the tin. The “Murphia” support team, festooned with old Better Together super-villains such as Blair McDougall and blessed with the enthusiastic backing of ermine-bound Alistair Darling, may have more of a challenge on their hands than they think. One shouldn’t intrude upon private grief, but there could be mouth-watering schadenfreude opportunities in prospect.
As for satire, we bloggers may have to wait a little while before we reclaim that. Hmmm, I wonder where I put my box set of the early seasons of South Park?