Thursday, 9 July 2015

Team 56's Baptism of Fire

The Palace of Westminster is crumbling, in an image that lazy-arse writers have voted their all-time favourite download from  BBC News observes that the building’s “full of dangerous relics that need to be removed”, no surprise to anyone who’s ever listened to Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, and certain quadrangles are off-limits in case members are knocked skelly by plummeting gargoyles, though in David Mundell’s case it might prove to be performance-enhancing.

There’s no respite indoors, where working conditions resemble a Health and Safety film directed by Quentin Tarantino.  Any paint that isn’t peeling is probably held in place by asbestos, and hopping aboard one of the death-trap lifts isn’t recommended unless you have in your possession a good book, a giant tin-opener or the skills of Harry Houdini.  

In 2012 Labour MP Ben Bradshaw had to complain to the authorities about urine pouring through the ceiling into his office, in the only known example of the trickle-down effect actually working. And in the hopelessly tangled spaghetti-world of the catacombs, no-one can be quite sure which wires are safe to touch and which will make you smokin’-hot favourite in a Lisa Simpson lookalike contest.

Even though Guy Fawkes long ago entered the worm-feeding business, there’s still a hit-squad of slavering pyromaniacs a mere phone call away in Lewes, so there’s an easy solution to this.  And it would be worth it just to see the look on preposterous arch-fogey Jacob Rees-Mogg’s face.

But such a radical step is anathema to most of our parliamentarians, particularly if they hold shares in cowboy builders specialising in restoring fairy palaces at vast expense. So, instead, we’re in for a refurbishment on traditional British lines:  insanely over-priced, teeth-grindingly protracted, immune to challenge and lavishly funded by the taxpayer as benefits claimants huddle in cardboard boxes.  Oh, and one important characteristic you might term the “HS2 Factor”:  of absolutely zero discernible value to Scotland.

This is the cartoon cavalcade to which Scottish voters sent “Team 56” back in May, and we should scarcely be surprised that since those halcyon days of chip butties, selfies and Ruritanian claptrap the going’s got considerably more difficult for them.  They soon got the hang of reacting to events like livestock rather than human beings, despite lacking the authenticity instilled by centuries of inbreeding in the Tory shires.  However, they’ve occasionally struggled with the art of “bobbing” to catch the Speaker’s eye, possibly because (1) they’re a bit far away and dead unlucky, (2) the wee nyaff’s operating an English-slots-for-English-bobs policy, or (3) you simply can’t develop proper haemorrhoids until you’ve sat on the Commons benches for six months.

We’ve had some cracking maiden speeches, a sequence of words I never thought I’d type, gathering a YouTube following that must make contemptible barfbags such as Alistair Carmichael puce with envy. Hey, Al, maybe we’ll enjoy a maiden speech by the new MP for Orkney and Shetland soon, whaddya reckon?

On the debit side, the SNP contingent has had to endure several Tory stink bombs, such as Anna Soubry popping up at Scottish Questions as operator of the Mundell glove-puppet. Now, I know better than to venture an opinion on whether Anna is a woman, but she’s indisputably one of the most irritating people on the planet: snarky, arrogant, pompous and an inveterate whipper-out of the victim card if anyone dares to respond.  I’d challenge the Dalai Lama himself to spend more than ten minutes in her company without slamming her head into the nearest gong.

Dammit, I can’t pussy-foot around any more!  As everyone in the galaxy knows, the issue dominating the political agenda, and fully occupying Team 56’s waking hours in the last two months, has been the Scotland Bill.  Dear God, only the absinthe drinkers amongst us thought Full Fiscal Autonomy was immediately achievable, and after this year’s Higher Maths exam we’re used to being stymied by large numbers, but this was carnage on an unforeseen scale.  The braying hordes were determined to let nothing through, not even the weeniest, most innocuous amendment. 

Could Police Scotland be excused VAT, like every other polis force on these islands?  NO, came the booming riposte; get in your place, peasants, here’s a bowl of Coco Pops and two swishes of the riding crop.  Could the Scots Parliament be acknowledged as, ooh I don’t know… (consults first five words of the Vow)… permanent?  NO, suck it up, colonials, get too uppity and you’ll wake up to find Holyrood encased in a giant bin bag. Could we make Scottish MPs into second-class citizens?  Yes yes yes, that’s not even up for debate, let’s just insert “North British people are stupid and they smell” into Standing Orders and get on with shafting the poor.

I know it’s the Westminster convention that turning up to participate in debates is somehow weird and pathetic, and that “proper” MPs should be hanging around street corners, pimping themselves for £5,000 a day consultancy work.  But how soul-destroying it must have been for the SNP 56 to fight their corner day after day, watching tumbleweed trundle lazily across the Tory and Labour benches, only for their opponents to materialise at the last moment to vote everything down, like yobboes barging in after a night on the razz and stubbing out their fags on the carpet.

And I sincerely hope that Ian “Red White and Blue Full Body Tattoo” Murray, the Shadow One-Man-Band, does a better job of fighting austerity (or, if anyone bar Jeremy Corbyn takes over at Head Office, “promoting austerity-lite”) than he did of respecting Scottish aspirations.  Honestly, if you asked that guy about making the Forth Bridge a World Heritage Site, he’d hum and haw about pooling and sharing tourism and how we should appoint a Commission to decide whether a bus shelter in Sunderland wasn’t a fairer choice.

Anyway, the upshot is that we’re in the process of being “granted” taxation powers that are as worthwhile as asking Andy Murray to play at Wimbledon using a frying pan and gardening gloves, and even that’s before the House of Lords gets started on its own sneering slash-fest.  What a flamin’ stitch-up.

This annoying state of affairs has prompted some meaty reactions, especially in the parallel universe of Twitter.  There’s been more than a smidgin of impatience with the SNP, as if they’re somehow to be blamed for 56 being a smaller number than 594.  Should they be more assertive?  Well, we have an obligation to be stern critics, and I’m sure constructive suggestions would be welcome (tee hee), but, without wishing to take on the mantle of Mr Wishy-Washy, I think it’s too early to start agitating for that.

Team 56 is only two months into a five-year project. They were on a hiding to nothing on the constitution, and for some of them the first two months have been an almost vertical learning curve, but their ranks include some smart cookies and we should keep faith.  They’re bound to figure strongly in the titanic anti-austerity struggle to come, and may even make progress if Labour somehow breaks out of its habit of being the dark forces’ bendy toy.  Or if things start to look up for Greece, which at the time of writing seems a far more likely prospect.  

Indyref 2?  Lots of folk are clearly gasping for it, and the current blitzkrieg of triumphalism could be interpreted as the Tories attempting to trigger it.  It’s nailed on to appear in the SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto in some form, but if I were in their shoes I wouldn’t go further than saying “we reserve the right to call this at our discretion”.  It would be underpants-on-head lunacy to frame it as a firm commitment until the polls start moving significantly and consistently towards Yes.  I’ll probably take only two or three more facesmackin’-youthcrushin’-poorpastin’-devastatin’ Budgets like this week’s for that to happen, but patience is required…

In the meantime, you and I need to prepare and plan.  Next time the indyref balloon goes up, on currency, on the EU, on pensions, on every hysterical piece of scaremongering that fouled things up last time, we need a well-researched, unambiguous position and a ruthless determination to deliver it loud and clear to every nervous, curtain-twitching voter.

That’s our job, and, however dearly we may love ’em, it’s much too important to be left to the SNP.


  1. Excellent article William.

    As usual...

  2. Very good read William. I enjoy your writing very much.

    1. Another excellent piece William. Hard hitting and hilarious.

  3. Scottish Labour attacking SNP after Tory budget last 48 hours--wtf

  4. Good stuff. I admire and have taken note of your call for patience. I admit to being one getting nervous about the apparent lack of clear communication from the SNP on how the struggle should now be taken forward.
    There was probably an unreasonable expectation that an overwhelming SNP vote at the GE would lead to huge, positive changes at WM. That the Tories would keep their promises and grant our every wish. How naive. It will clearly be a grind. Which makes it all the more important for the SNP to communicate loudly and regularly with the electorate.

  5. Excellent, I am even tempted to send this to a no voting friend!
    What on earth was all the stuff about Scotland being allowed to decide on abortion laws I saw this week? Did we ask for that, I don't know but the articles I saw were basically saying we are a basket case and like Ireland would live up to that regards abortion. It seemed to be a non issue and a distraction from the fact that Scotland is to be ruled by the masters in London with no 'extra' powers at all.

    I laughed at the thought of playing tennis with a frying pan, a great way with words and as on waking up with another cold, needed a laugh, thanks.

  6. You hit the nail bang on the head with this article. Excellent reading, and as we should all know by now patience is required. Well, at least for the moment.

  7. Smashing post William and funny too, thanks