Supplying useful information isn’t part of “Labour values”, so it’s hard to be sure how many people actually voted in the Scottish Branch Office Leadership Contest. However, the percentage result suggests that, after abstentions and ruthless purging of sandal-wearing Trotskyists, it must have been at least 100. That would be 72 for serial sideline-carper Kezia Dugdale, 27 for beige bloke in an empty suit Ken Macintosh, and one spoilt ballot: probably Johann Lamont scrawling “WHAT DOES IT MATTER ANYWAY?” on her voting slip in green felt-tip.
But let’s not worry about numbers, as Treasury staff always used to say when squirting air-freshener over Gordy Broon’s latest PFI contract. It’s a brand new start for Scottish Labour! Kezia’s youthful Vim will – we assure voters – instantly remove lingering Irn Bru stains. We’re down but not out! Look at how we slapped around those chapatis at the Shadow Cabinet photo-op; that’ll be you soon, electorate. No more negative campaigning! It’s goodbye “SNP Bad”, hello “SNP Bad, Except When We Pretend We Thought of Their Policies First”.
The usual social media commentators, burbling with enthusiasm, assure us that “Kez has no baggage”. Hang on, folks; your doe-eyed fervour warms my heart, but didn’t she represent 50% of the most disastrous leadership team in the party’s history? That’s a bit more than “baggage”, that’s “a lorryload of bulging suitcases blocking out the sun”.
And as for that glitzy new pine-fresh Shadow Cabinet, I know she only has 37 other MSPs available, so it’s less a pool of talent than a spittoon, but hasn’t she chosen pretty well the same shower of 24-carat berks who’ve been bumping into the furniture since records began? Apart from Neil Findlay, of course, who’s been dispatched through the gunk-tank trapdoor as punishment for backing a Head Office candidate who supports social justice and not blowing up half of Scotland.
To give Kezia some credit for innovation, this isn’t a Shadow Cabinet in the traditional sense. Rather than precisely matching their SNP counterparts’ portfolios, SLab’s deckchair dozen propose to adopt a “cloud of midges” formation, attacking from all sorts of unexpected directions. It’ll be an engaging mixture of aspiration and incompetence, like a pub team trying to play Total Football. To fit in with this system, rumour has it that whinger-in-chief Jackie Baillie will have a special “owl extension” fitted to her neck to enable her to spout claptrap through a full 360 degrees without moving her feet.
It would be churlish to write off Kezia’s chances of making a success of her new job. She’s already come a long way, having survived the early experience of working for George Foulkes, which must be like having your brains scooped out with a melon-baller and replaced with cushion stuffing. Her First Minister’s Questions performances may still be an uneasy compromise between the fatuity of Iain Gray and the milk-turning sarcasm of JoLa, but at least she’s learning to smile in TV interviews. Okay, it’s still a bit unnatural, as if smiling’s the final item in a long mental checklist, just after “Did I leave the gas on?”, but she can do it perfectly well in selfies, so there’s hope for her.
BBC Scotland, or “downtrodden victims of Putinesque intimidation” in the words of the Gospel According To Nick Robinson, will naturally lend “Kez” every assistance. Look out for Eleanor Bradford hole-punching thousands of bedpans in a hospital near you shortly, in preparation for this winter’s NHS “Rivers of Pee” crisis.
Less welcome may be the support, so far mercifully confined to print, of the increasingly bizarre Adviser from Hell, John McTernan. With the BBC inexplicably fawning over his laughable punditry, he’s at present otherwise occupied, but reports suggest he can show up on the doorstep looking for work within 45 minutes. If he does, I’d advise Kezia to distract him with a pile of juicy postal votes, and then blooter him with a dull heavy object, such as James Kelly.
Kezia does have one advantage not enjoyed by her predecessors. Short of packing all her MSPs into a bus and driving it over a cliff, there’s no mistake she can make that won’t be overshadowed by the jaw-dropping catastrophe enveloping UK Labour, or, as they must henceforth be known, the “Thanks for the £3, Entryists, Now Piss Off” Party. Dear God, I haven’t seen this much self-inflicted damage since a drunken Edward Scissorhands poured itching powder into his Y-fronts. It’s worth a wee blog post of its very own, if I can find a painkiller strong enough for my aching sides.
The corresponding disadvantage for Kezia is that she’s in limbo. Who knows what sort of Head Office she’ll be dealing with in six months’ time? Will it be a Corbynista Politburo, commending her on her impressive five-year plan for the re-use of paperclips? Will it be a Coodall/Kenham/Burper appeasement operation, urging her to clear her speeches in advance with Ruth Davidson? Will it be nothing to do with her any more, because all her colleagues have joined a breakaway Scottish party led by Alex Rowley and she’s having to apply for a job as chief tour guide at Dismaland?
Ah, opportunity or obscurity – always the two faces of a career in politics. Well, good luck, Kezia. I’ve already chosen my progressive party for the 2016 Holyrood election, and it ain’t yours, but the SNP could do with decent opposition somewhere along the line, and your gender-balanced search for fresh faces - as long as they’re truly fresh, and not just a skipload of Westminster rejects - doesn’t seem a bad way to go. (Yes, that is a polite way of saying, “Yer current lot are rubbish.”)
Hey, maybe the newbies might even feel inclined to take a more ambitious stance on devolution, or (gasp) be warmer towards the idea of independence. Now wouldn’t that be something?