So here I am, back at the keyboard, nervous as hell. Despite an absence of (ahem ahem) months the study doesn’t look too bad, as long as you’re a fan of the “Miss Havisham” style of interior decoration, and the cobwebs do help to keep the dust in place. A couple of squirts of Oust, and the removal with tongs of a decaying cheese sandwich morsel, and I’m ready to hit the blogging trail once again.
Who’d have imagined, when I wrote my last piece, that even the Chilcot Report would be published before I cranked out the next one? Normally I’d defend such a hiatus by explaining how I filled it with good deeds and humanitarian work, but Tony Blair’s boak-inducing press conference has cornered the market in whey-faced narcissism. Best simply to admit the truth: sometimes a guy just needs a break in order to clear the gunk out of his head and stop shouting “Arsehole!” at the TV every time Glenn Campbell lumbers into view.
I probably just need a strong coffee, but at this early stage in my creative rehab the challenge of topical commentary seems more daunting than ever. Previously, I could write a blog post over a couple of days and pimp it for a week on Twitter before it started to curl at the edges and smell of pee. Now, even if I chunter it out as if commentating on the Grand National, within half an hour all the main characters will have resigned, been knifed in the back, decided to spend more time with their drinks cabinet or been knee-capped by the Murdoch press, and nobody will remember who the hell they were.
Nothing’s been the same since, with an embarrassing squelchy sound out of one of the ropier Carry On films, I had my EU citizenship ripped away against my will. Ever since then, we’ve all been trapped aboard a speeding handcart, with half the occupants jubilantly belting out Highway To Hell at the tops of their voices, the rest of us bricking it and nobody at the damn controls. Oh wait, suddenly our imperial masters have seen fit to advise us that there is a driver, but it’s Theresa May, who last time I looked was the answer to the question, “Which Prime Minister will dynamite our human rights and deport that nice Polish couple who run the village shop?”
As if a rigged economic system and cringingly compliant media weren’t enough for the Tories, they currently have another ace up their expensively-tailored sleeves. No matter how catastrophically they bugger things up, you can bet your commemorative “Controls On Immigration” mug that the Labour Party will discover an ingenious way of out-buggering them.
Boris’s craven whimperings, Mikey Gove’s self-impaling assassination attempt, Andrea What’s-‘er-Name’s uterus fixation and the general sense of disengaged drift represented a clear open goal for Her Majesty’s Opposition. In reaction, quelle surprise, they burst the ball with one of the corner flags, tried to beat the team captain to a pulp with the other three and bared their arses in front of their supporters before heading off to set fire to the dressing room. As English Labour members’ jaws clanked to the floor, it was an act of superhuman self-control for Scots to resist saying, “We told you so.”
The spearhead of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s mass V-sign to party members, and useful idiot of expectantly lurking darker forces, has been Angela Eagle. As Springwatch aficionados will know, an eagle is clear-sighted, decisive and deadly, but perhaps Angela’s twin sister Maria was the happy recipient of those genes. By contrast, Angela’s campaign, at least up till yesterday, seemed to be channelling a vacillating Merseyside version of Elmer Fudd: “I’m going to get that Jeremy if he doesn’t resign, so I am, as soon as I’ve finished that big shop at Asda, and creosoted that garden fence, and those bathroom tiles aren’t going to grout themselves.” When she finally drew herself up to her full three feet eight inches and threw down the gauntlet with a resounding pffffft, it was too late: BBC2 had already faded her out in favour of in-house adverts, and Peston, Crick and wide-mouthed frog Kuenssberg had legged it across town to watch Andrea Thingummyjig stand down for “the good of the nation”.
All this chaos has, of course, put the spotlight firmly back on the question of Scottish independence. Nicola’s been doing some impressive shuttle diplomacy, which the agonised squeaks of the Unionist gutter press confirm has been going down a storm with her European audience. Alyn Smith has also lit a fire amongst his fellow MEPs, a clear sign that Scotland’s stance is a zillion miles from Farage’s smirky adolescent triumphalism. But, even from those in Brussels who wish Scotland nothing but love, kisses and eternal chocolate treats (not to mention Rajoy, who wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire) the message is that a halfway-house arrangement won’t work, and that if we’re to be welcomed into the EU fold we need to make a distinct break from the UK.
Assuming Theresa’s jolly-hockeysticks “let’s make Brexit work” approach entails the UK activating Article 50 before the last night of the Proms, we have a really short horizon - and a gargantuan challenge - to convince the doubters. It’s lovely to hear all the anecdotal evidence of No voters gravitating to Yes, but sorry, folks, I don’t buy it for a nanosecond. Wizard as it is to contemplate J K Rowling crossing the divide, with 666 libel lawyers doing a screechy handbrake turn and concentrating their venom on Brian Spanner, it all sounds like the Unionist commentariat softening us up for a kick in the goolies.
There are soft No votes to be won, possibly enough to take us over the line, but it would be daft to be complacent and, anyway, we need to go much further than that. I want to see the case for self-governance established to the satisfaction of the most sceptical voter. Even if my 90-year-old dad, who thinks Nicola’s a wee besom, doesn’t accompany me to George Square for the next rally, I’d like him at least to be heating a pizza and pouring a sherry for me when I get back. Can we achieve that? Hell, yes – if we do the background work and get it right!
Interesting times, as I’m sure Confucius would agree, even if he wasn’t actually the source of the phrase. And a good time to be back on the blogging scene.
See you again soon.