Thursday 4 May 2017

The Hubris Gang

It’s unmistakable, isn’t it?  The rumble of approaching engines, the acrid whiff of brimstone, the crushing pain as a tank tread runs over your foot. 

Make way, peasants, for the Conservatives’ 2017 General Election Tour of obscure village halls, garden sheds and Wendy houses!  For your own safety, please refrain from taking photographs, otherwise we’ll be forced to kill you. Any journalists present should proceed to the nearest broom cupboard.  Have those children been security cleared, madam?  Oh, they’re here for the party?  Bad luck, there isn’t one, we just said that to hoodwink the separatists. In the national interest, you understand.”

The Scottish Tories are back in business:  loud, proud and rent-a-crowd.  As Theresa May’s strictly-no-scrutiny roadshow trundled into Crathes, Ruth Davidson was in her element.  Lately elevated to Honorary Colonel of 32 Signal Regiment on account of her extreme shoutiness, she orchestrated the distribution of placards with military precision.  Her control of the audience’s enthusiasm wasn’t quite so complete, with some of those present looking as if they’d rather be undergoing root canal work performed by Edward Scissorhands.  Still, I’m sure they’ll see sense after the laird’s henchmen have been round to tend their gladioli with a spot of weedkiller.

Having sussed out that David Mundell is as much use as a cake-slice in a sandstorm, Theresa’s increasingly turning to Ruth for North British prefect duties.  Need to test the nation’s gag reflex with a clunking propaganda interview?  Ruth’s got a list of happy-clappy questions. Fancy a door-knocking exercise without risk of public challenge?  Ruth’s taken everyone hostage at the village hall, so you’re good to go.  Want to slander Jean-Claude Juncker as a pished old fart?  Consider it done, ma’am, just you finish your chips while Ruth gets down and dirty with the innuendo.

So the bandwagon’s rolling, Empire 2.0 is striking back and Ruth is the Chosen One, even if half the Cabinet still thinks her surname is Harrison.  Once she’s finished dismantling Holyrood, she can aim for any glittering prize she likes:  a high-Tory-low-IQ Westminster seat in the Home Counties, perhaps, or a ride into glory astride the first Trident missile to depart for Pyongyang.  But before we pesky Nats sit down, shut up and prepare to be telt, there’s one jarring wee problem.  The Scottish public is notoriously intolerant of those who get too big for their boots, and right now the Tories look like a Monty Python foot trying to squeeze into Cinderella’s slipper.

They’re so up themselves they’ve even forgotten to pretend their policies aren’t disgusting.  If you seriously regard the “rape clause” as sensitive, you should take a look at yourself in the mirror, unless you’re a vampire, in which case there’s no point.  If it’s the best option for avoiding unfairness your shrivelled cerebellum can come up with, you should be lobbing your whole tax credit policy into the bin.  And if you reckon, har-de-har, the Scottish Government should be stumping up still more cash to fix things, you should be behind bars, because you’re running a protection racket.

The BBC’s quilted embrace can’t entirely shield the party from public disquiet, so on a few occasions recently Ruth’s felt the need to wrench herself away from the limelight.  Fortunately, there’s been a willing stooge on hand with the mucking-out pail.  Adam Tomkins is a proper professor, specialising in Public Law, presumably because a professorship in Snippy Condescension wasn’t available.  Some say he has a brain the size of a planet, albeit one located in a micro-universe contained entirely within the circumference of a gnat’s scrotum.  Having publicly expressed a desire for an independent Scottish republic in 2005, he continues to pursue that dream through undercover work as a complete pain in the arse.

Last week Tomkins was as ubiquitous as sand in your walking socks.  At Holyrood, defending the two-child cap, he was in full fiscal android mode. “Look at the mess Labour left,” he bleated, as if “mess” didn’t actually mean “gigantic excuse for wealth transfer to the obscenely rich”.  Before you could find a hard surface to head-butt, he was on screen again, pontificating at a food bank. “80% of clients don’t need to make a return visit,” he proclaimed, like an arsonist feeling chuffed because he’d only burnt your house down once.

Sadly for Adam, the signs of over-exposure were already showing when he pitched up on Radio 4’s Any Questions, where Jeane Freeman proceeded to take him apart like a chef slicing an onion. It still seems to be available on iPlayer, schadenfreude buffs.  Prepare for a treat, if Downing Street hasn’t had it over-written with a recording of a seal barking the National Anthem.

Ruth had better hope that Adam’s deflector shields are mended soon, for the seam of talent in the Scottish Tories runs horrendously shallow.  A couple of desultory scoops with a teaspoon and you’re down to Murdo Fraser, a man as likely to be associated with serious political thought as a Wet Wipe is to be declared a type of fruit. Don’t get me wrong, I once nearly bought into one of Murdo’s ideas, when as a leadership candidate he wanted to rip up the party and start again, except that I stopped at the word “and”.  His subsequent decline, based on a catastrophic misinterpretation of what constitutes humour, is startling.

“Why don’t people abroad find Scotland an attractive place to live?” snarked Murdo at First Minister’s Questions, knowing fine well he has the power to fix that by moving to Patagonia.  “Will you have the guts to resign your list seat to fight the Borders by-election?” he tweeted at the SNP’s Paul Wheelhouse, despite being himself a list MSP, and indeed the most unelectable big jessie since humanity emerged from the primordial swamp.  If the resulting chain reaction of irony swallows up the universe, you know who to blame.

Still, even Murdo’s a fount of wit and wisdom compared to gaffe-prone candidate stalker Jackson Carlaw.  “Not all tickety boo for Kirsten Oswald as her supposed campaign HQ closed for business,” smirked the puce puffball, supplying a photie as evidence.  Sadly, the reason for the office closure turned out to be that the candidate was out campaigning with the First Minister, who responded with a cheerful hoot of derision that’ll still be bouncing about the Twittersphere when Jackson’s great-grandchildren get their bus passes.

So, with all the hubris wafting about, not to mention shamelessness and incompetence, has Scotland truly passed “peak Tory”?  You never quite know, because the most annoying thing about absolute bastards is that they always turn out to be organised when it counts.  And some people will vote Tory to preserve the Union even if it entails having their firstborn devoured by wolves.

But let’s face it, these poltroons are the indy movement’s dream team.  If we’d been asked two years ago to select our ultimate opponents, we’d have hacked through a bramble hedge with plastic cutlery to get Ruth and her Tory triumphalists.  If we can’t win the argument over this appalling shower we don’t deserve to be in the game.

Time to puncture those Tory revivalist balloons and send Her Honorary Colonelship a signal she won’t forget.  Game on.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Stand By For Mayhem

Good Morning Scotland claims another victim.  I can’t blame my wife for banishing me to the spare room after I rudely awakened her by smashing the radio alarm to smithereens with a wooden coat hanger.  To be fair, I probably just dreamed the bit about the morning papers being reviewed by Margaret Curran, Darth Vader and the Duke of Cumberland, but it had the acid tang of plausibility.  After that, the real-life introduction of charisma bypass Miles Briggs was simply the final gamma-ray blast that stripped away my veneer of self-control.

In my reflective moments, when it’s just me, a bottle of wine and a couple of imaginary friends on the settee, I have to admit that my anger management could do with some work.  An adrenalin turbo-charge might be useful if my daily visit to the Co-Op were regularly bringing me face-to-face with a peckish sabre-tooth tiger.  But when the trip’s main challenge is a frantic search of the news-stand to discover where the local arsehole has hidden today’s National, it’s a myocardial infarction waiting to happen. 

Theresa May clearly has similar issues.  Tories don’t do reflectiveness, because if they ever peered into the abyss of their souls they’d all end up in straitjackets.  They don’t do detail either, as five nanoseconds in the presence of David Davis will testify.  But even a cursory self-analysis, scribbled on the bit of the Post-It note left over after she’s run out of ideas on Brexit, would reveal Theresa to be a spanner-bag of pent-up irritation.

This was true even before she drank the potion of powdered glass mixed with vinegar and poor people’s tears served to all incoming Tory Prime Ministers. Her policies at the Home Office were a shambolic cocktail of vindictiveness and counter-productivity, defended with the stubborn tetchiness of a politician who’d been absent getting porcupine quills fitted the day imagination was handed out.  Their legacy is still stinking the place out, with Highland villagers facing a 20 km round trip for a pint of milk after the closure of their community store because the family running it is being deported.  Rules is rules, chum, and you’re one jot short of a tittle in meeting the requirements, so you’re out on your ear, even though nobody this side of Alpha Centauri benefits.

Left to herself, I don’t reckon Theresa would have called the General Election.  Would she have wanted to have her ideas, in all their jaw-dropping vacuity, challenged by ordinary people?  She’d rather have had a bucket of tepid sick emptied over her.  It doesn’t fit the cover story, lapped up by the slavering sycophants of the BBC, in which she gradually warmed to the idea during a walk in the Welsh hills, with her hubby offering sage, owlish advice, fluffy Easter bunnies gambolling around and a male-voice choir humming Cwm Rhondda in the distance.  I suspect the bit that’s missing is Lynton Crosby screaming down the phone at her for two hours.

When it comes to the dark arts, Crosby is the 100% cocoa content guy.  Say what you like about the British having no negotiating skills, whoever brokered the exchange deal with Australia that sent hapless numpty McTernan to advise their politicians and laser-like assassin Crosby to advise ours is a freakin’ genius.  Crosby’s heart may be a shrivelled walnut and he may think scruples are devices for opening wine bottles, but he delivers the goods, even if it means kicking down every door in the street.

Crosby immediately sussed that there was no way Theresa could be exposed to bothersome questions from the public.  Giving innocent hairdressers from Macclesfield a death stare for politely asking why the local hospital has no doctors tends to give voters the heebie-jeebies.  So, even before the hideous screech of brakes accompanying the General Election U-turn had died away, shadowy sources were whispering that invitations for the PM to participate in a TV debate would receive a two-word response with some sexual content.

Instead, Theresa’s been on a triumphal tour, doughnutted by placard-carrying obsessives, taking no questions beyond Laura Kuenssberg enquiring about her favourite colour, and sweeping away in a presidential motorcade, enveloping crowds of energetic V-signers in exhaust fumes.  At Glaxo SmithKline, in her Maidenhead constituency, the workforce who’d been cattle-prodded in front of her were forbidden from answering media questions, and probably even had Special Branch tailing them home in case their spouses asked what sort of day they’d had.  Crosby’s got the whole shebang exquisitely choreographed.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Theresa has a cyanide capsule hidden in her necklace in case a journalist accidentally corners her.

There’s still the problem of her debating skills being unable to stand up to a gust of wind, so Crosby’s got her and the entire Tory parrot choir schooled in the key soundbites. I mean, bleed’n’ell, everyone, even the ones who need to follow a diagram to put their socks on. According to the mantra, the Tories offer “strong, stable leadership”, a world-view incompatible with sanity, unless “stable” means “thing that’s full of horse-manure” and “strong” just refers to the smell. 

Meanwhile, the opposition is alliteratively tagged as a “coalition of chaos”. Well, “coalition” seems fair enough, since even if the public chose to elect 650 Labour MPs and no-one else, Jeremy Corbyn still wouldn’t command an overall majority. “Chaos”, however, can occasionally be creative and has a theory attached to it, so you might be inclined to rank it ahead of the C-words you could place after “Conservative”.  Cluelessness, cruelty, criminality and catastrophe all spring to mind, and that’s just before the watershed.    

And is our media calling this guff out for the blatant kindergarten-level manipulation it is?  Oops, no, it’s set up camp in the same part of the dictionary: compliant, collusive, contemptible and crap.  On its jackboot wing, where they head-butt the Caps Lock key for fun, anyone seeking to frustrate the Tories’ will is threatened with being chained up in the Tower of London or worse.  On its propagandist conspiracy wing, the hotlines to well-connected liars are already smouldering like a pair of Carmichael’s pants.

Is Jeremy Corbyn doing anything to ward off this tsunami of tripe?  Oops, no, he’s declared that, instead of brandishing Theresa’s empty chair at the TV debate to show her up as a snivelling coward, he, er, won’t bother turning up either.  I swear that every time this man comes to a fork in the road, he makes absolutely sure it hits him in the face.  What are his advisers thinking, apart from “Wonder how long it’ll take me to tunnel out of here using this teaspoon and my bare hands?”

And so to Scotland, where as usual the rules seem to have been devised under the influence of industrial-strength hallucinogens.  If the SNP doesn’t win 56 seats out of 59 again, independence is a busted flush, Westminster will have us by the short and curlies in perpetuity and Tesco can safely start ordering in stocks of British haggis.  If the Tories win even one extra seat, all of the above statements apply, plus Ruth Davidson will be formally crowned as viceroy, with the right to take away your motability scooter whenever she fancies it.  If Labour gets 59 votes, that probably means that at least their candidates remembered to vote for themselves.

Back on Good Morning Scotland, here’s the review of this morning’s papers, and because of time constraints headlines from The National will once again be broadcast in semaphore.  Can you hear the flags swishing over Gary Robertson’s chortling?

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Ready Or Not...

Now is not the time to return to blogging.  I’m just buried with paperwork right now, doing lots of good deeds vaguely associated with living in the early days of a better nation, and emphatically not sitting in an armchair eating baked beans direct from the tin and binge-watching old Countdown episodes.  My counsellor says that’s all in the past.

Nor, however, is it the time to be frogmarched to the polling booth to indulge a poisonous right-wing cabal’s power fantasies.  I mean, another bloody vote?  Bridge of Earn Village Hall will be charging us rent soon.  Including a Cooncil by-election, that’ll be eight visits to the polls since we moved back to Scotland less than four years ago.  That’s as many visits as I had in 15 years of living in Maidenhead, studiously body-swerving Theresa on the odd occasions she chose to bore her constituents to stupefaction in the High Street.

I suppose, looking back, it wasn’t the time last June for Scotland to be wheeched out of the EU as if we’d drawn the short straw on United Airlines.  Nor was it the time in November for the laughably misnamed “free” world to have a fickle tantrum-throwing six-year-old narcissist elected to its self-proclaimed leadership.  Nor, when the seemingly inevitable thermonuclear holocaust envelops us, will it be the time to be kissing my arse goodbye as the Faslane fallout floats across from Forgandenny.

So here I am, reporting for duty, feeling like it’s the first day of Primary 7 and I’m outdoors in my rugby kit, the wind whipping icy javelins of drizzle into my cheeks, dreading the moment someone throws me the ball and I get pounded so far into the turf that my atoms fuse with the earth’s crust.

I’ve been away so long it’s like a whole new induction course.  So much information to process.  Ruth Davidson and Kim Jong Un – how do you tell them apart?  Does the surname “Torrance” really mean “rivers of pish”?  Is Glenn Campbell’s resemblance to one of James Kelly’s haemorrhoids coincidental?  How long can Murdo Fraser go on telling jokes before someone laughs?  Which is worse, listening to Annie Wells or being repeatedly thwacked in the face with a wet lavvy brush?

At least there are some familiar sights and sounds.  Jackie Bird is still on the telly, so I’ve signed up for another course of hypnotherapy to stop me spray-painting “LIAR” all over the screen.  Kezia Dugdale, expertly tutored by George Foulkes in the art of irrelevance, is still getting an inordinate amount of airtime, sounding increasingly like a hearing aid on the blink.  Ditto John “Professor Branestawm” Curtice, seemingly the only life-form in the galaxy qualified to recite the bleedin’ obvious about voter intentions.  Meanwhile, Willie Rennie continues to amaze medical experts by holding down a job in front-line politics, despite having his brain replaced by a Tunnock’s teacake in 1983.

Meanwhile, there are the questions, always the damn brainless questions, fizzing with hostility, white noise searing the eardrums.  What currency will you use?  The poond? The pibroch? The Eck? The babybox?  Which way will the Queen’s head face on your stamps?  What will the forty-fifth word on page 69 of your constitution be?  What pension will my unborn grandchild be paid in 2088?  Won’t the United Nations declare you a pariah state?  How will you defend yourselves against invasion by Klingons?

And, of course, you have to smile benignly and take it, because any other reaction will be slammed as “Cybernat Abuse” and Daily Mail goons will be legally entitled to rake through your bins.  Unionist foghorns can proclaim that you’re a saboteur to be crushed, or a frothing extremist just a couple of doors along from the Nazis, and everyone from the Queen on down will purr in contented approval.  But if you dare to re-tweet something with the word “wank” in it, the faux outrage police will be all over you like chicken pox, the pillars of civilisation will cave in and the jaws of Hell will clank shut on us all.

“Here we go again, more Nat grievances,” intone the usual suspects, surreptitiously feeding copies of The National into a giant shredder. Yeah, whatever.  Personally, I think my grievances have a justification so gargantuan it possesses its own gravitational field, but I’m just a brainwashed, poorly-educated cult member, so what do I know?

Anyway, resistance may be futile, or it may turn out to be the spark that ignites the conflagration that reduces the Empire 2.0 mentality to a heap of smouldering ash, but we may as well have some fun while we’re about it.  You’ll already have noted that the ol’ sense of humour is rustier than a cheese grater left out in the rain, but stick with it and we might have a few laughs along the way.  And, even if we don’t, it’ll be more therapeutic than radio silence.

So now is not the time to return to blogging.  But there isn’t going to be any better time, so let the good times roll.