Friday, 27 June 2014

Could It Be Magic?

Monday/ Tuesday.  85 days of campaigning to go…

It was generally agreed that the independence debate was lacking a bit of magic, so The Herald and its fellow rags duly arranged for two practitioners of the mystic arts to materialise in a puff of headlines.

First Harry Potter, mounting a late bid for the prefect’s badge that had eluded him at Hogwarts, declared his support for No.  Salivating editors immediately opened the bidding for J K Rowling’s 1,486-word essay entitled “That’s my boy!”  In fairness to Harry, he did mention that he trusted Scots voters to do the right thing, which, going by the 20% over-production of referendum ballot papers and the current activities of Glasgow City Council’s voter-cleansing department, is not necessarily a view shared by the authorities.

Then Mr Majeika, in his human guise of octogenarian theatrical legend Stanley Baxter, was featured in the state propagandist’s house journal Radio Times, expressing his own hope that canny Scots would vote No.  It was great to see the word “canny” used as an adjective for once, but no amount of magic hair-waggling could disguise the tell-tale parp of “Braveheart” and “anti-English sentiment” klaxons elsewhere in the interview.  This suggested that Mr Baxter’s 55-year residence in London might have somewhat clouded his view of day-to-day reality in Scotland.  Or, as aficionados of his classic Parliamo Glasgow sketches might have observed, “Izziaffiz bliddichump?”

Could this be a game-changer, we wondered?  We thumbed the White Paper in vain for the word “sorcery”, and shuddered at the unanswered questions that lay ahead.  Would Narnia still be accessible from Scottish wardrobes after independence?  Would broomstick riders in Newcastle be unfairly hit by Scotland abolishing Air Passenger Duty? Would it benefit Alistair Carmichael’s public image if he were transformed into a frog?  Was there enough magic in the world to make Scotland 2014 watchable?

It turned out that HM Government’s in-house wizards had also been at work, mysteriously transforming £720,000 of our cash into a pile of pea-brained piffle that materialised unstoppably on the doormat of every household in Scotland.  It was described as “information about the referendum”, although the main information it conveyed was that Westminster really does think we all button up the back. 

Even opposition politicians, whose memories for inconvenient facts make a goldfish look like Einstein, will no doubt recall how they lambasted the White Paper seven months ago.  It was, they girned, daylight robbery on the taxpayer, a casual frippery compared to hospitals, schools, A9 dualling, bedroom tax abolition, eternal human happiness and all the other things the Scottish Government should have been simultaneously prioritising. 

And this effort?  Ooh, they’ll say, it’s crafted by Rolls Royce minded Whitehall mandarins with Oxford PPE degrees papering their walls, not just the wee pretendy Scottish civil service, so it’s clearly worth every last bawbee, purr purr.  Go on, Johann, ye wee ray of sunshine, prove me wrong.

To be fair, the White Paper was a tad more expensive than £720,000, but after you’d read it you could use it as a makeshift brick or a support for a wonky table, so it gave you added value.  This, by contrast, was a 16-page Ladybird book produced by somebody who couldn’t be arsed to finish it, and decided to add bits of clip art to pad it out.  On page 13 (unlucky for some) it even managed to annexe the Isle of Man by erroneously showing it on a silhouette map as part of the UK.  This drew a snippy response from the Manx Government, forcing the week’s second scrambling of Downing Street’s overworked apology team to grovel its way back into favour.

Despite the pose of the hand-holding children on the front and back, there was no way to run from the leaflet.  However, some Yes supporters did discover a magic dimensional gateway, known as “Better Together’s Freepost address”, which they used to transport it, plus any other waste paper lying around, back to its spiritual home.  Others plastered the leaflet with handy red-ink annotations for use in doorstep canvassing, and still others relentlessly Tweeted the piss out of it.  The rest of us, noting that it’s a load of pants which shows signs of being combustible, are saving it to use as a firelighter in winter.

One of the No campaign’s favourite magic tricks is making shipbuilding jobs disappear if we don’t “do the right thing” in September.  Morally speaking, this is no better than cocking a revolver and saying, “Vote Naw or the fluffy bunny gets it”, but, practically speaking, it fits snugly in line with Johann Lamont’s basic philosophy that after independence Scotland will be impoverished and we’ll all have to eat worms.  So Monday saw Johann and Margaret Curran out and about on the Clyde, spreading little stink-bombs of doom all over the shipyards.

I’d respect their apocalyptic vision somewhat more readily if (a) they articulated it constantly and urgently, instead of just chucking it on the baggage carousel of scare stories and using it as a cuddly-toy photo-opportunity whenever it comes trundling into view, and (b) they didn’t seem on the verge of breaking into the Hallelujah Chorus every time they mention it.

At the end of the day, whatever the Secretary of State for Portsmouth may think, the UK has already effectively switched the lights off on its only viable alternative to shipbuilding on the Clyde.  If push comes to shove, Westminster may be slippery, larcenous and entirely unscrupulous, but it ain’t bloody dense.

The only event during the period genuinely deserving the description “rabbit out of the hat” came from the National Theatre of Scotland, which ran a 24-hour Yes, No, Don’t Know online extravaganza of live 5-minute plays from teatime on Monday to teatime on Tuesday.  

It featured a whole crateload of new work, took several outrageous risks and, from a logistical perspective, must have given various creators and directors the complete heebie-jeebies.  One piece was even filmed on Prestwick Beach in the morning with the tide coming in, which must have required some sort of mystical cure for frozen tootsies.

You want magic?  You’ve got it right there.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Promised You A Miracle

Saturday/ Sunday.  87 days of campaigning to go…

The Scottish public awoke on Sunday to find that overnight a miracle had occurred. 

You know how difficult it is, if you’re a meeting organiser, to find Better Together representatives to speak at debates?  Your initial e-mail gets zapped to atoms by their anti-virus software for containing the words “Yes” and “positive case”.  You try phoning them, but all their operators are busy trolling on Twitter, so you sit through endless repetitions of Rod Stewart croaking Twisting The Night Away before someone blows a giant raspberry in your ear and the line goes dead.

Eventually, by an elaborate process involving wizards, dragon-slaying and a quest for a magic amulet, you show up in person at their front desk, where the receptionist stonewalls for a further 15 minutes by pretending it’s a branch of Domino’s Pizza and asking what toppings you’d like.  Then, even if you succeed in coming away with a couple of names that are neither fictional characters nor smart-arse puns, there’s still a fair chance they’ll pull out at the last minute, citing hair appointments, root canal work or irresistible urges to run away. 

So we were all gobsmacked that keen Yes campaigner Mr A Salmond of Holyrood had actually managed to secure an opponent to face his debating skills.  Much of the credit for this went to fight promoter Mr B Ponsonby of STV, whose rage at being given the slip by George Osborne in February had evidently been channelled into a study of the best places to set trip-wires and elephant traps.

Sadly, Alex hadn’t been permitted his first choice, David Cameron, who loftily insisted that the debate should be between Scots, and that he was comfortable in his own role of “interfering git not available for questions”.  Relying on his legendary personnel expertise, the PM had delegated the job to everybody’s favourite Munchkin, Alistair Darling, promising a “full and frank apology” to the nation when the whole thing proceeded to go tits up.  An aide confirmed that this was in line with Mr Cameron’s summer holiday to-do list, which read, “Cancel milk, leave spare key with evil neighbour, remember to pack child, stitch up scapegoat for losing Scotland.”

One wondered if the PM had actually consulted the world’s most over-promoted back-bencher, whose demeanour when questioned even on the level of “And have you anything further to impart to a grateful nation, Mr Darling?” is that of a man with a ferret loose about his person.  Those in the know gulped apprehensively and battened down the hatches for a toy-throwing tantrum.

But wouldn’t it be a shame, we thought, if the carefully-arranged debate fell through because, say, Alistair preferred it to be at the BBC, where he’d have a comfy chair and an interviewer peeling him grapes?  Or because he wasn’t allowed to use his special cough that sounds like “Kim Jong Il”, or insisted that victory should go to whoever was better at impersonating a badger, or decided to throw a monumental paddy about…. oh, I don’t know…. what date the bloody thing should take place?

Fortunately, by the end of Sunday none of this had happened.  And I’m absolutely 100% confident none of it will, unless (a) they find a way to blame it on Alex Salmond, and/or (b) oops, it already has.

Ach, high-profile debates are over-rated anyway.  They’re just professional obfuscators beating each other about the head with slogans, while we viewers wonder why nothing’s being done about the screams of pain until we realise they’re coming from us.  Witnessing the confrontation of unflinchingly opposed views is like being force-fed sand, which is why the first edition of Radio Scotland’s Crossfire on Sunday was an intellectual desert. 

The BBC complaints department is no doubt preparing its standard piss-off reply to the inevitable question, “How could you make a worse job of replacing Headlines, except by spending an hour broadcasting the sound of two chainsaws?” Kezia Dugdale’s last-minute withdrawal may have been down to money, chemistry or an apocalyptically rubbish performance in the pilot, but equally she may just have been savvy enough to know when to head for the lifeboats.

Well away from the talking heads, the Radical Independence Campaign hit the pavements on Sunday, respectfully begging to differ with Professor Curtice with a highly encouraging mass canvass.  One could imagine Blair McDougall surveying the scene by telescope from the roof of Blythswood Square, wondering how the hell to extinguish all that widespread hope.  Jim Murphy and his Irn Bru Crates of Doom?  Anas and his blunder-bus with blacked-out windows, careening hazardously from town to town with its cargo of chancers?  Nope, it looked like he would just have to rely on the entire machinery, resources and duplicity of the British state, as usual.

If Blair’s reflections had taken place 24 hours earlier, he might have had an additional option, for that was when solicitor, prankster and general humorist Mike Dailly had his Bright Idea. “What if I create a list of Wings Over Scotland social media supporters whom we can smear in the newspapers?”

It was a joke, of course, lacking only the essential component of humour. Nevertheless, Mike spent a few hours on Twitter trying to look spooky and intimidating, only to find that most Cybernats were too busy watching football to be provoked.  Undaunted, he called Alex Salmond an arsehole, but only as a satirical observation, of course, crafted to draw attention to the puerile and corrosive nature of the online debate.

Don't worry, Mike.  When we threatened to report you to the Law Society and get you sacked, we were just joking as well.  We don’t have a list of our own, as it happens, but we wouldn’t need to put you on it anyway.  You’re one of a kind.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Witch-Hunting And Other Sport

Thursday/ Friday.  89 days of campaigning to go…

Sorry, Iraq!  The big news on everyone’s lips was the England football team selflessly throwing away its World Cup chances to save the Union.

“Obviously we wanted to do well,” said gutted yet proud coach Roy Hodgson, “but we got word from Number 10 that if we accidentally won the cup, there would be such an insufferable outpouring of smugness that it would be easy for the Cybernats to whip up anti-English sentiment.  A Yes vote would put the entire NATO alliance at risk, so basically if we wanted any MBEs we knew what we had to do.  Rooney nearly buggered it up by unexpectedly equalising, but thankfully Stevie G dug deep to head the ball straight into the path of Suarez, and the rest is history.”

But the most important thing was that it was time for a witch-hunt. So the TV cameras swivelled round until they homed in on a bloke in a Jimmy wig and Scotland away top, waving a saltire as he celebrated in the midst of the Uruguay fans. 

“The horror! The horror!” wailed a sunken-eyed Gordon Brown. “Let’s rake through his bins and interrogate his parents!” foamed the Daily Mail. “I have no son,” declared the bloke’s father, who didn’t give two hoots about the saltire-waving, but thought the Scotland away top was a fashion catastrophe.  “Aw crap, is that what you have to do to get the BBC to notice you?” chorused 50,000 invisible anti-austerity marchers in London.

At Holyrood, where the weekly witch-hunt is called First Minister’s Questions, the Buckfast bees have settled in nicely and are already proving to be fast, manoeuvrable and armed with a sting, putting them streets ahead of Johann, Ruth and Wullie.  The three “comrades”, so called by Alex Salmond because “stooges” might get him verbally tasered by the Presiding Officer, have worked hard at developing a hive mind, but it always seems to be they, not the FM, who end up bogged down in sticky stuff.

Johann’s problem, apart from needing a desk job away from any easily disturbed voters, is Labour’s apparent insistence that her chosen topic must always be “whatever Reporting Scotland’s been whingeing about all week”.  On Thursday, that left her pontificating about an Audit Scotland education report that, on one interpretation, stated the SNP were achieving better pupil attainment than Labour, while spending less money in real terms. 

And why was it less?  Well, because our pocket money from Westminster’s also been cut in real terms.  Kapow!  Exit Johann, looking like she’d just found some Buckfast bees hiding out in her sandwich.

Ruth gets no brownie points from Conservative Central Office for asking about education, unless you count apprenticeships for 9-year-old chimney sweeps, so she chose an alternative topic, the old “independence set-up costs” chestnut.  This has the advantage of being almost unanswerable, unless the Scottish Government receives co-operation from Westminster, which is about as likely as Andy Murray performing stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

Of course, if you’re a First Minister worth his or her salt no question is unanswerable, although it may end up being not quite the same question your opponent thought of.  Ruthie’s accusations of panic and confusion, backed up by a smoking copy of the Daily Telegraph (The Paper That Supports Our Civil Servants), were swiftly rebutted by the FM’s account of a meeting with Professor Dunleavy, the man who shreds Westminster mis-briefings like Edward Scissorhands doing origami.

Poor old Wullie was left to last again, even being tucked in behind a supplementary question.  He always covers the same topic as Ruth, but in an “After the Lord Mayor’s Show” sort of way, where he’s the man with the shovel following the horses down the road.  His opening gambit of “This goes from bad to worse” was tantamount to handing the irrepressible Eck a loaded water-pistol, with which the FM duly created havoc.  In fairness to Wullie, though, it’s a pretty good summary of the general standing of the Lib Dems.

The final piece of witch-hunting on show - for now, at any rate - was that of Wings Over Scotland, the web site that is the referendum campaign’s answer to Marmite. 

Its founder, the Rev Stuart Campbell, had already threatened to consult his learned friends over an online Scotsman article which, if not flirting with defamation, certainly appeared to be stroking its knee.  Then, on Thursday, the Herald reported that the Yes campaign had “distanced itself” from Wings by ordering the removal of a leaflet where it featured in a list of handy web sites.  Or perhaps they were just replacing an out-of-date leaflet with a more recent one.  Or a purple unicorn had told the reporter the whole story in a dream. 
I don’t know. God, sometimes I feel like a loose slate sliding down the roof of reality.

Anyway, let’s see: Alex Johnstone MSP publicly patronised the hell out of lottery-winning Yes donors Chris and Colin Weir, expressing concern that they might be simple dupes getting their strings pulled by the wicked SNP.  The Weirs complained about this, but because they’re not MSPs all they got was a further sneer from Johnstone. 

Some weeks later Rev Stu, never knowingly a candidate for the diplomatic service, tweeted in response to these events that Johnstone was “fat, troughing scum”.  Johnstone complained about this, and because he is an MSP all righteous people must be appalled and Action Is Clearly Necessary. Brilliant concept, this asymmetric outrage, intit? 

None of this is, of course, remotely connected with the fact that Wings Over Scotland, while not by any means everybody’s cup of tea, is the most effective debunker of nonsense since a certain wee boy pointed out that he could see the Emperor’s dangly bits.

But as we were soon to see, the witch-hunting was only just getting started….

Friday, 20 June 2014

Attitude Problems

Tuesday/ Wednesday.  91 days of campaigning to go...

In a fresh blow for Alex Salmond, it suddenly turned out that a Social Attitudes Survey telling us what people were thinking 12 months ago was somehow important in the referendum debate.

“Arbitrarily turning back the clock is perfectly fair,” opined Professor John Curtice, his unbridled glee evident in the sparks flying from his hair. “Nobody in the survey had ever heard of the White Paper, but nobody had heard of Alistair Carmichael either, so it’s swings and roundabouts. But what’s most important is that, when you ignore all the evidence that’s subsequently accumulated, I’m shown to be right about everything, and the case for me getting my very own 24-hour TV channel becomes unanswerable.”

“The voices of people from the past have been ignored for too long in this debate,” declared Blair McDougall, munching a celebratory Empire biscuit as a tannoy broadcast the Carpenters’ Yesterday Once More all over Blythswood Square. “Naturally, we’ve taken their concerns on board and will be recycling them verbatim in our new £720,000 leaflet Ooh Look, Some Children Holding Hands, which will shortly be force-fed through every letter-box in Scotland.”

“This is fantastic, I can draw a line in the sand again!” exulted Ruth Davidson. “And this time I’m going to do it with the disappearing foam they use for free-kicks at the World Cup, just to keep my options open.”

There was some alarm about the survey appearing to indicate that 41% of Scots thought that Trident should be retained in an independent Scotland.  However, it later emerged that the questioners hadn’t actually used the word “Trident”, but had instead asked respondents in Scotland about “cuddly nuclear submarine kinda thingies”.  This is an example of a highly complex cutting-edge survey technique known as a “complete pauchle”.

Trident also featured in an interventionist bleat from another historical figure, John Major, who was from 1990 to 1997 the lead actor in the sitcom UK Government, best remembered for the cones hotline, constant sleaze, relentless back-stabbing and an economic policy run by George Soros.  He sees everything in black and white, which is only fair, because we see him in a mixture of the two.  

John was perturbed to a not inconsiderable degree, oh yes, by the thought of “the SNP’s threat” selfishly to demand Trident’s removal. Obviously, he spluttered, the only other place to put the nukes would be England, and people living in England would need to be complete berks to agree to a risk like that, so the UK’s whole nuclear deterrent would be kyboshed.  The question “And your point is?” hung in the air, but, since the interviewer was Jim Naughtie, it was left dangling in frustration before finally unhooking itself and stomping off down the pub.

John’s last Secretary of State for Scotland before he drove the Tories to electoral annihilation was the execrable Michael Forsyth, now ennobled and impossible to dislodge, like a piece of rotting spinach wedged in a crumbling tooth.  He shared a sofa on Wednesday’s BBC Daily Politics show with the SNP’s Angus Robertson, making it an unelected gravy-trainer with lifetime tenure versus an elected representative who’s working hard to make himself redundant. His Lordship duly displayed the full range of eye-rolling contempt for self-determination that made his photograph everyone's favourite dartboard during the Tories’ devolution hate-fest of the 1990s.

Still, even malevolent trolls occasionally strike a note of truth.  When the opposition parties’ written-in-tomato-ketchup “more powers” guarantee came up, Lord Forsyth was very far from shaking a set of cheerleader’s pom-poms.  It wasn’t an issue for before the referendum, he scoffed, as if brushing an earwig off his robe, and would be a matter “for the whole of the UK”.

In other words, after we’ve voted No like obedient kiddywinks, the contents of the mystery envelope will be submitted to 591 lukewarm-to-hostile English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs, perhaps including a small wasps’ nest of UKIP MPs holding the balance of power.  Any vague hopes and dreams surviving that ordeal will be stretchered to the House of Lords, where an elegantly-conducted debate will throttle them for good.  Alas, poor guarantee!  Not worth the paper it isn’t written on.

Back in 2013, if they’d been asked, people might have given a tuppenny toss about an important bag of wind like the Premier of China saying that the UK should stay together, though it was a matter for the Scottish voterssszzzz.  These days, sorry, we won’t even raise an eyebrow for anything below minor deity level.  We’re all looking forward to David Cameron’s reciprocal remarks about Tibet, though.

Finally for nostalgia buffs, on Wednesday Jeremy Paxman, the ungladdest sufferer of fools yet to bestride the earth, presented his final edition of Newsnight.  As a valedictory assignment, whether to take the piss or to get him closer to the main source of information, his producer asked him to interview Boris Johnson while sitting behind him on a pantomime tandem.

This surely deserved a zinging sign-off comment from Jezza, but in the end the great man just shrugged his shoulders and settled for “This is England, so I’ll just thank you for watching.”

“This is England.”   Yeeeeeees……

Nailed it in three words, Jeremy.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Say You Want A Constitution

Monday.  93 days of campaigning to go…

Mmmm, I love the smell of a brand new constitution in the morning, don’t you?

As Nicola removed the bubble-wrap, we breathed in the pine-fresh aroma and dreamed about the compliments visitors would lavish on us.  Actually, since most of the nations on the planet already have a constitution, the thing they’d be most likely to say was “What took you so long?”  Even that cheeky wee besom Hillary Clinton.

There was only one complication:  we had to help to create the constitution ourselves, because the Scottish Government had supplied only a basic structure, some guidelines and a consultation response form.  Sneakily, they’d made the form available electronically, forestalling the Better Together objection that we were too stupid to use a pen and would probably end up stabbing ourselves in the eye.

That just left the standard Alistair Darling whinge, “Do the people of Scotland now have to fill in a form before Alex Salmond will agree to govern them? This is worse than North Korea!”  One could imagine him harrumphing his irritation over the breakfast table, as his weary wife wondered what sort of sentence she’d get for beating him to death with a toast rack.

It’s all a far cry from the UK set-up, where the constitution consists of a Post-It note saying “Trust us, we invented cricket”.  Many also point to the Magna Carta, which has the minor drawback of being created 492 years before the UK, but did set an early example of doling out wealth and influence to the elite that is still religiously followed in present-day society. Nevertheless, despite his first-class Oxford PPE degree, the Prime Minister doesn’t know what “Magna Carta” means, or at least won’t lower himself to divulge it to chat-show hosts.  Nobody’s asked him about the Declaration of Arbroath, although it would be no surprise if he thinks it’s some sort of fishery agreement.   

Back at Labour HQ, Johann Lamont hadn’t yet found out from Ed Miliband what her views on the constitution were, so it was left to Jackanory Jackie Baillie to parade her gossamer-thin grasp of reality.  “This is the third time Nicola Sturgeon has recycled this speech,” she declared.  Yes, Jackie:  that’s called telling people what you’re going to do, then doing it, then telling them you’ve done it.  Give us a shout when your lot show any signs of getting past the first one.

It’s unlikely that Jackie will be giving the consultation process the benefit of her vivid imagination.  The draft constitution is an SNP initiative, and those things are as popular with Labour politicos as a dose of anthrax, unless they sniff an opportunity to nick the credit for them.  So Jackie pooh-poohed the very idea of nation-building as an irrelevance to Scots when there were Just So Many Unanswered Questions on start-up costs, currency, pensions, schools, hospitals and the exact price of oil on 24 March 2016.  Her party would never allow such questions to remain unanswered, mainly because they’d be happy to lie through their teeth.  

Johann, meanwhile, toddled along to Calton Hill for some alternative dabbling in constitutional matters, as we witnessed the latest headline-snatching milestone in the three opposition parties’ devo-whatsit plan.  Their actual proposals remained a twinkle in the eye, of course, but they’d found 31 people to stand on the National Monument steps holding big letters spelling out “MORE POWERS FOR SCOTLAND GUARANTEED”. If they’d arranged themselves in a different order the letters would have spelt out “DANGER, NO MORE POWERS FOR U SAD CATTLE”, but I suspect we’ll have to wait until next year for that.

Clearly no-one in the No campaign had attempted a consultation process with the maverick Gordon Brown, whose appearances in the public eye are becoming more frequent as we approach the release date of his new book Well, At Least I Abolished Boom.  His latest speech in Edinburgh cited a survey of Scottish 14 to 17 year olds which proved that, if you ask them the right questions, 46% of them will sound enthusiastic about a UK-wide curriculum and exam system. This figure had come down from 51% the previous year, but that’s our Gordy:  always a bit wonky with numbers.

Until you get him on his own in a car with a live mike it’s hard to know exactly what Gordon thinks.  However, the interpretation the press put on the speech was that, far from giving Scotland more control over its affairs, he favoured throwing the entire Scottish education system in the bin and handing it over to Michael Gove as a test bed for his crackpot experiments.  I fear Gordon is turning out to be something of a Trojan Horse for the No side.

Amidst all the confusion it was useful, if a tad chilling, to get some historical perspective from Quebec, where the Yes side lost the 1995 independence referendum by fewer than 50,000 votes and they’ve seen hee-haw in the way of “more powers” ever since.

Bernard Drainville, a mover and shaker in Parti Quebecois, was quoted in The Herald. “We weakened ourselves because the rest of Canada kind of assumed that losing makes the future threat of a referendum less credible.”  The piece also told us that “one of Canada's most prominent unionists”, Senator Dennis Dawson, had acknowledged that the referendum loss hurt Quebec. “But,” came the punchline, “he laid the blame firmly on his opponents for holding the vote in the first place.”

Wow, spooky.  Scotland, this could be your future.  Listen and learn.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Our Masters' Voice

Saturday / Sunday.  94 days of campaigning to go…

Sadly, the BBC is unable to bring viewers in Scotland the big story of the referendum, because it’s them. 

Another head-smacking embarrassment in a series seemingly destined to outlive The Archers emerged as an exclusive in, of all places, the Scotsman, where it scandalised the five people who still buy the paper for reasons other than the crossword.  According to a rogue journalist since placed on pencil-sharpening duty, BBC Scotland had allowed Better Together to use its Pacific Quay recording facilities and production staff to film a nationally-distributed cinema advert. 

“It’s purely a commercial arrangement,” insisted a BT apparatchik, confirming that the Beeb were mercenaries as well as propagandists.  “The guidelines we flouted are designed to safeguard the BBC’s reputation, and since that was already in the gutter further damage was impossible.  Anyway, the SNP recorded a party political broadcast in the same studio in 2012.”  This was true, but he omitted to say that the Labour Party had slipped the BBC a fiver to make Alex Salmond’s voice sound like Donald Duck.

For those obsessives keeping score, it was hard to judge how the advert that all the fuss was about had affected the campaign.  On the one hand, it was brilliant scorched-earth tactics by the No side, provoking audiences to launch such a scornful fusillade of popcorn and Maltesers at the screen that the cinema chains had to ban all indyref adverts - even the staggeringly brilliant ones from Yes – before their cleaning staff all reported sick with stress.  On the other, it was so cosmically lame that spoof merchants had a field day with it, and Yes supporters had much to chuckle about, which really gets on Blair McDougall’s tits.

It’s not that the BBC doesn’t commission surveys into what viewers think, it’s that the results always seem to be communicated to management by Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.   Further evidence of the corporation’s clunking tone-deafness came with the demise of Radio Scotland’s Headlines, the final edition of which was broadcast on Sunday. 

A programme respected on both sides of the indy debate, where guests with opposing views entertainingly chewed the fat instead of battering each other with frying pans, Headlines was naturally the obvious candidate for the vandals in the boardroom to boot into oblivion.  It will be replaced next week by Crossfire, not exactly an encouraging title for fans of constructive chat.  Of course, it may turn out not to be a game show where Kezia Dugdale talks machine-gun drivel for an hour and the other guests have to figure out a humane way of stopping her.  But, if I were a betting man, I’d be more inclined to place my money on Iain Duncan Smith becoming chairman of Shelter.

Ken Macdonald, an urbane host with an unblemished broadcasting career, save for a record low score of 0% in the Superciliousness module at the Jeremy Paxman School of Interviewing, signed off his last appearance on Headlines with charm and dignity.   If, as he was entitled to do, he harboured true thoughts better expressed in spray paint, he gave little hint of them.  The final edition of Headlines is, at the time of writing, not available on BBC iPlayer.  Please address any complaints to Little Weed, Behind the Potting Shed, Cloud Cuckoo Land.

All told, it wasn’t the best of weekends for the BBC – and I haven’t even mentioned the chilling reappearance on the Andrew Marr Show of zombie politician John Reid, New Labour’s chief foghorn in the days when we all naively believed the UK Government had the slightest interest in a second UN resolution.

Regrettably, John’s grasp of referendum issues proved not fit for purpose, being a knackered old rehash of “currency, EU, pensions” with a dash of “Darien scheme” thrown in to make it really insulting.  But he looks fairly handy with a knuckle-duster, so if you find him canvassing on your doorstep please pretend to be polite.  “Are you Ming Campbell?” is just about an acceptable question.  “Are you Jimmy Reid’s daughter-in-law?” isn’t.

Then lo and behold, we got the organ grinder himself, Peace Envoy Tony Blair, who these days not only looks like Batman’s arch-enemy the Joker, but seems to have a scriptwriter to match.  According to the electrical activity in Tony’s cerebellum, the present-day problems in Iraq stem not from us bombing innocent people there in 2003, but from us failing to bomb innocent people in Syria last year.

Jings, it takes a lot to make me agree with Boris Johnson, but the man’s unhinged. I wonder, does Blair McD have nightmares in which Tony suddenly decides to make a “major intervention” on behalf of the No campaign?    

Anyway, that’s the BBC for you.  You want intelligent reportage, discussion and analysis.  They give you I Love 2003.

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this blog, please consider attending a demonstration outside Pacific Quay at 2.00 pm on 29 June.  Further details on Twitter and all good Cybernat web sites. MI5 officers should refer to their handlers to ascertain procedures for travel expense claims.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

So Hillary's A No, Then

Thursday / Friday.  96 days of campaigning to go.

Where were you when you heard Hillary Clinton had come out in favour of the Union?  Personally, I’d just stubbed my toe on the bed-post, so my answer would be “the floor”.  I mention this merely so that the neighbours I disturbed with my cursing won’t assume I’m some sort of abusive Cybernat.

By contrast, I’m sure Jim Naughtie was on Cloud Nine.  Jim is the only radio broadcaster I know whom you can actually hear punching the air with glee, as he does whenever some “authority” with “clout” pronounces doom and gloom upon Scotland.  For two days a week he graces Good Morning Scotland with his presence, bringing a steady hand to the tiller and correcting its worrying drift towards balance. This is much appreciated by local staff, who have lapped up his master-classes in how to do broadcasting properly, and by Gary Robertson, who now has the chance to pursue other career opportunities. 

What Hillary had said to Jeremy Paxman on Thursday’s Newsnight was, “I would hate to have you lose Scotland”.  Perhaps she considered Jeremy the embodiment of the Westminster establishment, or perhaps she’d heard that government ministers had offered Scotland to him as a retirement present if he just stayed schtum about their rampant corruption.  Either way, she wanted us displayed in full view on his mantelpiece and not shoved away in a drawer with all the other crap, at least not without having a clearly marked label attached.

Self-interest may have played a part in Hillary’s stance, since when she’s President she doesn’t want to press the Trident launch button only to find that all the missiles have been chucked in a skip.  Nevertheless, a reverential Douglas Alexander, whom Jim took for walkies on Friday morning’s GMS, considered it a highly significant intervention by, gosh, just the USA’s most knowledgeable person on international affairs ever.  Wee Dougie also squeaked his scorn that Yes Scotland hadn’t put up a representative to be talked over by Jim while trying to debate the matter. To be fair, they had issued a statement that said, “We’ve got better things to do than discuss this sort of pish.”

Like a satanic baggage carousel GMS rolled on, bringing us repeated plays of Hillary’s chinwag with Paxo interspersed with Brian Taylor’s casual dismissal of the Scottish Government’s economic regeneration plans.  Finally Jim introduced us to Dr Pippa Malmgren, an honorary fellow of the Institute of Keeping Everything As It Is, who seemed remarkably unembarrassed about also being a former economic adviser to George W Bush.

Pippa’s breezy, snorting contempt for “separatism” was so potent she could bottle it and sell it for big bucks at Bilderberg conferences.  The US, she declared, was lumbered with county-level separatist movements in California and elsewhere, so no current or wannabe President was going to offer general support to separatism, and Scots oughtta think about that.  Even Jim, perhaps worrying about his Union Jack underpants catching fire, felt constrained to point out that Scotland was a tad more significant than a county. Still, he neglected to raise the possibility that on this particular subject Mrs Clinton might simply have opted to shut her cakehole.

Anyway, Pippa asserted, Scotland going it alone would be a “defence issue” for the US, a piece of botheration it didn’t need when Iraq was turning out to be nothing like the slam-dunk envisaged by Donald Rumsfeld back in 2003.  As for our NATO membership, it would be a “transition process full of question marks”, although whether the famous Rumsfeld dictum would categorise these as known unknowns, unknown unknowns, or no-nos (known or unknown), she didn’t know.

As Pippa triumphantly rounded off her diatribe, Jim relaxed into a throaty “Ha ha!”  God was back in his heaven, an “expert” had once again demonstrated independence to be too troublesome to contemplate, and his own memory of Annabelle Ewing running rings round him the previous day had been completely exorcised.   He could look forward to enjoying Land of Hope and Glory blasting away on his iPad in the first-class carriage back to civilisation without being nagged by a feeling of hollowness.

And so, by supplying a trumpet fanfare for another endorsement of the Union from a high-profile figure whose business it isn’t, the No campaign continued with its strategy of doing the same thing over and over again even though it didn’t work the first time.  As if we didn’t get enough of that at First Minister’s Questions.

Where was I when I heard the Pope had come out in favour of the Union?  When that happens, I’ll let you know.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

It All Gets Messy

Wednesday.  98 days of campaigning to go…

If you gave 100 people 100 seconds to name as many “bleedin’ obvious Unionists” as possible, the first name they would write down is “J K Rowling”, except for people in Glasgow, who would spell it “Jakey”. Photographs from Eddie Izzard’s Pleeeeease Don’t Go gig clearly show her demonstrating high levels of tolerance for Alistair Darling.  She’s a frequent visitor to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown for tea, buns and office equipment throwing.  And she’s never once Favorited anything “Muggles for Yes” have posted on Twitter.

Nevertheless, it was a big moment for the campaign when she actually trundled over to the headquarters of Better Together with a wheelbarrow containing £1 million in cash.  Of course, she’s donated a similar sum to the Labour Party in the past, so her bank-rolling of lost causes fronted by charlatans does follow a pattern.  If I ever invented a hair-dryer made of cheese, I’d certainly want her sitting opposite me when I made my pitch on Dragons’ Den.

But, under the rules of campaign donations established by Alex Johnstone MSP in the earlier case of Chris and Colin Weir, shouldn’t we be worried about this very thing?  Is JKR giving the money of her own free will, or is she merely a pitiable dupe who’s been sent ga-ga by the hypnotic snake eyes of Blair McDougall?  Scoff all you like, but let’s face it:  here’s a person who’s immersed in a fantasy universe co-existing with our own, where adolescent wizards ride broomsticks at invisible schools and Ralph Fiennes is the embodiment of all evil.  Before BT snaffles up the dosh, shouldn’t we at least get a social worker involved?

JKR’s a proper writer, who can punctuate and everything, so she was able to explain her decision on her web site in 1,576 expertly crafted words that nakedly paraded every nonsensical Unionist scare you could dream up, but still left you with a warm glow, going “Awww!”  Unfortunately, a malevolent magician must have snuck an evil incantation into the text somewhere, because immediately a hidden chamber seemed to open and a many-headed filth-vomiting abomination was unleashed on the Internet.

It turned out we were witnessing a sudden perfect combination of storms, such as forecasters always manage to explain to you in detail just after it’s happened.  At the very moment JKR’s bank vault was creaking open, the phenomenon known as “Lallygate”, which in most circumstances would by now have been wrapping chips, was taking on a chaotic new lease of life.  

The tweets from both sides of the indyref debate, plus some agents provocateurs and troublemakers along for the ride, were everywhere, with people finding them even in places they weren’t. Questioning, supportive, cynical, sanctimonious, vengeful, rude, sarcastic, hoity-toity, filthy, illegal and downright hateful:  you could have any flavour you liked, although a fair number tasted slightly fishy.

In the search for a Lallygate scapegoat the mainstream media had identified a Gunn, perhaps not smoking but certainly hired. Campbell of that ilk had written a 39-word e-mail that was 50% correct, albeit somewhat snide and unnecessary, and 50% pant-wettingly, embarrassingly wrong. Sadly, this crappy strike rate was achieved on the basis of just two measly facts, although it was still several notches above the output of a mendacious, back-stabbing toad such as Damian McBride.

Gunn apologised for his schoolboy howler, which seemed about right, although if it had been my call I’d also have told him to sit quietly in his playpen until further notice and keep his hands off the crayons. But the lynch mobs, amazed and delighted at temporarily occupying moral ground a baw-hair higher than its surroundings, bayed for more. To them, Gunn was the chief minion of Lord Voldemort (guess who?), transmitting poisonous thought commands to Death-Eating Cybernats from an underground bunker beneath Arthur’s Seat. Oh, and, by the way, all Yes supporters should just shut up shut up SHUT UP until 19 September.

With the spirit of Senator Joe McCarthy stalking the land, the rammy continued all the way up to STV’s Scotland Tonight.  Here the nation was treated to a televisual glimpse of the Rev Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland, a web site whose demonization by the mainstream media is currently entering its final stages.  He was in discussion with Susan Dalgety, a radioactive bay who used to be Jack McConnell’s advisor and is now forging a career as a professional interrupting machine.

Aided by some nifty refereeing from Rona Dougall, Rev Stu maintained his cool through all the “noises off”, and managed to put across his points. In a nutshell, these were that, unless you live in a reality constantly warped by wizards, Campbell Gunn’s e-mail was pretty damn lame, but wasn’t a personal attack, whilst Alistair Darling’s car-crash interview with the New Statesman had undoubtedly been both. 

Annoyingly for his detractors, Rev Stu made these observations without swearing, heckling, trashing the set or instructing his followers to kill everyone without mercy.  He was even remarkably restrained when Ms Dalgety tried to explain to him how the Scottish media worked, in a tone they must have used to tell Galileo the earth was flat.

As a febrile day limped painfully to its close, it was hard to see in what way the cause of democracy and civil discussion had been advanced, and not entirely clear how much longer it might survive.  

But we could all be sure of one thing.  For once, at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Alex Neil would be off the hook!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sorry, What Did You Say?

Tuesday.  99 days of campaigning to go….

As the placards, flags and rent-a-crowds all magically winked out of existence until the next time the TV cameras ventured up the A1, Scotland returned to the real business of the referendum campaign:  getting huffy and petulant with one another on the Internet.

Much of the cyber-stushie centred upon the New Statesman, a publication whose once-unimpeachable integrity has, fittingly, collapsed to the level of Rik Mayall’s iconic creation Alan B’Stard. Under pressure from Blair McDougall’s Black Ops Team, it morphed into an ice-cream parlour of lies, its online version offering four different flavours of what Alistair Darling might have said when he effectively smeared two-fifths of Scottish voters as Nazis.

Sorry, that’s harsh.  Making sense of an inaudible mumble is tricky, and can take a few attempts to get right, particularly when a campaign apparatchik is standing over you with a baseball bat.  Life’s so much easier for the people editing the Chilcott Enquiry Bush/Blair tapes, who can just use a flamethrower and have done with it.  Anyway, here at last is the definitive version of the transcript.

Interviewer:  Blood and soil nationalism?

A plate of cakes is brought into the room.

Darling:  A tart! . . .

There follows a pause, as Darling delightedly scoffs his chosen specimen.  Then he goose-steps around the room like Basil Fawlty, shouting “Don’t mention the war!”  

Jeez, can’t you stuffy Nats take a joke?

Elsewhere in the “Whoops, what have I said?” stakes, there was a spat between Alex Salmond and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who had warned last week of independence leading to the “Balkanisation of Britain”.   A team of New Statesman voice experts was hastily convened to reveal that what Mr Bildt had actually said was “Vulcanisation”, and that he’d meant only that independence would be eyebrow-raising, so everyone would look like Mr Spock. “Nothing to see here,” said David Cameron, who was in Sweden for discussions about how to reduce annoying interference from Europe.

Back in the twilight world of the “social” media, the price of high horses began to soar, as someone portraying herself as an ordinary person was accused of being a political activist.  Or perhaps someone portraying herself as a political activist was accused of being an ordinary person, which to a political activist is a really gross insult.

It seems that this poor lady, perhaps while trying to return a library book or find a decent public loo, kept inadvertently wandering into political conferences.  Here she often bumped into Labour MSPs, with the shock of the impact inevitably triggering their iPhones to take selfies. 

As time went on she became infected with several political viruses, such as absurd views on the viability of the Scottish NHS and the inability to walk past a microphone without speaking into it. Eventually she was persuaded to join the Shadow Cabinet, although, as New Statesman voice experts have pointed out, tapes of the incident clearly show that she thought she was being invited on a shopping trip to MFI.

This simple chain of events, which could happen to anyone, gave us “Lallygate”, an outbreak of online eye-gouging and shrieking whataboutery that threatened to make the Jeremy Kyle Show look like a Church of Scotland Guild meeting.  It soon became clear that everyone needed to apologise, resign, be sacked and sit in a large vat of custard, dressed only in their pants, before honour could be restored.  Meanwhile, an IPSOS Mori poll, drooled over by Professor John Curtice, indicated that the number of Scottish households likely to answer a canvasser’s knock had fallen by 99.999999% overnight.

Astonishingly, things were comparatively peaceful at Westminster, where Michael Gove and Theresa May had finished burning each other’s toys in their prams and were now simply exchanging murderous glances.  Mr Gove pronounced that all schoolchildren must be indoctrinated with “British values”, or possibly “Brutish values” - still waiting for the New Statesman assessment there - and the search immediately began to discover what the hell these were.  “Money talks,” was the suggestion of one William Hill punter, who I hope isn’t a senior officer in MI6 with insider knowledge, as he placed a world-record £400,000 bet on Scotland voting No.

Finally, a tip of the hat to lugubrious Jim Murphy, who flew from Barrhead to Barra on his “100 Corners” tour, which involves standing on two Irn Bru crates and scaring the living daylights out of local passers-by.  So far the consensus is that Jim’s done OK, but the crowds preferred the scraping noise the crates made as he moved them into place.  You can follow Jim on his travels by looking at Met Office forecasts and seeing where they predict deep depressions.

And the game continues…..

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The End Of The Beginning

Monday.  100 days of campaigning to go…..

The sun rose to the monstrous crowing of the Unionists’ pet parrot, The Herald, announcing that the three main Westminster parties were really, absolutely for certain, on the brink of getting round to talking about fixing a date to make a pact to consider jointly “guaranteeing” the Scottish Parliament more powers. 

Naturally, they couldn’t tell Scottish voters in advance what these powers would be, though we were welcome to check with any friends who happened to own a Tardis.  Otherwise we’d have to wait for each party’s version of the powers to be a nice surprise in its 2015 UK General Election manifesto, like finding a fluffy Werther’s Original on an otherwise nondescript carpet.  The general message was clear: they think some folk will swallow anything.

Just down the road, Better Together staff were complaining about some tired old busker churning through a limited repertoire and making it impossible for them to concentrate.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be Alistair Darling, plucked from the naughty step to re-launch BT’s "100 Lies in 100 Days" initiative after the original choice, a hotdog salesman made out of Lego, had unexpectedly been forced to cancel. Coincidentally, it was BT’s annual “Bring A Friend To Work, Using Threats Or Blackmail If Necessary” day, so there was a good crowd once the TV companies had sussed where to place their cameras.

Darling may be Horlicks on legs, but no amount of sleepiness could obscure the true message of his speech, which ran along the lines of, “I compared Salmond to Kim Jong Il, for pity’s sake!  What do I have to do to get sacked from this damn campaign?  I could be hoovering up directorships in the City, courtesy of all the complete bastards I forgot to regulate properly, so why do I need this hassle?”

It soon transpired that, in a daring attempt to snaffle the moral high ground, Better Together had adopted the tactic of politeness, replacing their usual gruff “Naw” with a perfectly behaved “No Thanks”, as if you’d offered them one cucumber sandwich too many.  Apparently the Saatchi agency’s original suggestions, “Regrettably Too Wee, Too Poor, Too Stupid” and “I’m Most Awfully Sorry, But Salmond Is A Big Fat Expletive Deleted”, hadn’t fitted on the wee flags they were handing out.

But scarcely had the first flag been waved in the face of a passing TV crew than the whole “No, Thanks” shtick was turned on its head.  Yes supporters on Twitter swiftly observed that a #NoThanks hashtag could equally be applied to the bedroom tax, Trident, biased broadcasters, unelected governments and every other foul whiff emanating from Westminster.  Once their keyboards started clattering, a full-scale Twitter drubbing was inevitable.  Sorry, BT, it’s #NoThanks to negativity, even if you express it like a maiden aunt.

Meanwhile, a sack of potatoes which had previously appeared to be sulking in a corner turned out to be Gordon Brown, who’s treating the referendum debate as some form of Hokey Cokey.  Reliable mathematicians, none of whom worked for the Treasury on his watch, estimate that he’s now on his 49th “decisive entry” into the No campaign.  Since what he says about pensions shows no grasp whatsoever of reality, and he’s so off-message he might as well be speaking in pictograms, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he’s doing this just to piss off Alistair Darling.

The journalist chosen as the conduit for Gordon’s world-view was Sky’s Eamonn Holmes, who duly questioned him with all the rigour of a fuzzy-felt cannon firing cotton wool balls.  You don’t want to annoy Gordon, who is fairly handy with a Blackberry from ten yards, but it turned out that Alex Salmond had earned his wrath by unfurling a Saltire to celebrate Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon.  It made Scotland seem small, reckoned Mr Brown.  Goodness knows what he thinks when he sees the BBC weather map.  Or, indeed, the shockingly low life expectancy in parts of Glasgow after 13 years of farting about by the Blair and Brown administrations.

However, the conversation became juicier when Gordy turned his thunderous glare on the Better Together campaign, which he lambasted  -  just as normal people might!  -  for being negative, patronising and bullying.  Coming from him, that’s sufficient provocation to send the Darling blood pressure skywards until the poor man erupts in a shower of phlegm and rivets.  

Finally, having left muddy footprints all over the hearthrug, Gordy proceeded to piss on the Sunday roast by suggesting that David Cameron should debate with Alex Salmond.  Number 10 instantly dismissed the idea with casual loftiness, making it obvious that in secret the PM and his advisers were chewing the carpet.  Meanwhile, a high-pitched squeal reported in the Blythswood Square area was identified as air escaping from Better Together’s news management strategy.  Or Blair McDougall having a tantrum.  Or both.

What can it all mean?  Has Mr Brown, in his own eyes something of a super-hero, now concluded that the lesser beings can’t cope with the referendum, so he must take on the mantle of The Man Who Saved The Union?  If so, the campaign could become very interesting.  For, before he can save something, he must first destroy it….  

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Vote No Scruples - Latest Newsletter

Greetings, anonymous donors! 

Thank you for supporting Vote No Scruples, the campaign that stops at nothing to preserve the Scotland you want to see! 

The various unmarked envelopes you sent us, each containing exactly £7,499.99, have allowed us to trawl the Internet for “concerned citizens” to whom we can give a Stars In Their Eyes moment spouting fact-free pish.  Who can forget Jack from Castlemillock, who worries about being hunted down by dogs for daring to smuggle Irn Bru to his son in Carlisle?  Or Gary from Drumchapple, who positively enjoys living 30 miles from a nuclear base and thinks the SNP’s control-freakery will interfere with his right to stick a fork in his toaster?

Meanwhile, our cutting-edge cinema adverts, featuring pathological liars re-branded as “actors”, have consistently made Blair McDougall look, by comparison, as if he’s been injected with a truth serum.  By breaking all known records in the niche area of “most spectacular collective outbreak of projectile vomiting”, they’ve ensured that even legitimate indyref cinema advertising has been comprehensively kneed in the groin. Give yourself a pat on the back, Home Counties!

It’s not all been plain sailing, of course, with meddlesome NHS bureaucrats getting snotty about our perfectly reasonable point that sick Scottish children would be chased away from London hospitals with pitchforks.  Rest assured that their concerns were appropriately addressed.  We got one of our 15-year-old interns to craft a snarky passive-aggressive press release, and the film will be back up on YouTube shortly, just as soon as we’ve re-dubbed it to replace the term ‘Great Ormond Street’ with ‘St Poopy-Pants’.

All told, in just over a month Vote No Scruples has come a long way from that initial recording session at a secret location near Edinburgh, observed only by a salivating Gavin Esler, a BBC News film crew and 22 Conservative Central Office SPADs hiding in a broom cupboard.   But our handlers at MI5 tell us that you expect much more from us, so it’s time for us to unveil our cunning plans for the rest of the campaign.

Our delightful teenage musicians, the Blooms of Blighty, at present remain a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ordnance4U plc, the highly respected arms consultancy.  However, our next publicity coup will be to sell off the shares as soon as we find investors of sufficient gullibility.  Currently, following their unquestioning embrace of the Tories’ “devo-max” proposals, we have high hopes of flogging the lot to lily-livered TV journalists.

Creatively speaking, the Blooms of Blighty are still filled with angst about this stupid referendum and practising hard to make it all go away.  Their debut CD, Vote No Or We’ll Keep Singing, has already achieved a staggering 1.5 billion online pre-orders, thanks to a software glitch in Whitehall’s central requisitioning system.  The group is also hard at work on a series of annoying jingles that Kezia Dugdale will use to drown out opposing views on her new Radio Scotland show.

Your generous financial support has also allowed us to outbid Nando’s for the continuing services of our two fantastic actors.  We’ve given them starring roles in an exciting new venture, Luxury Coach Party 2014, where they’ll be filmed travelling in a big swanky bus round Guildford, burning £20 notes in front of cheering Scottish crowds which we’ll Photoshop in later.  They’ll also shortly be donning Gordon Brown masks to make a spine-chilling video about pensions, which will be shown in the communal TV lounges of retirement homes throughout Scotland, just before the nice young man from the council comes round to help the residents fill in their postal ballots.

And, of course, we’ll be continuing our fruitful co-operation with the consultancy AhCannae.  For those of you who have been asking, it’s a strictly non-aligned organisation, apart from its unswerving loyalty to Satan, that has worked in several countries where the citizens are getting above themselves and, frankly, need a slap.  It specialises in taking the delicate buds of hope and optimism and crushing them with a huge mallet. It pitilessly shreds people’s delusions that the government gives a rat’s arse what they think and shoves the pieces down their throats till they choke.  It’s been helping us mostly with photocopying.

So, as you can see, there’s lots going on, and we haven’t even mentioned the wheelbarrows of cash we’ll be taking round to the Electoral Commission to stop them moaning. 

Keep sending in those untraceable donations, and let’s make this summer a Festerval of Dependence!  

Yours self-servingly,