Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Queen of Maybe

Didn’t Theresa May’s inaugural speech last week warm the cockles of your heart?  Or perhaps that was acid reflux.  Either way, it was a timely warning that, no matter what back-stabbing chaos may temporarily afflict the Tory Establishment, you can never underestimate their ability to switch effortlessly back into people-shafting mode.

Not that you’d necessarily have picked that up from Theresa’s language, which was so touchy-feely it bordered on harassment.  Taking her words at face value, you’d almost have expected her to appoint John McDonnell as Chancellor, with Florence Nightingale in charge of Health and the Dalai Lama as Home Secretary.  Who wouldn’t follow that honeyed voice to the sunlit uplands of the brave new future, pausing only for a group hug before leaping over the Brexit precipice in the sure knowledge we’d sprout life-preserving angel wings?

Of course, it’s the oldest trick in the book for incoming Tory overlords.  You might call it the “reverse Ronseal”: the art of spouting screeds of high-falutin’ blurb from your policy tin before going gleefully on to do the exact opposite.  Maggie Thatcher was an early exponent, with her St Francis of Assisi tommy-rot, which conspicuously failed to mention “Where there is industry, may we bring a wasteland” and “Where there is community, may we bring isolated pockets of despair”.  Tony Blair, the party’s most celebrated undercover agent, glad-handed his way into Downing Street to the strain of Things Can Only Get Better, which was true only for his property portfolio.  And in 2010, in a historic moment for the vampire community, the key phrase was delivered by George Osborne, whose “We’re all in this together” was a bare-faced admission of guilt dressed up as solidarity.

Now, despite the tug of my genes and life experience, I don’t wish to be a cynical old scrote.  It’s juuuust conceivable that, despite having 21 years in the first-class carriage of the gravy train, a pension scheme devised by a fairy godmother and a City high-flier hubby wheeling a monthly king’s ransom home in a barrow, Theresa truly appreciates what it’s like to struggle to get by, knock your pan in around the clock and still be only a gnat’s ba’-hair away from rent arrears.

Perhaps her thoughts on the topic are scribbled on a Post-It Note, headed Ordinary Humans - Key Features, somewhere in the depths of her paperwork.  They sure haven’t shown up anywhere in her political choices, statements and actions.  Instead, as part of the Cameron coterie, she voted, with not a jot of queasiness, for policies that brought us the Bedroom Tax, Gradgrind economics and a million extra foodbank clients.  As Home Secretary she was about as authoritarian as you can get without actually donning jackboots, and if she ever helped struggling families it was by giving them a taxi ride and police escort to the airport.

I suppose you can’t really blame Theresa and her mates for the charade.  After all, how would it sound if they chose to be honest?  “Hi, we’re Tories.  If you’re drowning, we’ll throw you a rubber ring packed with bricks.  If you’re managing to stay afloat, we’ll empty a bucket of piranha fish into the pool.  In so far as we tolerate your existence at all, it’s because it amuses us to watch our sociopathic fat-cat chums rip you off at every turn.”

But I digress.  For indy-inclined Scots, sitting transfixed with horror as the wall-to-wall coverage juddered on, the key point in the speech actually arose earlier.  Bearing in mind the UK government’s discombobulation over Scotland’s reaction to Brexit, it came as no surprise when, only three paragraphs in, Theresa tipped a bowl of cereal over our heads with her eulogy to the precious, preciousss bond that is the Union.  

Between waves of nausea we pictured David Mundell’s wee tail wagging so energetically you could dip it in paint and undercoat the shed in thirty seconds flat.  And Ruthie Tank Commander, Theresa’s principal adviser on photo-ops for Thatcher-wannabes, proudly polishing her Privy Councillor prefect’s badge and dreaming of promotion to Westminster.  And, in a dank little editing suite at Pacific Quay, the Reporting Scotland team moaning ecstatically and having to go for a lie doon.

Theresa’s preoccupation with The Constitutional Question was signalled even more blatantly a couple of days later, when she body-swerved a COBRA meeting about events in Nice to materialise on Nicola Sturgeon’s doorstep at Bute House.  She couldn’t have got there faster if those red shoes had been Ferrari roller-skates.  (I know, I shouldn’t define a female politician by her fashion choices, but, hey, we all slagged off Cameron for wearing a pig’s head as a sporran, so I’m simply being even-handed.)

All leave was cancelled at the BBC’s mistranslation department, as staff swung into action to garble Nicola’s nuanced position, keeping all options firmly on the table, into “Ah’ve got a veto, so youse English basturts are stuffed!” Andrew Marr’s Twitter hit squad surpassed themselves by pumping out one lie, repeating it in a correction, then replacing both of them with a dollop of cloth-eared speculation.  Meanwhile, Gordon Brewer’s Sunday Politics Scotland conversation with Nicola continued his one-man project of failing to comprehend anything he’s told, however simple, and blaming it on the interviewee.

The more events develop, the more obvious it becomes that, on the squeaky-sphincter spectrum, the UK Establishment has moved well beyond “Occasional Embarrassing Toot”.  The level of anger in Scotland after last night’s Trident debate, when Theresa’s mask slipped and she went full Cruella De Vil on us, should keep their intestinal gases bubbling away nicely.  And when Nicola’s finished with them, it’s a fair bet that those Establishment sphincters will be playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee” all day and all night. 

If you’re thinking of entering the dry-cleaning business, go for it!  You couldn’t have picked a better time.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Did I Miss Much?

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.


Monday, 1 February 2016

The Joy of Blogs

Don't worry, folks, there'll be a new piece up here shortly, just as soon as it's been cleared by my solicitors.  In the meantime, here's a short film from the amazing Phantom Power, celebrating the craft of blogging and remembering the halcyon days, just a week ago, when you could write the truth without all hell breaking loose.

It also features Simone Charlesworth, Robert Somynne and Kirsty Strickland, who talk considerable amounts of good sense interspersed with some inconsequential burble from an auld bloke in an armchair.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

To a Macaroni Pie

Politics has been a bit fraught this week, and I'm sure you need another how-you-should-vote article like a hedgehog needs a steamroller, so I thought I'd give everyone a nice break.  Happily, this accords with my long-standing policy of being a snivelling coward, so it's a win all round.

It's Burns season, so here's another wee pastiche. I present it in the spirit of peace, love and understanding, so those losers at the Forfar Bridie People's Front had better not accuse me of hectoring or organise someone to slag me off in the National.  And who knows what the Deep Fried Mars Bar Cult will think of it?  They probably don't know themselves, not yet having had their instructions from Central Control.  God, it's a minefield out there.

To a Macaroni Pie

Fair fa’ your sharp, acidic tang
Great Chieftain o’ the Scotch Pie gang!
Ye staun aboon the whole shebang
Steak, Mince or Mutton
Sworn foe of every hunger pang
And strainin’ button!

Behind the Co-Op checkout’s shield
Ye stand in majesty revealed
Proud pasta tubes in pastry sealed
Wi’ milky sheen
And topped wi’ grated cheese congealed
Like plasticine.

His lunch see rustic Labour crave
And bung ye in the microwave
Until your stodgy guts behave
Like lava streams
And scalded diners rant and rave
Wi’ anguished screams.

What setting suits your charms the best?
A banquet for an honoured guest?
Or watching Strictly in a vest?
Each maun be prized.
The eve of a blood glucose test?
That’s no’ advised.

Is there that owre his wilted greens
Or trumpety Aduki beans
Or juices packed wi’ carotenes
An’ mingin’ flavour
Regards this dish for kings an’ queens
Wi’ stern disfavour?

Poor devil!  See him at the gym
Astride a treadmill to keep trim
Sae puritanical and prim
That joy’s forbidden!
The wind could sweep him on a whim
Intae a midden.

But mark the pasta-nurtured chiel!
Life holds for him a rich appeal
The cauld blast canna mak him kneel
Or idly drift
He’s blubbered like an Arctic seal
And hard to shift.
Ye Powers wha strive for mankind’s good
And keep them healthy, fit and rude
Auld Scotland wants nae rabbit food
That maks her bony
But one thing stirs her gratitude:
Baked Macaroni!