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.