Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Work In Progress

No, I'm not dead, and I haven't lost interest!  Just been very busy working, with others, on this event, which we hope will set Perth abuzz in a couple of weeks' time.

The next blog post is in production and will be up soon.  Thanks for your patience!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Pigeons, Meet Cat

Good old Lord Ashcroft!  He may prefer Belize to Blighty when it comes to coughing up taxes, but our collective delusion that the UK is a functioning democracy amuses him, so he makes up for it by providing regular polling information. He unleashed his latest set of figures last Wednesday, to the accompaniment of various pundits’ jaws going “clunk” on the floor.
Far from bouncing, the dead cat that is Scottish Labour is stiff, immobile and beginning to honk a bit, with a rat hungrily gnawing at its “Vote Conservative/Lib Dem/UKIP/Monster Raving Loony/Anyone but the Nats” rosette. The SNP, by contrast, is a cheetah approaching full speed, pausing only to blow kisses at a snarling mob of BBC newsreaders before streaking over the horizon. Whisper it in case we jinx it, but those campaign posters with Commons benches covered in tartan paint may turn out to be spookily clairvoyant.

Is this real or a dream? I’ve jabbed myself with so many cocktail sticks lately I can’t drink a glass of water without leaking all over the sofa. Of course, that’s partially down to my personal “Eeyore factor”, the natural pessimism that grips me like a badly shrunk cardigan. If Scotland were 3-0 up against Brazil with a minute to go, the Brazilians were down to nine men and I’d personally bribed the referee, I’d still be expecting the floodlights to fail.
For those of you with a sunnier disposition (lucky bastards!!), there are definite reasons to believe. As Scottish politics enjoys a golden age of excitement, dynamism and unpredictability, Labour politicians seem to have drifted catastrophically out of their comfort zone. Everyone around them is dancing, and they’re looking on helplessly as if their feet were stuck in cement. And, just to rub it in, the stroppy attitude of the Scottish public is really beginning to disappoint them.

This was perfectly demonstrated by one golden moment during Kezia Dugdale’s appearance on Thursday’s Question Time, which otherwise was eyeball-meltingly dreadful even by her own recent standards. Just as she embarked on a characteristically breathless witter about nurses, the mansion tax and the profound badness of the SNP, a collective sick-to-the-back-teeth growl from the audience abruptly stopped her in her tracks.
It seems that, in a totally ungrateful reaction to BBC clipe-in-chief Eleanor Bradford's long hours standing over triage nurses holding a giant stopwatch and sniggering, people in Scotland are starting to get monumentally cheesed off with Labour’s incessant “NHS in crisis” guff. Never mind, Eleanor and Kezia: as soon as whingeing nit-pickery becomes a recognised disease you can call up NHS 24, where I’m sure you’ll receive a first-class service.

Saturday’s Spring Conference in Edinburgh was Labour’s next chance to put lead in their pencil, but ultimately all they could do with it was stab themselves in the eye. I suppose it was a minor triumph that they kept Ed Miliband away from tricky-to-eat food and the general public, but his keynote speech had “Bloody hell, we’re screwed” written all over it.  Its last-ditch embrace of anti-austerity rhetoric also coincided jarringly with Jim Murphy’s chief of staff, John McTernan, blabbing to the press about his admiration for Mrs Thatcher’s cuts, in terms that suggested he urgently needed a cold shower.
As for the weekend’s other embarrassments, it’s probably best to draw a discreet veil, not made of tin or in any way shaped like a hat, over dinosaur Davie Hamilton’s slyly sexist, slanderous, sinister, six-word swipe at Nicola Sturgeon. And the wisdom, or malice, of putting forward Ian Murray - a man reduced to a juddering wreck if you so much as put a Yes sticker on his window - to be char-broiled on Sunday Politics Scotland by the increasingly dyspeptic Gordon Brewer.

Even on a UK-wide level, things are looking dodgy for Labour. It’s a sair fecht when 106 of their MPs can each be publicly handed £1,000 of election funding by a warmongering scumbag, and no one thinks that makes the party’s reputation worse than it already is.
Of course, with evil goblin McTernan pulling the strings, it’s hard to believe Murphy and his masters of mince don’t still have tons of jiggery-pokery in reserve. A campaign to save the Buchanan Street Steps, perhaps, backed by a 4-page Record pull-out that mysteriously fails to mention which party runs the council that’s scrapping them in the first place?  A Panorama special on the sufferings of Margaret Curran, courageously chapping the doors of Shettleston, only to face a hurricane of pithily-worded advice ending in “off”?  Another cage-rattling intervention by Gordon Brown, the most highly respected politician in the galaxy, never mind Scotland?  Another… VOW….?

Unless we really do suffer from collective amnesia (not that we’d remember if we did), those would be desperate strokes by desperate folks, fully deserving the rotten tomato treatment.  The game is up, chaps: this is not a temporary tiff, it’s a full-blown suitcases-chucked-on-to-front-lawn divorce.  It’s not us, it’s you.
But the Ashcroft figures have been more than a thunderous smack in the puss for Scottish Labour.  They’ve also set the Palace of Westminster jangling, a dangerous thing to do when chunks of it are already falling off.

Is the SNP, Scotland’s governing party since 2007, a perfectly normal centre-left political grouping? In any other country on the planet, people would ask what you were smoking if you even posed the question. But here, in pre-election la-la land, we’re suddenly being asked to believe the SNP is a horde of barbarians at the gates, smelling of yak-piss and bent on mayhem.  What if, having been democratically elected, they actually - good God, hold me back before I punch a squirrel - tried to exercise influence in line with the voters’ wishes?

“Economic chaos,” opines Tory chairman Shant Grapps, or whatever he’s decided to call himself this week. “Lethal cocktail for the UK,” intones John Major, the world’s most high-profile combination of personality vacuum and sex machine. “Disastrous for business and security,” warns Lord Bilimoria, someone nobody’s ever heard of. In a lead-lined bunker somewhere, George Robertson must already be sniffing his green felt-tips in readiness for a diatribe about the collapse of the space-time continuum.

The whole thing uncannily resembles last September, when that 51:49 poll in favour of Yes provoked a similar onslaught. But, fortunately, there is one difference. Gut-wrenching experience as that was, independence supporters emerged from it with reserves of bloody-mindedness so vast they make the Forties Field look like the contents of a spittoon.
That may just be enough to enable us to hand our adversaries their bahookies in a carrier bag this time. And charge them 5p for it into the bargain.


One more wee thing, while I have your attention....

Common Weal Perth and Kinross is holding a Festival of the Common Weal in and around Perth during the weekend of 10-12 April.  It promises to be absolutely splendid, and I heartily recommend you get your hands on a ticket for one or more of the following:

Festival Launch Party, Friday 10 April
Perth Civil Service Club, 19.30 till late
Robin McAlpine, Jamie Symkowiak, Tarneybackle, Dancing Feet and, of course, the opportunity to dance the night away
Tickets from Eventbrite £8 (U18/unwaged £2) 

Meet the Authors: Alan Bissett and Ajay Close, Saturday 11 April
Soutar Theatre, AK Bell Library, Perth, 15:00 to 16:30 (doors 14:30)
Tickets from Eventbrite £5 (U18/unwaged £2) 

Cafe Conversations, Sunday 12 April
Riverside Church, Bute Drive, Perth, 14:00 to 16:30
Cafe-style discussions of hot topics!
Cat Boyd (RIC), Willie Sullivan (Electoral Reform Society) and others
FREE Registration on Eventbrite

Tell all of your friends, and I very much hope to see you there!