BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED

BewitchedThink about it for a moment: when the Leader of the Opposition can’t even define what a woman is, we have to accept we’re somewhere we haven’t been before. A war, by contrast, seems disturbingly familiar, something as regular as night following day; an instinctive revulsion towards conflict is as old and deep-rooted as conflict itself, so our collective response to it is a relatively universal one. Yet to have a prominent political figure with ambitions to be Prime Minister incapable of publicly admitting that men don’t have cervixes and don’t menstruate is the kind of development to which we have no prepared reaction on account of few anticipating we would get to this plateau of preposterousness. Even those of us who picked up on the genesis of the unhinged religion that is Identity Politics long before it seized control parodied it in the assumption a spoof would never be out-spoofed by real life. However, numerous satirical shorts of my own, produced back in the distant days of the 2010s – when we hadn’t quite scaled what Rod Liddle has referred to as ‘Peak Wank’ – are routinely discovered by newcomers to my YT channel, shocked and amazed that videos up to four or five years old can seem so relevant to the here and now.

The fact is I was satirising the embryonic Identity Politics of the era, exaggerating them beyond reality and knowing all the time my takes on them were deliberately ridiculous. Fast forward to 2022 and not only do we have the man who wants to rule the country struggling to own up to biological fact, but his increasingly deranged Caledonian comrade north of the border is surpassing satire once again. Anyone who remembers my ’25 Hour News’ series might recall a story in which the Met were poised to charge half-a-dozen dead Vikings with gang-raping a dead Saxon maiden, overlooking the fact all parties had been deceased for several centuries. Another video was a BBC1 trailer informing viewers of various virtue signalling acts in remembrance of events that occurred long before living memory – a minute’s silence for victims of the Black Death, a memorial service to honour the victims of the Battle of Waterloo, a tribute concert to the victims of the Thirty Years’ War, a charity football match raising money for the victims of the Battle of Agincourt and so on. All patently ludicrous, but parodying the contemporary vogue for wallowing in victimhood, misery and suffering, regardless of how irrelevant the pain of the past is to the present day.

Ah, yes – the present day, the day in which satire is rendered redundant (and, knowing the Scottish National Party’s penchant for criminalising humour, probably outlawed). Step forward once more, wee Ms Krankie. Considering the damage done to Scotland by the SNP’s pandemic policies – not to mention all the nation’s problems that were being summarily neglected with spectacular ineptitude even before the coronavirus exposed Nicola Sturgeon’s totalitarian tartan – the latest public announcement from the First Minister exceeds all expectations. Last week, Sturgeon decided now is the right time to issue a public apology on behalf of the Scottish Government for those unfortunate Scots tried and executed as witches. In case you’d forgotten – which is understandable, considering you had yet to be born – the last recorded evidence of a Scottish person being put to death for the crime of witchcraft was in the Year of Our Lord Seventeen Hundred and Six; just to clarify the urgency of the apology, that’s 316 years ago.

Well, witch-hunting was even more popular in Scotland than England back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with three times as many witchcraft prosecutions taking place there than south of the border; it’s estimated around 1,500 ‘witches’ were put to death by the State in Scotland, helped in no small part by the first sovereign to rule both kingdoms, James I of England (and VI of Scotland). Obsessed with the threat of the occult and the presence of necromancy in the country of his birth, James established royal commissions to hunt down witches, he supervised the torture of them when captured, and he even wrote a melodramatic book on the subject, ‘Daemonologie’; as kings were then viewed as God’s representatives on earth, his rant was taken by many as Gospel. The only positive legacy of the book is that it allegedly served as an inspiration for ‘Macbeth’; its more immediate impact was to further legitimise James’s beliefs and reinforce the barbaric punishments inflicted upon those suspected of supernatural practices that had been enshrined in law since the passing of the Witchcraft Act of 1563 – an Act not finally repealed until 1736.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the fatal punishments inflicted upon those convicted of witchcraft were brutal – though it also has to be remembered that most executions at the time were not necessarily renowned for their humane manner: hanging, drawing and quartering, being burned alive at the stake, beheading – all featured in the executioner’s handbook and offered spectators a wide variety of blood-sports when they turned out in vast numbers come match-day. Torture was deemed a legitimate means of extracting a confession before the accused met his or her maker, usually achieved through employing sleep deprivation or the occasional tools of the torture chamber such as the crushing of feet in an instrument known as ‘the boots’ – a treatment memorably endured by Oliver Reed in Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’.

The unique Scottish approach to detecting witchcraft included a method known as ‘pricking’, whereby the belief that a witch could feel no physical pain enabled professional pricks – or prickers – to insert needles and pins into the accused’s flesh, although the sadistic fraudulence of this practice eventually played its part in bringing about the end of witchcraft as a crime punishable by death. Yes, it was a horrible and hysterical period of British – and particularly Scottish – history, characterised by waves of superstitious fervour such as the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597, when around 200 people were executed over a period of seven months.

Although some men were tried and put to death as warlocks, most of the victims were women, and modern perception of the whole bloody escapade is to view it through the prism of the historical oppression of women by men. Yes, it is true that these incidents tended to take place during times of economic crises, the times when scapegoats are often sought by authorities as sacrificial lambs in order to deflect attention from their own failings; but the fact women suffered far more than men suggests a pervasive fear of women asserting any form of independence within communities, such as being midwives. The nature of the charges also implied a deep-rooted paranoia surrounding female sexuality, as many of the examples of ‘witchcraft’ cited were connected to sexual spells allegedly cast upon blameless men by the wicked accused.

In recent years historical witch-hunts have become inserted into the feminist narrative, and the religious-like fanaticism of extreme activists dedicated to the Identity Politics faith has been manifested in the targeting of blasphemous heathens, using tactics that are reminiscent of the way witch-finders pursued their victims; at the same time, the cult of victimhood so central to the Identity Politics philosophy has portrayed the pursuers as the victims rather than the pursued. In this respect, a revival of interest in ye olde witch-hunts is certainly timely. So deep were the scars left by this era that the term ‘witch-hunt’ remains one still used whenever the mob is stirred into illogical mania by an irresponsible individual or group of individuals with a vested personal interest in the persecution of innocents, though the continued use of the phrase doesn’t mean the age of the actual witch-hunts has any relevance to, or bearing on, the lives of anybody lived in the last three centuries. One would imagine there are more pressing issues pertinent to 2022, though someone forgot to inform Nicola Sturgeon.

© The Editor

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ONCE MORE UNTO THE PREACH

XRI don’t believe you can tell someone else how to live their life unless you’ve lived their life. I said that to someone recently about a well-meaning friend whose advice can sometimes be dispensed in a manner that often comes across as slightly condescending; it’s not from a position of assumed superiority, but simple ignorance of what it is to walk in my shoes. We all know people who make this mistake – and, hell, parents are as guilty as any friend could ever be; but on the whole the advice, however poorly expressed, is generally coming from a good place. It’s mildly irritating because, as the radical psychiatrist RD Laing once said, ‘Within the territory of ourselves, there can be only our footprints’; but we usually let it go on account of recognising the fact that no offence was intended. Perhaps it irritates more in the present climate due to finding ourselves in a virtual epidemic of condescending advice emanating from public figures; and what makes their condescending advice especially hard to stomach – aside from the holier-than-thou manner of its dispensation – is that most issuing it don’t practice what they preach. Throw hypocrisy into the mix and one reaches the point whereby anything these public figures say, even if it should make sense, is received with resentment and contempt.

Politicians, of course, specialise in this field. Margaret Thatcher famously yearned to ‘roll back the power of the State’ and David Cameron expressed similar statements 30 years later; yet the posh pig-f***er presided over a government that continued the interference of the State in the private sphere that had accelerated under Blair and Brown. Advice on how the masses should live their lives increased on Cameron’s watch – even if the majority of this Nanny State interventionism probably emanated from the Tories’ Coalition partners for the first five years of Cameron’s premiership. Maybe the finger-wagging Lib Dem line on telling people what to do infected the Conservative Party far deeper than many realised and could well be the one lasting legacy of the Con-Dem administration. Although the Labour Party in England and the SNP north of the border remain the worst standard bearers of this mindset, neither shared power with the Tories at Westminster, and neither were consequently able to exert the kind of influence the Lib Dems appear to have exerted over government policy that affects the greatest number of people in these islands to this very day.

It goes without saying the unique circumstances of the past eighteen months have intensified this approach; the old – and fondly-recalled – Public Information Films produced by the Central Office of Information (until the Coalition Government abolished it in a fit of Austerity pique) were both unintentionally entertaining and genuinely scary, yet the pseudo-PIFs we’ve endured throughout the pandemic – along with the ‘advertising campaign’ of posters on the sides of bus shelters – have felt closer to old-school Eastern Bloc propaganda in their unambiguously threatening tone, not necessarily suggesting the recommended route is a wiser one than the alternative, but telling the viewer there is no alternative and that they will effectively burn in Hell if they don’t comply. If they were still around and had been hired to run Covid Project Fear, the Kray Twins couldn’t have delivered a more persuasive argument to the sceptic.

Mutual respect is always a better starting point than one party demanding respect with menaces, and it’s difficult to take any advice on board when it comes from somebody one has absolutely no respect for whatsoever. I think I’ve perhaps reached the age where I hold almost all politicians in complete contempt, so when a politician tells me how to live my life, my back is instantly up. Even if one removes the Covid factor, there’s still no shortage of issues that should be down to the personal choice of the individual and have nothing to do with the State whatsoever. The SNP entering into partnership with the Greens – yet another political party that embody all the worst elements of this patronising lecturing and hectoring – is one of the most natural marriages in politics for we-know-what’s-good-for-you authoritarianism masquerading as social progress. An administration that proposes making saying something ‘offensive’ in the privacy of one’s home a criminal offence and advocates infants being able to change their genders in the classroom without recourse to parental consent or consultation is approaching the apex – or nadir – of State interventionism where it’s neither wanted nor needed. Yet, even if this is quite possibly the most extreme example to be found anywhere in the UK, it often feels like barely a day goes by without one more edict from on-high that is aimed at everyone in Britain, parent or no. And it usually comes from those who are eventually exposed as shameless hypocrites.

My gut response to any politician interfering in something they have no place interfering in is to turn the tables, to tell them okay, so I’ll do as I’m told if you follow suit; so, don’t fiddle your expenses or shag your PA when you’re a married man or snort coke when you’re forever warning us how dangerous drugs are. But we all know they’ll carry on regardless because they are born to rule and we are born to be ruled – by them; therefore, they are entitled to special privileges. To be honest, if they want to flout the rules behind closed doors, I really couldn’t care less because I couldn’t care less about them; it’s just when their public persona contradicts their private one that I really resent their unwelcome presence behind my own closed door.

Former Grauniad journo and ‘Newsnight’ reporter Allegra Stratton, a bezzie mate of Carrie Johnson (née Symonds), was until April this year the Downing Street Press Secretary and now works as spokesperson for Alok Sharma, President of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (AKA COP26), scheduled to take place in Glasgow this November. I shouldn’t imagine the numerous VIPs pencilled-in to attend will be arriving for the conference by ship, hot air balloon or horse & cart, and Ms Stratton and her new boss were recently named and shamed as drivers of diesel cars. This mode of vehicle is now regarded as one of the worst on the roads in terms of pollution – far more than petrol-driven cars – yet who would even give a f**k what type of cars such figures are reluctant to surrender in favour of more eco-friendly, carbon-neutral models if they weren’t so eager to lecture the rest of us on how we’re responsible for the death of the planet?

Probably the best example of hypocrisy exposed of late was that of Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook. She was outed as another diesel car driver, and laid bare her eco warrior credentials by claiming it was the only way in which she could take her children to and from rugger practice on a Sunday due to poor public transport. And it won’t have escaped your attention that this is the week in which no one’s favourite bourgeois anarchists have apparently received permission from London’s impeccably unbiased authorities to resume the disruption of life in the capital with their tedious theatrics, bringing traffic to a standstill on London’s bridges and provoking the ire of the ordinary working people that ER couldn’t give a shit about unless they’re prepared to submit to a fire & brimstone sermon – probably via ‘the magic of dance’.

Maybe even more than Covid restrictions, preaching one thing in public and practicing another in private is a recurring own goal when it comes to green issues. Just ask Prince ‘air miles’ Harry. In fact, why bother? I wouldn’t think twice about any of these arseholes if they just got on with living their luxury lifestyles and stopped pretending they have a social conscience when in reality their contempt for me and thee is even greater than ours for them.

© The Editor

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AS YOU WERE

LabourAs they used to say back in the day on ‘Big Brother’ eviction nights, the votes have been counted; and what do the votes tell us about the electoral map of the UK following last week’s local, mayoral and devolved elections? Well, it’s essentially as you were. One can talk about a vaccine roll-out effect, I guess; but it seems the negative publicity metered out to the Tories and SNP in recent months had little impact on the voters – or perhaps they saw the excuse for an alternative and figured it was yet another case of ‘better the Devil you know’. It didn’t affect the London Mayor either; Sadiq Khan’s indisputably useless record on combating crime in the capital and his infatuation with Woke virtue signalling didn’t count against him when he was confronted by numerous vanity projects on the part of actors and other self-publicists with no political experience. Similarly, north of the border it appears the far-from flattering revelations to emerge from the prolonged Alex Salmond farrago – not to mention the SNP’s unnervingly authoritarian approach to governance – didn’t persuade the Scottish electorate to invest in something else. The only real losers on Thursday and Friday would seem to have been the beleaguered Labour Party.

Amazingly, Keir Starmer sweeping into Hartlepool and scoffing fish & chips with a pint – just like all northern working-class folk do in between being darn t’pit and walking t’whippet – didn’t convince the voters in the North-East, and they handed a traditionally safe Labour seat to the Tories for the first time. Fancy that. One could argue that Labour’s defeat in the Hartlepool by-election was the only result that really mattered last week, though Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford would probably disagree. Wee Ms Krankie needed another mandate from the Scottish electorate to legitimise her tedious second referendum obsession and hope it would paper over the corrupt cracks in her appalling administration. It’s not as though anyone other than the most blinkered, anti-English redneck is under any illusion now that the party is somehow morally superior to any of its rivals; enough dirt was exposed beneath the manicured Caledonian fingernails by the recent investigation into the Salmond affair to open the eyes of voters, yet Sturgeon’s clan still retained power. With opinion polls suggesting a second independence referendum will probably result in the same kind of split as the last ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ plebiscite, Sturgeon will wait for the right moment to strike, but she’ll keep harping on about it until that moment arrives, for she’s got nothing else to harp on about in the meantime.

Mirroring the pyrrhic victory of Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford received the thumbs-up from voters following months in which he’s revelled in his role as the puritanical lockdown overlord for the Valleys. He no doubt imagines the backing of the Welsh electorate vindicates his stance over the past year, just as Sturgeon views her re-election as a resounding endorsement of her equally totalitarian idea of rule. In the afterglow of the final count, however, perhaps both should consider the quality of competition on offer and the fact that ancient prejudices and bigotries towards parties other than the one yer ‘da’ always voted for continue to count for something in the constituent countries of the UK other than England. That Mark Draper’s party beyond Wales was up against a similar piss-poor alternative and still had a disastrous showing maybe paints a more accurate picture of where we are outside of the enclosed tunnel vision that devolution invariably engenders.

Sir Keir hasn’t pissed about, mind; his immediate reaction to the results in England was to instigate a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle – an action akin to a wife of 30-plus years changing her hairstyle in the vain hope her disinterested husband will suddenly find her attractive again. The few that noticed Starmer’s response took note of the fact that Angela Rayner lost her job as party chair as well as carrying the can for the disastrous campaign as national campaigns coordinator; a minor storm in a neglected teacup followed Rayner’s removal, but the former ‘thingle mother’ has actually been promoted, now shadowing Michael Gove; it may sound like the least appealing promotion imaginable, but Rayner can at least be consoled by the fact that nobody outside of Westminster Village really gives a shit. Talk of the Party relocating from its London base in order to reconnect with its lost heartlands is merely another PR stunt as meaningless as the BBC shifting its operations from Shepherd’s Bush to Salford. The Labour Party could set up shop in the Outer Hebrides and it would still venture no further than the boundaries of the metropolitan bubble it took with it should its hands be soiled by contact with uncouth locals whose vote it nevertheless craves.

Something that will be looked upon by few other than the Labour hierarchy as one of last week’s few ‘success stories’ was the election of Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin as West Yorkshire Mayor – arguably one of the more vacuous exercises in self-indulgent bureaucratic pointlessness local government has yet to dream up. Beyond the euphoric electorate of dynamic Northern Powerhouses Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, Brabin’s election to the latest vapid office of no interest to anyone who cares about life that stretches further than the end of their street wouldn’t register at all if her ‘promotion’ didn’t necessitate a further nightmarish by-election prospect for her party. The former constituency of Jo Cox will now be vacated and fought over sometime in the summer, as the police and crime responsibilities that come with Brabin’s shiny new status disqualify her from remaining an MP under electoral commission rules. The Batley and Spen seat is a marginal one, with Brabin’s majority at the last General Election slashed to 3,525, so I should imagine the Tories are looking forward to that particular by-election more than Labour.

The Conservative Party shouldn’t become complacent, however; just because the Tories trounced a terminally weak opposition doesn’t necessarily mean the electorate were giving their full endorsement to Boris’s mob. It’s unarguable that they enjoyed a remarkably impressive showing for a party in office for over a decade – and in the wake of a unique situation in which they haven’t always acquitted themselves admirably; but the supposed success of the vaccine, which the MSM never tires of telling us about, is being credited with building on the gains made in 2019 and suggests no amount of ‘sleaze’ headlines make the slightest bit of difference once the voter enters the polling booth. That said, the triumph of the party definitely owes something to the nature of the pandemic narrative; that the public have to receive the permission of Michael Gove that it’s now okay to embrace again says a great deal as to how the Tories have moulded public opinion through their relentless campaign of fear and intimidation over the past year or so; convincing the electorate that the Tories know best when voting comes around is merely a natural by-product of this tactic, and it has paid off.

These elections weren’t really the ‘giving the powers-that-be a bloody nose’ type that the EU Referendum offered us five years ago; they weren’t even comparable to the shock experienced by the wannabe powers-that-be in 2019. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that the end results changed little with the exception of a bit more ground being gained by the Tories; after all, people have had other distractions from party politics during this last twelve months, and maybe figured this wasn’t the time for a seismic shift. The apple cart has been upset enough of late.

© The Editor

CARRY ON CALEDONIA

SNP - CopyYou can’t keep a bad man down, eh? I should imagine Nicola Sturgeon is probably thinking that today as she continues to feel the breath of her predecessor on the back of her neck, much the same as that breath quite possibly graced a few lady necks during Alex Salmond’s stint at First Minister – allegedly, of course. It’s a been a testing week for the incumbent First Minister, even though she appears – on the surface, at least – to have come through it largely unscathed. What the week’s events have done for the long-term reputation of both her and her party is in the hands of the Scottish electorate; but she remains Nicola, Queen of Scots for the time being and gives every impression of staying put till the bitter end. As a result of recent unedifying revelations, one would like to think some Scots voters have belatedly had their eyes opened to the seedy shower of crooks and charlatans that has mismanaged their nation for far too long. But there’s a certain incurable MAGA-like passion for the SNP in certain quarters of their supporters, willing to back a staggeringly draconian – not to say Orwellian – Hate Crime bill, one that effectively outlaws criticising anyone in either public or private, whilst simultaneously feeling free to demonise the English at will because it’s such a canny smokescreen when it comes to the SNP mantra.

Having been cleared of misleading the Scottish Parliament by James Hamilton QC, Nicola Sturgeon was then found guilty of doing just that in parts of her evidence by the committee investigating how the Scottish Government dealt with the complaints against Salmond. The latter’s conclusions were something of a minor miracle considering the committee was 5-4 pro-Sturgeon; but the committee found her administration’s handling of the Salmond complaints ‘seriously flawed’ and the First Minister’s dubious grasp of the truth was enough to prompt a motion of no confidence in her leadership by MSPs. She survived this just as she survived the publication of the ‘independent’ report into her conduct, published the day before the committee’s findings, though that was hardly earth-shattering. James Hamilton QC – coincidentally, her legal advisor on the ministerial code since 2015 – unsurprisingly found Wee Ms Krankie not guilty.

On paper, Sturgeon’s survival could portray her grip on power as being so strong it has remained intact despite the most serious challenge to it so far. Soviet Scotland looks like a corrupt one-party state more than ever after this week, and even when veteran Tory MP David Davis recently used Parliamentary Privilege in Westminster to heap further pressure on the nonexistent morality of the Edinburgh Politburo – a privilege not available at Holyrood – it was a case of ‘Move on, nothing to see here’ from the SNP. A weak Labour Opposition distracted by the irrelevant triviality of metropolitan Identity Politics and an increasingly authoritarian Conservative Government with an appetite for imposing and prolonging restrictions on civil liberties undoubtedly plays into SNP hands; but the SNP is effectively a combination of the two dominant parties south of the border whilst dishonestly selling itself as an alternative to the gruesome twosome it has cherry-picked the worst aspects of to strengthen the vice it holds the collective Scottish knackers in.

But whilst Nicola Sturgeon is momentarily secure on the throne, the man who would be king is refusing to allow her reign to progress smoothly. Just as he stood for a Scottish seat in Westminster following his post-Independence Referendum resignation as First Minister, Alex Salmond getting knocked down is followed by him getting back up again; the ex-FM is determined to return to frontline politics by taking the route previously traversed by the likes of George Galloway and Nigel Farage by setting up his own political party. Four candidates will be representing ‘Alba’ in May’s Holyrood elections. Interesting choice of name for Salmond’s vanity project, for Alba is the Gaelic word for Scotland. How fittingly romantic and characteristic of the man’s vision; his speech launching the party was redolent in such clichés – ‘Today Alba is hoisting a flag in the wind, planting our Saltire on a hill.’ Cue sweeping strings as Salmond’s Saltire-clutching silhouette stands atop Ben Nevis. Oh, do me a bloody favour.

Actually, choosing the name of Alba to stir misguided patriotic passions in the heart of every Scotsman reminds me of BBC Alba, the minority Gaelic TV channel funded by the nationwide licence-fee payer. It’s worth remembering, of the 5.2 million Scots actually residing in Scotland, barely 55,000 (i.e. 1%) speak Gaelic – and those Gaelic-speakers also speak English; there’s nobody left in Scotland today for whom Gaelic is their only language. Promoting it as an authentic native tongue is a form of luxury ethnicity that perfectly fits in with Alex Salmond’s appropriation of meaningless symbolism that conveniently obscures the reality of an ‘Independent’ Scotland subservient to a Union far less beneficial to the Scottish people than the one that has stood it in good stead for 300 years. If there is any glimmer of hope in this miserable circus, it’s the fact that the founding of the Alba Party raises the prospect of the SNP vote being split for the first time; if anything can weaken the SNP hegemony in Holyrood, perhaps this is it. Anyway, I digress…

I thought I’d point out that effectively renting a platform such as this has its pluses and minuses. Being the good guy I am, I resist playing the Peter Butterworth ‘Carry on Camping’ character at the gate, charging campers ‘a parnd’ for every amenity before they even set foot on the site. Although I don’t see any ads here myself, I’m told visitors are denied the perks of the creator; to get rid of ads altogether would apparently require my demanding ‘a parnd’, so it’s either put up or pay up; it seems like a small sacrifice. However, being the creator doesn’t mean I’m the freeholder; I’m essentially a tenant and was reminded of this fact when abruptly waking up in an online apartment that has been redecorated during the night. I remember reading one of the unnerving ‘gags’ Charles Manson and his gang engaged in before opting for slaughtering innocent people in their own homes was to stage nocturnal raids on occupied properties and simply move the living room furniture around without stealing a thing; the residents would therefore come downstairs the next morning and be instantly unsettled by the unforeseen alterations to their surroundings.

Mercifully, what’s happened here is not quite the same, though it’s still a pain in the arse to see the whole backstage design of the Telegram has been changed without my permission. It’s always strange how any upgrade undertaken without consultation is never as satisfactory as what preceded it. Yes, change always comes as something that takes getting used to, but it’s nice to have the option to choose change rather than having it thrust upon you with no say in the matter. If anything on here therefore appears different in style or presentation, bear in mind it’s nothing to do with me. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing my best to keep everything familiar. It’s frustrating that it now takes twice as long to achieve the complementary marriage of image and text at the top of the article that could previously be achieved in the blink of a mouse click; but this is the best I could manage. Ah, anonymous others making decisions on behalf of the individual and removing all autonomy in the process – at least this is a dilemma to which many have become accustomed of late.

© The Editor

OCH AYE AM THE LAW

In the end, even the architect can be unceremoniously ejected from the building he designed. Following his resignation as manager of Liverpool FC in 1974, the legendary Bill Shankly’s fifteen years at Anfield weren’t enough to prevent him being politely asked to stay away from the club’s training ground when he had a habit of turning up unannounced and interfering in the running of the team by his successor (and former No.2) Bob Paisley. It was a sad postscript to a glittering career, but was at least handled with a degree of delicacy by the club. If I didn’t think they’d probably consider the comparison flattering, I’d more likely be talking of Trotsky and Stalin rather than Shankly and Paisley when turning the spotlight on the power struggle between Scotland’s two principal politicians of the past 20 years, Master Salmond and Madam Sturgeon. The former First Minister – and a man who did arguably more than any other single individual to further the cause of self-determination north of the border – may have avoided an ice-pick to the skull, but there are far more effective means of assassination in the age of cancel culture, where a smear or allegation are enough to leave a reputation in tatters.

Ever since walking away from the SNP leadership following the failure of the independence campaign in 2014, Alex Salmond has been an unwelcome spectre shadowing the increasingly authoritarian progress of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s dictator-in-chief following her unopposed accession to the post of First Minister. Whilst the pandemic has presented Sturgeon with an opportunity to exercise her totalitarian leanings on a scale far greater than even she could have imagined in her wildest Braveheart fantasies, the persistent presence of her predecessor appears to be something she views as an encumbrance in the same way David Steel was lumbered with the lingering shadow of Jeremy Thorpe when he took over the Liberal Party in 1976. Salmond’s undignified 2018 resignation from the SNP following allegations of sexual misconduct dating from five years earlier was an unsavoury issue that provoked an investigation by the Scottish Government, albeit one Salmond himself challenged by raising legal costs (via crowd-funding) to seek a judicial review into.

It looked as though the toxic taint of such an allegation was enough to cause Salmond to be deserted by his old comrades, and the former First Minister’s determined pursuit to clear his name – something, which at times, bore more than a passing resemblance to vengeance – eventually cost the taxpayer over £500,000 in legal expenses. Salmond was convinced his one-time second-in-command and other officials at Holyrood were engaged in a ‘malicious and concerted effort’ to bring him down; he seems to have reserved his most incensed ire for Peter Murrell, SNP chief executive and – perhaps more significantly – Mr Nicola Sturgeon, with Salmond accusing him of persuading women to make the complaints of sexual harassment against him that led to the botched investigation. Salmond also claimed wee Ms Krankie breached the ministerial code more than once, accusing her of repeatedly misleading the Scottish Parliament, most importantly re the date she says she learnt of the complaints against him.

Barely two weeks after forcing the Scottish Government to admit it buggered-up the investigation, Salmond was arrested and charged with 14 offences – including rape, sexual assault, and indecent assault – and stood trial in March 2020. A fortnight later, Salmond was found not guilty on 12 of the charges, whilst one was ‘not proven’ and the other was withdrawn. What emerged from the trial was an impression of Salmond as bearing that classic trait of the ugly older man in a position of power being a bit ‘touchy-feely’ around young women, though the evidence of anything more serious was threadbare. The fact that many of the allegations came from women drawn from the SNP inner circle was something Salmond pointed to as proof of a conspiracy against him that had descended into a witch-hunt. As soon as he walked away from the court, he indicated he wasn’t prepared to go quietly. Sensing this wasn’t to be the end of the affair, a committee of MSPs was set up to examine the way the Scottish Government dealt with the complaints of sexual misconduct, though a committee comprising nine Members of the Scottish Parliament in which four belonged to the SNP and one to the Scottish Greens (regarded as being in an unofficial coalition with the SNP) hardly seemed like a balanced panel, further fuelling Salmond’s paranoia.

Salmond’s claims against Sturgeon have now reclaimed the headlines – though, oddly, not necessarily those of the Scottish MSM – following the intervention of the Crown Office in the publication of a written submission Salmond made to the inquiry; sudden redactions were made in the published account, removing details concerning the allegations about his successor misleading the Scottish Parliament. A furious Salmond retaliated by pulling out of a scheduled appearance before the committee on Wednesday; it has now been reported he will attend on Friday. Salmond’s censored submission had already been published unexpurgated on the Scottish Parliament’s website before the Crown Office decided to take matters into its own hands, which only continues to make it seem as though the SNP has something to hide. Sturgeon’s husband has twice been accused of perjury following his appearances before the committee, but calls by Scottish Tories to prosecute Peter Murrell would rest with the Lord Advocate, appointed by the First Minister herself and a member of her team to boot. Can’t really see that happening, can you?

Reports indicate that if the redacted passages were to remain intact in the public arena, they wouldn’t be allowed as evidence come the final conclusions of the inquiry; the Scottish Parliament has also given the thumbs-up to the censorship on the part of the Crown Office, which means the evidence against Sturgeon that Salmond presented to the committee has effectively been deleted by Sturgeon and her team. One wonders if the First Minister actually believes she’s Judge Dredd now – i.e. ‘I am the Law’. All this whole unedifying episode appears to have done is merely give additional weight to Salmond’s claims that the SNP, and particularly Mr and Mrs Sturgeon (or should that be Marcos?), are abusing their powers in order to suppress any opposition to their regime. More and more it is looking like Sturgeon has used every weapon in her arsenal to silence her predecessor, but as soon as he re-emerged from court a free man she must have known the failure of the modern world’s default method of destroying a public figure would mean even dirtier tricks were required.

It’s a difficult topic to approach objectively, this one. I don’t support Scottish independence, and whilst I am no fan of Nicola Sturgeon, I am also no fan of Alex Salmond. That said, as soon as Salmond was arrested and the charges against him were splashed across the media, I instinctively felt something underhand was at play; it just seemed too convenient a scenario for his successor as First Minister. The moment he was cleared of the charges, I figured Scotland’s descent into banana republic territory would gather pace – and it has. The SNP’s handling of the pandemic has hardly been exemplary, but by keeping the focus on England’s failings and devoting so much energy to portraying their nearest-neighbours as ‘Tory Scum’ – remember those goons standing on the border expressing sentiments that would be regarded anywhere else as pseudo-MAGA extremism? – Sturgeon and her cabal have managed to prevent any sustained study of their own dealings – until now, perhaps. The ghost of Scotland’s past is haunting the First Minister, but this is not the kind of patriotic phantom Nicola Sturgeon is fond of evoking.

© The Editor

BEHIND THE MASK

A woman fiddles with her hair in the mirror; we see the view she sees, so we express the same terror when the reflection suddenly shows a figure appear behind her – a menacing intruder in a gasmask. Despite the well-documented wealth of 1970s TV and film archive I own on DVD or that I’ve simply seen repeated over the decades, I’ve still never found out what this terrifying scene was from, a scene that impacted on my imagination as a small (not to say traumatised) child. We all have such moments when our exposure to cinema and television expands during those formative years, and this was mine. It defined the gasmask as a sinister object in my mind forevermore. I recall a ‘Doctor Who’ adventure a few years later called ‘The Deadly Assassin’, in which Tom Baker’s Doctor spends an entire episode in a nightmarish landscape called The Matrix – and a man in a gasmask appears in that. Oh, and for good behind-the-sofa measure, there’s a scary clown in it too.

Their undoubted practicalities (and reason for invention) aside, this whole gasmask thing has long been recounted by me before numerous friends ad infinitum; it’s why one of them purchased an authentic WWII gasmask for my birthday a couple of years back. That’s me wearing it on the image accompanying the post called ‘Interior Designs’ a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, when I took that photo the delicate object had already been damaged by yours truly, with the brittle rubber strap snapping as I attempted to fasten it to an ear. I guess that rules out my wearing it to pop to the shops in Lockdown Britain, which is a shame. Not only would I be enjoying the ultimate protection from the toxic breath of my fellow shoppers, but I’d also scare the shit out of a few in the process. As Paddy Consindine demonstrated when donning a gasmask in the memorably malevolent Shane Meadows movie, ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, the object has not lost its power to send a shiver down the spine.

The humble gasmask would, I imagine, do a better job than those flimsy surgical masks that are becoming this season’s key fashion accessory on the high-street. I first saw some Chinese students wearing them a couple of months ago, but thought it merely understandable caution considering where this bloody virus emanated from; like most, I hardly anticipated the article being adapted as regulation sartorial equipment. So far, wearing one in public spaces has been optional – which is just as well if PPE is in as short a supply for those who need it for work purposes as we’re constantly being told by the media. However, the latest edict from that ‘alternative administration’ north of the border recommends the public wear the masks when out and about, if stopping short of enshrining it in law.

Post-Alex Salmond trial, it’s hard not to come to the cynical conclusion that every pronouncement to emerge from Krankie Towers is either intended to deflect attention from all the unsavoury rumours circulating the former First Minister or is simply another example of Ms Sturgeon’s opportunistic habit of trying to upstage Westminster. The UK Government, for all the mistakes it has made en route to where we are now, seems to have imposed the most severe restrictions on civil liberties with a fair share of reluctance – only finally enforcing the lockdown when the situation left it with little option. Making the same recommendation re the wearing of masks that was today made by the Scottish Government is something one can imagine it entering into as reluctantly as it did the lockdown, and for the moment the masks remain optional rather than compulsory – which is how it should be.

On the whole – at least going by my own experience – the public appear to be sticking to social distancing and are prepared to queue outside supermarkets and other stores with the patience of Soviet shoppers back in the USSR. Again, I can only go by what I’ve seen myself, but the mutual dance of distance on pavements and down Sainsbury’s aisles whenever a stranger approaches adheres to every guideline we’ve had drilled into us ever since this thing got serious. People don’t want to give it and, more than anything else, they don’t want to receive it. I don’t really think I’ve been close enough to another mask-free person to feel threatened so far. When it comes to those whose jobs involve constant exchanges with the public, the wearing of masks and/or gloves seems to me a sensible precaution the majority would take in their shoes; for the public themselves, whose visit to a supermarket may well be their sole contact with other people all week, I still believe the choice of head and hand-gear should be theirs.

The SNP’s slightly different take on the guidelines is – as already stated – a predictable development that is entirely in keeping with its habit of occasionally issuing statements it knows will garner headlines beyond Scotland. Especially at times like this, when attention has naturally been on the recovery and return of the man who remains Prime Minister of the whole country, the SNP is a bit like that middle child having to shout louder than its siblings to remind a distracted parent it still exists. But it is at least in a position to do so, unlike the sorry old Lib Dems. Not only has Britain’s forgotten party been hinting at the resurrection of the not-missed-at-all Jo Swinson, but it has also been virtue-signalling to the max on social media this past week in the absence of anything else to do. I have to admit I couldn’t recall the chronically pointless Ed Davey being elected successor to the dumped Swinson, but he and his similarly sad colleagues have been falling over themselves to stress solidarity with the nation’s Muslims by patting them on the head and ‘fasting’ for Ramadan. How bloody patronising. I look forward to the Lib Dems co-opting all of Britain’s myriad faith festivals over the coming twelve months, then.

Oh, well – let the Lib Dems get on with it. I should imagine most Muslims are laughing at them as much as those of us who subscribe to a different religion or none at all. Basically, nobody cares. It’s not like we’ve got other things to think about right now, anyway. The terrible toll the coronavirus has taken on the country’s care homes – now that the elderly residents are actually being regarded as people and added to the stats – is something I suspect we’ve only scratched the surface of so far; but it’s not come as much of a surprise considering how lowly the institution of social care for the old and infirm has figured in the policies of governments of either colour in recent years – and how much this unfashionable bedfellow of the super-sexy NHS has lingered in the shadow of its pampered partner. And if what used to be called Old People’s Homes have barely registered on the radar until the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard next to nothing of those equally at-risk homes housing the mentally and physically impaired, many of whose residents are amongst the most vulnerable in society. We shall see.

As we crawl towards the end of an April unlike any April any of us have ever experienced before, the situation seems to be at something of a crossroads. The lockdown can’t go on indefinitely, so when to tentatively lift some of the restrictions and apply a drop of oil to the static wheels of industry before it’s too late? If the SNP is recommending the wearing of the mask for reasons other than political point-scoring, maybe we’re not there yet.

© The Editor

THE ELEVENTH HOUR

The diminishing post-war role of Britain on the world stage must have been evident to anyone who was a regular cinema-goer in the 50s and 60s, though the manner in which this message was received would have been unintentional. A fixture of the Pathé News bulletins for a good 20 years after 1947 was the independence ceremony; the sight of euphoric natives celebrating a colony finally standing on its own two feet was presented in characteristically jolly fashion by these optimistic interludes between the support picture and the main feature. The Queen’s presence implied a gracious acceptance of independence, even if the apparent benevolence of the mother country disguised relief at the breaking-up of an Empire it could no longer afford to run. Yet, for all the dressing-up of such events in a positive style, there’s no doubt the increasingly regular sight of the Union Jack descending down one more flagpole on a foreign field must have had a subconscious psychological impact on national morale – and one that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Bar the 1997 Hong Kong Handover, the last time an occasion of this nature took place was in Rhodesia in 1980. By then, the cinema news bulletin had long been superseded by TV reports reaching the nation’s living rooms via satellite; moreover, there were few people left in the country who clung to the image of Britain that had been inherited from the imperial forefathers. Even before Zimbabwe was dragged kicking and screaming from the Commonwealth womb, Britain had already reduced its global ambition and had settled for a future much closer to home – Europe. The continent had welcomed belated British membership of the Common Market, but the economic woes that plagued the nation throughout the first decade of so of Britain’s seat at the EEC table were something that seemed to give our neighbours a sense of superiority over the ‘sick man’; and the condescending perception of an incurably ill member state lingered.

Britain as a minor Brussels suburb was something the British public never truly embraced wholeheartedly, and it could be argued our mainland neighbours never really regarded us as ‘proper Europeans’ either. Middle-class Brits liked it because it fitted their image of themselves as sophisticated continentals a cut above the native yahoos; but for most in the UK, the Great European Project – especially when the organisation progressed from being a simple trading partnership to a reincarnation of the Holy Roman Empire – began to seem like an unnecessary encumbrance that made us feel like a naughty schoolboy permanently stationed outside the headmaster’s office. Yet, anyone observing the sudden rebranding by some Brits as instant Europeans in June 2016 may have thought otherwise. They reminded me a little of my cousin in 1977, whose bedroom wall became a shrine to Elvis Presley the minute he died, despite there being no sign of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll up there the day before.

England and Wales were the two constituent countries of the UK that sealed the deal in 2016, and will probably play host to the most celebratory reactions when the clocks strike eleven. Even here, however, I suspect celebrations will be muted mainly because the polarised fault-lines now run so deep. The recourse of Remoaners to lazy name-calling of the most basic nature – Nazi, Racist, Fascist etc. – evokes the way in which ‘Scab’ became the ubiquitous buzzword when one side verbally attacked the other during the similarly divisive Miners’ Strike of 1984/5; and just as there were ‘Quiet Tories’ not broadcasting their voting preference at the 2017 General Election, there’s no doubt there are ‘Quiet Leavers’ declining to be drawn into Remain-dominated discourse on the likes of Facebook today for fear of being cast out of the village.

North of the border, the EU has been adopted by the ruling party as a handy addition to the independence portfolio. Indeed, the most obstinate, head-in-the-sand English Remoaners took their cue from those Scots who never accepted the 2014 Referendum result when echoing their demands for a rerun because it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. The SNP promotional brochure that the rest of the UK receives glosses over the fact that during the 1975 EEC Referendum, the SNP was as virulently anti-Common Market as the Brexit Party is anti-EU today; the Salmond/Sturgeon incarnation of the SNP, on the other hand, makes the Lib Dems resemble UKIP. This curious juxtaposition of the desire to be an independent nation yet still chained to a Union that offers it far less leeway than the Union it has been part of for 300 years is not the only contradiction at the heart of Holyrood.

It’s no real surprise the EU is so appealing to Sturgeon’s tartan army. The SNP as a political force contains all the elitist ‘executive’ elements that so alienated 17.4 million voters when it came to the People’s Vote campaign – the same sense of sneering, superior entitlement embodied south of the border in the likes of Lord Adonis or Anna Soubry; it boasts all the worst aspects of Identity Politics that has cost Labour so much of its traditional support; and it has a finger-wagging tendency to persistently incur into people’s private lives by attempting to regulate what they eat and drink, how they chastise their children, and to punish them for smoking – to prioritise Nanny State interference over the far-from impressive condition of many of Scotland’s public services. Yet, like Labour in England, the SNP is keen to sell itself as a ‘party of the people’, picking up the Stop Brexit banner with far more success than any other political party in the UK.

Across the Irish Sea, the resumption of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont comes at an opportune moment; the peace process, along with the province as a whole, finds itself at something of a crossroads. Many of those who played a pivotal part in the Good Friday Agreement and the crucial early days of power-sharing are no longer around. Paisley and McGuinness are both dead, John Hume is now lost to the No Man’s Land of dementia, and Seamus Mallon passed away barely a week ago. Enough time has now elapsed since 1998 to place the future of Ulster in the hands of a generation who weren’t manning the barricades at the height of the Troubles; and just as significant is the fact that December’s General Election saw Northern Ireland elect more Nationalist MPs to Westminster than Unionists for the first time ever. For those seeking a united Ireland, the prospects have rarely looked brighter.

Along with Scotland, of course, Northern Ireland voted Remain; the DUP may have been the cheerleaders for Brexit during the period when they made up the numbers for Theresa May’s threadbare Tories, but they were hardly representative of the majority in Ulster. The loss of Nigel Dodds at Westminster was an additional blow for a party that punched way above its weight when the British Government needed it; but the British Government doesn’t need it anymore, and one wonders how much longer Unionism can survive as a potent political force when the momentum appears to be with Nationalism. Belated alignment with the more enlightened social policies of the Republic has recently come despite DUP opposition, and it’ll be interesting to see how events develop at Stormont during the next twelve months.

Nationwide, the next twelve months will be just as interesting, if considerably less intense than the last three years. Wherever one stands, this was what the majority voted for and that should always have been reason enough for implementing it. It’s only taken us so long to get here because some just couldn’t accept it; and I don’t think they ever will. Some of us who voted Remain did. We might not have liked it, but hey, that’s democracy. Au revoir.

© The Editor

THE COALITION OF CHAOS

Once politicians cease to be politicians, it’s interesting how they belatedly come across as human beings; flicking between BBC and ITV coverage on Thursday night, I found the Saint & Greavsie double-act of George Osborne and Ed Balls on the latter quite entertaining and almost forgot why both provoked such loathing in me when they were in power. Perhaps there is a human being lurking somewhere in Theresa May and we won’t see it until she’s out of office; I would imagine most right now are thinking that day can’t come quick enough.

Anyone watching events on TV since Thursday night, albeit with the volume muted, might have found the images misleading. They could have come to the conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Prime Minister and that both Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon were reflecting on relegation to the opposition benches. The expressions of the three party leaders mentioned were more a reflection of results catching them all by surprise. Jezza clearly never expected to do so well; May and Sturgeon never expected to do so badly. At the end of the day, Labour may still be in opposition and the Tories and SNP may still be the biggest parties in England and Scotland respectively, but the latter two both misjudged the public mood and paid the price. May is worse off now than when she called the Election and Sturgeon’s obsession with a second Independence Referendum has seen her lose 21 seats.

If the result of last year’s EU Referendum should have taught party leaders anything it was that the electorate don’t take kindly to condescending, smug, self-righteous arrogance in their elected representatives, and given half a chance they’ll reject being told what to do and how to vote by a pampered Parliamentary elite totally detached from their own lives. It would also appear that the antiquated assault on Corbyn by Fleet Street, utilising tired old tactics that seemed to work in the distant 80s, utterly backfired; our newspapers, like our politicians, still labour under the belief that the Sun can win it; it can’t. Few under 40 even buy newspapers now and the huge increase in the youth vote facilitated by Labour’s canny employment of the cyber language the majority of youth speak resulted in the highest turnout since 1992.

Jezza may have provided Labour with what was apparently the party’s biggest increase in the share of the vote since Clement Attlee, but it’s seats that count when it comes to a General Election. Sorry to take us back to February 1974 again, but it’s always worth remembering that Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals received the largest share of the vote in the party’s history in that Election – greater than even the share they had in the Liberal landslide of 1906 – yet that only resulted in a paltry 14 seats. Similarly, May’s Conservatives won their largest share of the vote since Thatcher’s 1983 landslide this time round, yet their majority was wiped out. A good deal of these statistics could be attributed to the fact that the vote has been less thinly spread in 2017, with the two major parties claiming 82.4% of it, the first time since the 1970 General Election that Labour and Tory could claim such dominance over the other parties.

Were it not for the fact that the Brexit negotiations are imminent, I’ve no doubt Philip May would never have to put the Downing Street bins out again; as it is, the Tories are postponing Madame Guillotine for the moment, but it’s only a postponement. Theresa May is a dead woman walking after Thursday’s result, our own equivalent of a lame duck US President midway through a second term, knowing re-election is out of the question. Yes, her two toxic advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill have walked the plank today (May ‘laying down her friends for her life’, perhaps); but their ex-boss’s brief speech after visiting Brenda yesterday, bereft of any acknowledgement of the disaster she’d presided over, spoke volumes. Theresa May is in serious denial of her own shortcomings, refusing to accept what is evident to everyone else, her own party included.

For all the success Labour managed, the fact remains that this is the third General Election in a row the party has lost; it now has more seats than it has been able to boast since 2005, but had it managed to push the Tories as tight it did under Harold Wilson in February 1974 the outcome of this Election could have been far closer and Jezza could have a more legitimate claim to form a Government than contemplating a half-arsed coalition comprising Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP that still wouldn’t constitute a majority. However, for all the scaremongering stories about Corbyn’s good relations with Sinn Fein – standing alongside Adams and McGuinness well in advance of all the Prime Ministers that have done just that from the Good Friday Agreement onwards – the irony that Theresa May is having to reach out to the Democratic Unionist Party to prop-up her minority administration, a party whose past association with Loyalist paramilitaries is hardly spotless, can’t have escaped Corbyn.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been in chaos for months now, and the Tories throwing their lot in with the Unionist side, regardless of the traditional ties between the two, hardly looks like fair play from a Nationalist perspective. Playing the impartial broker of the peace process has been the British Government’s role ever since 1998, and May’s desperate move to cling onto power will merely add to the political turmoil in Ulster at a time when the border with the Republic in the wake of Brexit has already provoked enough uneasiness across the Irish Sea. As for the DUP’s conservative stance on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, which has received the most coverage on social media, they’re largely typical of the hardline Protestant mindset in Northern Ireland, just as they are of the hardline Muslim mindset in the rest of the UK (Ooh – Islamophobia!); but that shouldn’t be the reason why this awkward alliance is a worry.

Yet, regardless of how both last year’s Leave vote and the inconclusive result of Thursday’s General Election have served as evidence of just how disunited this kingdom really is, the PM is content to keep churning out the vacuous slogans and sound-bites she thinks will save her own skin at the expense of the country. Considering I avoided predictions when the snap Election was called, I still imagined a Conservative landslide would be the outcome and said as much. I’m glad to have been proven wrong, but God knows what comes next. Only a fool would be a betting man right now, and I can at least admit I’ve never set foot in a betting-shop.

© The Editor

SCOTCH FROTH

The aim of Sinn Fein is to achieve a united Ireland; the aim of the Scottish National Party is to achieve an independent Scotland; therein lies the basic raison d’être of both political parties. Neither has managed to achieve either aim yet, though the SNP has come closest. The result of 2014’s Independence Referendum, rejecting the SNP’s ‘Braveheart’ fantasy, may have cost Alex Salmond his job, but it was never going to be the end of the story with Nationalists ruling the Holyrood roost. The Brexit vote was the dream result for Nicola Sturgeon, and this week’s announcement by the First Minister that she intends to instigate a rerun of 2014 has been expected ever since the morning of June 24 last year.

On paper, Sturgeon’s demands appear to be economic insanity. With the UK perched on such an uncertain precipice, having endured almost a decade of austerity measures and now facing a protracted withdrawal from Europe, why the hell would the SNP want to jeopardise these uncertainties further by bailing out of a Union that it has done far better from than the Union it wants to throw its lot in with? The bloated beached whale of the EU has been on its arse – to paraphrase a little French – for years; Germany may be flourishing, but Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal tell a different story. That the SNP places a ‘special relationship’ with a struggling continent over its relationship with its nearest neighbour speaks volumes as to its narcissistic agenda.

Sturgeon’s Scotland seeking an alliance with an ailing institution rather than remaining a key member of a county it helped put on the world map says everything one needs to know about the SNP. It doesn’t give a toss about its countrymen and their future; all it can see through its tunnel-vision is sepia-tinted liberation from the Auld Enemy, something that conveniently brushes aside the benefits of a relationship Scotland entered into with shrewd economic foresight 310 years ago.

Scotland didn’t unite with England because – unlike Wales or Ireland – a megalomaniac monarch with anger issues conquered it; Scotland was smart enough to recognise the financial benefits of such a union at a time when its own finances were far from healthy, and the deal that brought hundreds of years of mutual antipathy to an end was sealed by Queen Anne, an English sovereign from a Scottish royal dynasty, the Stuarts. Thanks to the willingness of the Scots to link arms with the bastard English, the collective inhabitants of this violent, quirky, bloodthirsty, ill-tempered and eccentric island were truly united for the first time since the Roman occupation; and what came out of that union surpassed even the global reach of our former Latin subjugators. When Ireland was officially absorbed into the club just under a hundred years later, the journey from Great Britain to the United Kingdom was complete.

The Union was the culmination of a long transformation from warring tribal kingdoms to the mature recognition of the sense in joining together; having done pretty well out of the deal since 1707, one would imagine recognition of that fact along with future Scottish prosperity would be at the forefront of the SNP’s mind; but a party that cynically toys with the tendency of Celts to romanticise and sentimentalise their ancient history is too focused on its one objective to take anything else into consideration, let alone pressing issues in the here and now that even Robert the Bruce would struggle to deal with.

Theresa May’s predecessor at No.10 signed the Edinburgh Agreement with then-First Minister Alex Salmond, which gave Holyrood the power to call the 2014 Independence Referendum free from any Westminster approval, but that only applied to 2014; Nicola Sturgeon needs to seek a similar agreement in order to instigate round two, though it seems highly unlikely the PM will grant it to her when she currently has bigger fish to fry. Besides, despite an upsurge in support for Scottish independence following the EU Referendum, the figures have since slipped back to where they were in 2014 – further evidence that underlines Sturgeon’s willingness to sacrifice the interests of half her fellow Scots for the sake of her own ego.

Nicola Sturgeon fired her anticipated missive at a moment when she, like many observers, imagined Theresa May had her finger on the trigger of the revolver known as Article 50; but by attempting to punch above her weight and dictate the Brexit narrative, Sturgeon may well have gambled on the outcome of a second referendum that polls consistently claim her nation is hardly unanimously in favour of right now. Not that this will concern the First Minister, however; being the leader of a Nationalist party means everything – including a measured response to a delicate situation – is secondary to the overriding obsession of independence, whatever the cost to her country. As long as she can get to play Mel Gibson in drag, the sacrifice is justified.

© The Editor

HARD TIMES

britannia-statue1Ooh, it’s hard – it’s really hard! Yes, porn-speak infiltrates political discourse and, guess what, the SNP, Sinn Fein and the Lib Dems aren’t happy. Finally, the PM emerges from her Downing Street bunker and outlines her Brexit strategy. It’s only taken Theresa May the best part of six months to come up with some sort of speech to get the classes chattering at Westminster, Holyrood and Stormont, but she’s done it at last.

Yesterday, Our Beloved Leader announced that the UK will be leaving the European Single Market as part of our exit from the EU, confirmation of something that had been anticipated and (in the self-interested case of Nicola Sturgeon) hoped-for. Free movement of goods, services and capital without the free movement of people isn’t going to happen, so the Prime Minister had little option but to include this as a key part of her speech. It goes without saying that prominent Remainers in Parliament took the news badly; Tim Farron described being removed from the single market as ‘a theft of democracy’ and ‘not something proposed to the British people’. In case he’s already forgotten, nothing other than Leave or Remain was on the ballot paper last June; that was the extent of the detail.

The PM said Parliament would indeed vote on the final deal once unveiled, though a majority of votes by MPs and Peers against it wouldn’t alter the deal being enacted, which renders the laborious process of debating the issue in the Commons and the Lords somewhat redundant; I suppose it’ll serve as a token gesture to the Great British Sovereignty that a Leave vote was allegedly intended to return us to the bosom of, and it’ll also waste more time as the negotiations drag on and on, of course.

Along with leaving the European Single Market, the UK will wave bye-bye to the EU Customs Union, with the PM claiming it restricts Britain from being able to cut trade deals with non-EU member states; at the same time, she said she wanted the UK to have a new tariff-free trading relationship with the EU. It looks like Mrs May wants that cake and she’s determined to eat the bloody thing! It was this aspect of the PM’s plans that particularly upset the Nationalist parties in Ulster, with Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd declaring the decision ‘creates a hard border on the island of Ireland’. However, May did add that a crucial element of her intentions for Brexit in relation to Northern Ireland would be that the Common Travel Area between the UK and Eire remains.

At this moment in time, with the power-sharing Executive suspended pending an election, Northern Ireland would seem to have more pressing matters; not so Scotland, of course – according to the SNP, anyway. The PM may have said all the devolved UK administrations would have a part to play in formulating the Brexit strategy, but Nicola Sturgeon wants a ‘special deal’ for Scotland that flies in the face of May’s rejection of the European Single Market. The First Minister may be publicly stressing she believes Scotland remaining attached to the EU is in Scotland’s economic interests, but it’s been evident ever since she succeeded Alex Salmond that she intends to overturn the Independence Referendum result of 2014 at the first opportunity; and now it would appear that Theresa May’s speech has presented it to her.

Perhaps still stung by Obama’s threat of the UK being at the back of the queue when it comes to trade deals should the country dare to exit the EU, the Government now seems to be hinging a lot of post-European optimism on maximising ‘the special relationship’ again. The President-Elect wants to be our friend, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe via the Donald’s stated fondness for Britain, his thumbs-up for Brexit and his apparent willingness to do deals with us. Toe-curling snapshots alongside the likes of Farage and Gove probably shouldn’t be taken as an indication that this is where the majority of our global trading future lies, however.

Enthusiastic Brexiteer Boris Johnson has played down any over-reliance on the US by claiming endless other nations will be queuing up to sign trade deals with the UK once the death warrant on our EU membership known as Article 50 has been triggered – well, once the expected two-year process is over and done with. The Foreign Secretary added that ‘we are not slamming the door to migrants or hauling up the drawbridge’. But for all Bo-Jo’s bravura, nothing is as clear-cut as he and his ilk are liable to paint it; and one of the few straws Jeremy Corbyn could clutch at yesterday was his conviction that extricating ourselves from the EU might take a little longer than a couple of years.

Whether that means all those countries forming an orderly queue to trade with us are prepared to wait that long, only time will tell; and all of this is undoubtedly going to take time.

© The Editor

PS We can still console ourselves as to the integrity of our Great British Institutions, however…