by Paul Kavanagh
Continuing the good old British tradition of the leaders of English parties coming up to Scotland during elections to inform us of the obvious, this week David Cameron graced us with his presence.
Conservative events in Scotland are an exercise in pointlessness. We stopped listening years ago. Entire generations of Scots have grown up without ever having met a real live Tory. They’re a quaint exotic creature we only encounter in nature documentaries, where we learn about their very peculiar breeding habits and their fussy diets.
For sustenance Tories drain off the lifeblood from working class industrial communities, and having devoured the entire ecosystem they’re now confined to a couple of reserves in the posher parts of Edinburgh. The Scottish Tory party is now down to a few scattered stragglers, with hardly any breeding pairs. The royal blue plumage has been replaced by dowdy feathers, the once proud squawk of privilege replaced by a nasty sounding cough.
Entire subspecies have already died out. No more do we see the brightly coloured display and attention seeking dance of the Nicholas fairbairnii. The massed flocks of orange feathered Saschen bowlerhaticus have gone the way of the passenger pigeon and no longer roost all over our public institutions, covering them in crap. Meanwhile the Wildeyedi thatcheritus have migrated to the more genial climate of Southern England where they scratch a living making pseudo intellectual documentaries for Daily Mail readers, appearing on games shows and sneering at Scottish people. In this they’re assisted by their camouflage, cunningly disguising themselves as street smart bruisers, safe in the knowledge that the London establishment doesn’t know the difference between Newton Mearns and Niddrie Mains.
Desperate to show that he really is the Prime Minister of all of Britain, including those parts where no one will give him the time of day, Dave came up to visit Auntie Annabel at her wee gathering of bedraggled no spring chickens in Inverness. Like the dutiful nephew visiting the maiden aunt who’s already been stood up at the altar three times before by the Scottish electorate, he had to pretend to be happy and confident as she announced the date of her wedding for the fourth time. Even though we all know that once again she’ll be spending the nuptial night trying to put a brave face on things.
It was all common sense this and common sense that. The Tories love common sense. It saves them from having to find a consistent argument. Their common sense is the common sense of the Middle England Daily Mail reader. It’s the common sense that tells you everyone is thrilled and excited by the royal wedding, immigrants give you cancer, gay people are involved in a conspiracy to make everyone wear spandex, Jeremy Clarkson is funny and Scotland is too wee too poor and too stupid to be independent.
It’s also common sense that the Tories are on life-support in Scotland with no sign of coming out of the coma any time soon. But Dave dutifully sat by the bedside and played a few greatest hits in the hope he’d awaken some spark of life. He has difficulty telling the difference between a stiff upper lip and rigor mortis.
Since the Tory party in Scotland is moribund and the rest of us aren’t listening, Dave was really making his pitch at an English audience. That’s why he said: “Here’s a novel idea: shouldn’t this election be about Scotland and the Scottish people?” This is indeed a novel concept for a Westminster Village navel gazer.
Dave and the rest of Westminster are labouring under the misapprehension that Labour and BBC Scotland represent the voice of Scotland. Labour and the BBC seem to think it’s just a glorified popularity poll where we’ll be able to say how much we hate Tories. Labour wants us to know they hate the Tories the mostest. But Labour’s problem is that everyone hates the Tories, except the Tories. In advertising speak it’s hardly a Unique Selling Point. And overlooks the fact that it’s perfectly possible to hold both the Tories and Labour in contempt at the same time. See, the Scottish electorate can multi-task. We’re not stupid after all.
But Dave’s really worried we think this election is like the X-Factor with Dave as Simon Cowell, who we can’t actually vote off no matter how much we hate him. It’s a choice of which winner would annoy Simon the most. Louie Walsh’s off key singer Leigh Booer who specialises in 80s hits and thinks he down wiv da yoof despite being a middle aged middle class white guy who dances like your dad, Cheryl’s girl band the Librelles who spend all their time in bitchy infighting and lying to one another and everyone else, or Sharon’s somewhat pudgy opera singer Alexei Salmondo who really ought to be in a different show entirely.
But now Dave wants this to be an election about Scotland and the Scottish people and doesn’t want the water muddied with pointless irrelevances. Which raises the question why he foisted the pointlessly irrelevant AV referendum on us on the same date. You’re sending mixed messages Dave love. That happens when you spend a lot of time with Nick Clegg. Must be one of those common sense things.
Dave proudly told us about how the Tories had put a cap on immigration. No words about emigration of course, and the haemorrhaging of population that has been Scotland’s lot ever since we got into the Union. Having to leave for southern England in order to find work must be more of that common sense he was telling us about. It’s the UK equivalent of the US promise to the migrants who once arrived on Ellis Island – not so much “give me your poor and huddled masses” as “give me your educated and skilled people and keep your poor and huddled masses so we can tell you you’re too broke and uneducated to look after yourselves”.
Having successfully applied this policy to Scotland for 300 years, the Tories now want to apply it to the rest of the world too. Dave’s UK immigration policy is designed to suit the needs of his version of the English economy and English Tory voters. But Scotland isn’t overcrowded. Scotland needs more people. It would be a helpful start if Scotland was able to hang on to the people it’s already got. No help there from Dave though.
Dave strongly attacked Labour’s claim that the Conservatives were rooting for an SNP victory. And for once I actually found myself agreeing with him. It was such a strange and disconcerting experience that for a brief second I thought I was channelling the ghost of Teddy Taylor and felt a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. But it was just gas. And then someone pointed out that Teddy Taylor is still alive and was last spotted in Southend-on-Sea in Essex wearing a Union Jack Kiss Me Quick hat and towing a bulldog on a bit of string. That gave me another strange sensation in the pit of my stomach.
Dave really doesn’t want an SNP victory. He’d prefer a Labour victory, since he knows he won’t get a Tory one. A Labour victory means it’s back to business as usual. The It’s a Knockout slapabout gameshow of British politics would be back on BBC1, with no rocking the boat from those troublesome Scots who want to change the channel. Dave knows we can all vote Labour without it prejudicing his chances of getting the keys to Number 10.
An SNP victory raises the alarming prospect of us marching off with the resources and energy that fuel the bailing pumps on the sinking HMS Britannia. It’s such an alarming prospect for both the Tories and Labour that they prefer to act as though it wasn’t really happening at all. It’s inconceivable in their wee world.
It was all a build up to Dave’s carefully rehearsed line, which must have sounded so good when he tried it out on Michael Gove and Liam Fox. “Don’t these people get it?” Dave cried. Don’t they get that they’re Scottish, and are too wee, too stupid and too poor? It’s common sense. People like Neil Ferguson and Andrew Neil told him so, and they’re tough bruisers from the mean streets of dangerous places like Newton Mearns and Morningside.
Yet Scotland has long since learned to stick our fingers in our ears going la-la-la we’re not listening whenever a London Tory tells us what’s best for us. We have reason to believe the advice is uncommon nonsense. We were here in the 70s and 80s and we got it then. We got it in the neck. We got it in the balls, and we got it in various other sensitive parts of our anatomy while Labour flailed about with the effectiveness of that other 70s icon, Frank Spencer.
We’ve got no intention of getting it again Dave.