In the spirit of New Year, regular commentator Bernard Thompson touts his expertise to the Scottish opposition for 2017
The weak are a long time in politics , as someone once probably said, therefore to attempt to anticipate the intrigues of the political class would be to betray so feeble a mind as to render one worthy of derision.
Nonetheless, this never stopped John McTernan from offering a detailed analysis of a Christmas yet to come, so why should lowly scribes and ill-informed hacks be any different?
Hurl your predictions boldly; something is sure to stick, as Francis Bacon would likely have advised – or even something rasher!
For my part, I was born and spent most of my life in Glasgow’s south side. And as anyone who is even semi-literate will tell you, being born a soothsider is as much of a curse as it is a gift.
Everybody wants to know their future and it’s usually bad news, which invariably results in them wishing to shoot the messenger, especially when seeking solace in the misfortune of others is misconstrued as taking pleasure in prophesying doom.
However, there are two golden rules when sharing your second sight. Firstly, never do so for material gain (hence I offer this to NewsNet.cheapskate). (That’s MISTER Cheapskate to you. Ed)
Secondly, don’t pussyfoot around, hedging your bets, using ambiguous language intended to allow yourself wriggle room later on.
No, when you foretell the future, you must be unequivocal, daring the world to rebuke and ridicule you, slam yourself in the pillory ready for all the snash and brickbats that the ungrateful masses would like to hurl your way.
Sit back, then, and listen as I tell you how it’s going to be in Scottish politics in 2017.
I see division, schism, houses divided against themselves, the temple curtain rent in two – all sorts of malarkey – and none will be untouched even though they may smear their door pillars with sacrificial Irn Bru.
First, the LibDems as it’s nice to let people know that you remember them at this time of year, even if it can be embarrassing to receive your card back marked, “Not at this address – deceased.”
In an optimistic attempt to be noticed – Willie Rennie will resign citing an unacceptable lack of speculation as to his sexuality or whether it in fact exists.
However, nobody in Scottish politics will notice.
Slightly more attention will be paid to his announcement that he has been asked to reconsider and decided to remain to fight for Britain’s place in the European Union.
This will achieve some coverage below the memorial poems on the intimations page of the Evening Times.
Re-energised, Rennie will publish what his party will bill as his “seminal work” and “legacy document” on Britain’s European future. This tome will bear striking similarities to Tim Farron’s analysis – have a second EU referendum – but will pay special attention to the shortbread and Edinburgh Rock industries and insist on no second Scottish independence referendum.
The public will be largely oblivious to the paper with those that do hear of it vaguely asking: “Did he not retire because of something to do with his sex life?”
The Greens will redefine their mission. Tired of waiting for a natural disaster and needful of a distinct position, Patrick Harvie will recommend a name change to the Green and Anti-Catholic Education Party.
Harvie will be at pains to stress that this will not equate to Anti-Catholicism, or a programme of Anti-Catholic education – that would be bigoted, which the Greens and Harvie are not, though they have a hunch Catholic education might be.
No, this would simply be a policy platform opposed to Catholic education – not opposed to educating Catholics, which would be bigoted.
This policy will be widely misunderstood in Scotland as aimed at putting Catholics in their place and will thus see the party surge in the polls, taking swathes of Labour and Tory supporters before a penitent and tearful Harvie feels compelled to say that he quite likes Catholics, undoing all of those hard-won gains.
The truth, Ruth
It will not be plain sailing for the Tories, either.
Ruth Davidson will finally get the call she has been waiting for to say that a safe English Conservative seat has become available, either due to the decrepitude of the incumbent or their being revealed to use Bramley apples in a way which was considered normal at public school but which wider society does not yet understand.
This will be revealed as the reason why the same coach who taught Theresa May and George Osborne to stand with their legs spread apart had been training Ruth in her “gravitas” face.
(You may have noted Davidson furrowing her eyebrows and widening her mouth in a nod to Mike Yarwood’s Prince Charles impression, circa 1978.)
The chance to never again have to park her car in Scotland will fill Davidson with glee and she will quickly leave a vacancy, which will be contested by Prof Adam Tomkins and Murdo Fraser in what will be billed a watershed moment for the party’s direction.
Tomkins will offer a considered, approach preaching outreach. This will prompt a soul-searching discussion about the quality of Scottish academia and whether it is possible or even desirable to widen the Tory gene pool.
Fraser, relishing the opportunity to actually be elected as a candidate, will focus on Presbyterian values and blood-and-soil buffoonery, inadvertently finding himself being snapped at a traditional unionist parade.
Tomkins will rise above such crudity but will Tweet a photo of himself wearing a soldier’s hat at Ibrox on Armed Forces day.
Fraser will take an early lead but victory will be snatched from his grasp following a late-night Tweet which Tomkins interprets as questioning his Scottishness, suggesting that Cybernats support Fraser.
Even the SNP will not be immune and can be expected to lose at least one other member due to a financial scandal of uncertain provenance being seized upon enthusiastically by the mainstream media.
More serious will be Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of the date of a second Scottish independence referendum. You do not need to know the precise date at this time – simply that it will enrage approximately 35 per cent of indy supporters and be declared reckless and divisive by both unionists and the objective media.
But the SNP’s problems will not end there. No, tired of quarterly accusations of being a traitor, 2017 will be the year in which an emboldened Alex Neil will push Sturgeon to her breaking point.
A democrat to the end, Sturgeon will tolerate Neil’s repeatedly shouting that Brexit’s going to happen and socialists like it but she will draw the line at him chanting “na, na, na, na, na!”
Neil will respond that he’s a big boy and can do as he pleases prompting Sturgeon to dictate and reluctantly accept Neil’s letter of resignation, stating what a privilege it was for him to serve her.
Yet this will not be the last of Neil but, more of that later.
Before that you must hear of the fate of Scottish Labour, who will also bid farewell to their leader.
It surprises some that a challenge has not been made to Kezia Dugdale’s leadership before now. There is an explanation for this.
It is that only an utter balloon wouldn’t sooner be tied to the mast of the Hesperus than take the helm of the wreck of Scottish Labour.
And while Labour have more balloons than a family fun day at Butlin’s, even those members of questionable virtue and limited judgement making up their ranks know better than to release Kez of the sticky bomb that is their party’s leadership.
But nothing lasts forever, like Labour polling in double figures, for example.
While they will officially deny it, Labour will enter into a pact with the Conservatives, which will be exposed when thousands of people are told by Labour canvassers to vote Tory.
This, some will dutifully do, sending a few SNP councils into Tory hands and all but wiping Labour out, which will be celebrated with a party political broadcast featuring three minutes of John McTernan cackling and Blair McDougall smugly Tweeting from his bath chair about how the Nats have been found out.
Kez, however, will for the first time outmanoeuvre someone and announce her shock departure, which she will blame on Cybernat abuse, and then take up a post with a political consultancy arranging lunches between business people in distress and her diminishing contacts list.
This will leave Labour with an existential crisis embodied by Alex Rowley and Neil Findlay.
Rowley will advocate a Labour open to Scottish independence; Findlay will insist that Ian Davidson MP belongs to Jeremy Corbyn, even though he is a stick-on to be shown the door at the next general election.
Rowley will propose a new, left-of-centre, pro-independence party with – yes, you’ve guessed it – Alex Neil!
For this, Neil will be declared a traitor and Rowley will be described, by John McTernan, in very short words beginning with b and c, with the bold John demonstrating his ability to use both, interchangeably, as nouns, verbs and adjectives.
Some will say, “But we already have a party like that: RISE.”
The sensitive response will be to recall that mis-timed visit to the smallest room in the house, while wearing light-coloured trousers – we all know it happened but it’s too embarrassing to mention.
Alex and Alex will quickly announce that they have recruited Cat Boyd, whose timing is impeccable, and Darren “Loki” McGarvey, securing the young yins’ vote.
Loki will perform the party’s rapifesto, and declare the capture of Boyd as a coup, before being rounded upon online for his use of archaic, sexist language.
This new party will be announced as the Scottish National Independent Labour Party, which someone will immediately shorten to the SNaILs, evoking memories of the Salad party and sparking reminiscences from Willie Rennie that no one will listen to.
But the birth of the SNaILs will not be the end of the Scottish Labour party, largely because it has never existed.
It would take more than Alex Rowley jumping into bed with Alex Neil (I speak figuratively though the literal would surely be a vote-winner) to destroy the Scottish branch office of the biggest political behemoth in Europe.
No, the branch office will persist, consisting of the dank smell of failure, the fey echo of Gordon Brown reciting the vow and Findlay, who will go to the country, asking for Labour’s last chance, number 337.
He will promise real reform and no more deals with the Tories in a statement countersigned by Adam Tomkins.
This will be the end for Findlay, who will call Jeremy Corbyn, reminding him of that time he said Neil could come and stay any time.
In the nicest possible way, Jez will explain how he doesn’t have a spare room and that perhaps next year would be better, after which Neil will be found on NewsNet podcasts, like Eric Joyce.
New Commissar in town
Back at the Scottish Labour office, bouncing back from rejection by Celebrity Pimp My Ride because his candy-striped Porsche Cayenne with downlighters and pink fur upholstery didn’t offer enough potential, George Galloway (who believes every office smells of fresh cologne) will demand that Corbyn appoint him commissar, as he alone identifies with the struggle of the proletariat.
For the SNaILs, never one to invite himself to a party north of Manchester, Comrade Citizen Tommy, now resembling the harmonica-player at the end of Morecambe & Wise, will instead flash his white teeth and suntan on YouTube videos and Internet memes urging people to lend their support to the SNaILs.
He will then switch his smartphone to full vibrate before slipping it into the front pocket of his marble-washed, skintight jeans and wait for a call.
Alas, Comrade Citizen is destined to find that great anticipation often precedes anti-climax, leading to political disappointment but increased romantic empathy.
These things I have seen with mine own eyes – all three of them.
And I tell you solemnly that, as each and every foretelling comes to pass, I shall be here crowing about it, for verily only a bloody fool misses a chance to say, “I told you so”.
But should, forsooth, some cosmic event derail the set course of the future, no matter. I shall simply take up the post of chief strategist of the Labour party.
If you’re wondering, Kez, you can get my number from the NewsNet editor (NOT for publication, remember)!
I always keep my phone suitably primed in a convenient pocket in my jeans.
Failing that, I suppose any of the aforementioned parties may seek my services.
Like any man of principle, I use my talents only according to my values. I cannot be bought.
However, there may be some late rental offers, subject to availability.
Book now, as I cannot predict the future.