By Kenneth Roy
It is not quite official, but demonstrably true: we do have a sense of humour north of the border. On Sunday – it was the first item on the Scottish television news – a crowd of flag-waving patriots gathered outside Edinburgh Zoo to greet the arrival of a large, white FedEx van.
Who was inside? There was an assumption by the flag-wavers and their cheer-leaders, the semi-orgasmic wildlife correspondents of our over-excitable media, that the vehicle in question contained two giant pandas imported from the People’s Republic of China – not so much political pawns as political paws.
Yet who could tell? As the van swung into the gates of the penal establishment, I observed that it was windowless.
So anybody could have been in there – a victim of the oppressive regime of the People’s Republic of China; or Tommy Sheridan on some misguided preparation for freedom scheme; or the Urban Voltaire under escort; or my old friend Craig Brown, who has the misfortune to manage Aberdeen football club, though maybe not for much longer.
But the van did seem suspiciously large for any of the above or even for two biggish pandas.There is always the disturbing possibility that it contained the entire Scottish cabinet, unaccountably let out for the day – Alex Gu Gu Salmond; Nicola Lun Lun Sturgeon; John Ling Ling Swinney; Michael Shi Shi Russell; Bruce Who He Crawford; Kenny Lin Bing MacAskill; Alex Wang Wang Neil; and Fiona Zhen Zhen Hyslop; to say nothing of the minister for snow, miscellaneous chaos, and general turmoil, Keith Yun Zi Brown. A substantial quantity of bamboo shoots accompanied the consignment. Whatever it was.
Gu Gu is on his way to the People’s Republic of China to consolidate relations with our most valued trading partners. One must devoutly trust that the jovial quips of our esteemed leader are not misinterpreted by his hosts and that he avoids incarceration in some deeply unpleasant Beijing Lin Bing. He should remember that the sort of amiable jest which goes down well enough at the Auchtermuchty Burns Supper is quite capable of turning him into yet another human rights abuse.
And then there’s Jeremy Clarkson. Possibly it was he who was in the back of the large, white FedEx van, being waved through by the cheering women of Corstorphine; for all we know, he was within minutes of being swallowed whole by an ungrateful reptile. I never thought I would live to write these words, and I realise that I may be consigning them to this large, white screen too late to save him: but, self-promoting irritant that he is, he must on this occasion be defended.
Since no one else appears to have asked it, I will put the question myself: how are these individuals now to receive a fair trial, assuming that their cases get that far?
The last time I checked, 21,000 people – the population of Dumbarton – had signed an online petition calling for his dismissal. I have in front of me a letter to the Scottish Review proposing that unspeakable things be done to him (in public). So offensive were his remarks about the blessed strike (you may dimly remember it: it was as long ago as last week) that the broadcast in question was swiftly removed from BBC iPlayer: so it is impossible to verify what this enemy of the people actually said.
The newspapers conspired with the BBC to keep the pedestrian truth from us. Even when D Dimbleby, the presenter of Question Time, gently tried to point out that all was not as it seemed, the rant of some trade union functionary continued without caveat. It is true that the notorious motorist said that the strikers should be shot in front of their families. Earlier, however, in the unreported bit of his address, he said that the strike was a good idea – the streets were empty; it was even possible to book a table in a London restaurant – but that, since this was the BBC, he supposed he had to attempt balance. It was only at this point that he introduced the whimsical idea of shooting the strikers.
This is the sort of heavy irony against which Alex Gu Gu Salmond must be counselled by his adviser, Kevin Su Lin Pringle, if he is not to be perversely misreported in the Beijing Daily Mail. Over here in the People’s Republic of Tesco, the worst that will happen to someone guilty of such a crime is to be taken in a large, white FedEx van to Edinburgh Zoo, there to be gawped at by tourists. Much worse happens to those who step out of line in the People’s Republic of China. There, dissidents endure prolonged torture or summary execution (the cuddly Chinese being undisputed world leaders at the latter expression of state disapproval).
Naturally this brings to mind the Leveson inquiry as a shining example of how freedom of speech operates in our friendlier climes. Not content with inflicting severe reputational damage on a retired Scottish columnist for a piece of opinion he wrote 20 years ago, and without offering him the opportunity to defend himself, Leveson and co. have given a platform to a former Murdoch employee from which to make highly prejudicial allegations against two named individuals – both of whom are on police bail and awaiting possible criminal charges.
Since no one else appears to have asked it, I will put the question myself: how are these individuals now to receive a fair trial, assuming that their cases get that far? I invite Lord Justice Leveson to ponder this intriguing question and get back to me.
A bamboo shoot for a convincing answer. I think I’ll be keeping my bamboo shoot.
Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review