Westminster, the curse of the living dead


By Paul Kavanagh

Lord Tankerness is allegedly, to use an adverb beloved of lawyers, the top legal official in the land.  Together with his title, this makes him sound pure dead impressive and aims to create the mental image of a noble bewigged savant in the mind of yer average punter. 

But Lord Tankerness is no noble bewigged savant.  A drag queen with the uncanny knack of knowing what shoes go with what dress is a bewigged savant, and as for nobility, your common or garden drag queen outranks and outclasses a pretendy wee lord any day of the week. 

At least they understand the difference between being a diva and being a div, a concept Tinkerbell Tankerness struggles to comprehend, along with other things that are hard for him to grasp, like ‘democratic mandate’ and ‘Lib Dem electoral annihilation’.

Jimmy Wallace and his pals think he’s a noble, the rest of us agree with just the first three letters of that word.  In the real universe inhabited by normal people, Wee Jimmy Wallace is an underpowered divorce lawyer and retired politician who struck lucky and got promoted way beyond his abilities because of his political connections.  His cronies gave him his title, which he expects the rest of us to use in recognition of his gravitas, though gravid airse would be more accurate.  Wee Jimmy has as much resemblance to a high powered top flight lawyer as a Lada propped up on bricks has to a Rolls Royce jet engine.

Wee Jimmy’s been very krankie this week.  What is it with Unionist politicians and cheesy 1970s variety acts?  They must be trying to recreate that ’79 referendum vibe when they successfully screwed over the Scottish electorate.  It’s a bit like the comeback tours organised by the disco sensations so beloved of your maw and da, the ones which don’t contain any of the original line up and struggle to remember the words.  Even so, Wee Jimmy would not be improved by appearing in the House of Lords in a spangly boob-tube and disco hot pants.  Cacaphonic mince is still mince however you dress it up.

The Unionist media have faithfully reported Tinkerbell’s remarks.  Jimmy wants us all to know that a referendum held by the Scottish Parliament would be illegal.  His sharp legal mind says so and it’s completely unbiased by the fact that he’s a Unionist political appointee.  No really, that’s just a coincidence.  

Tinkerbell wants to wave Scottish independence away with his magic House of Lords wand.  Poor sap.  He’s living in a fairy story.  You’d think the tights and the knee-length breeches would have given him a clue, but apparently not.

Tinkerbell’s real difficulty however, is that he’s a legalist.  Legalists see law as holy writ which they alone have the power to interpret.  But law serves the people, the people do not serve the law.  When the law no longer meets the expectations of the people, we change the law, not the people.  Tinkerbell hopes that with a wave of his magic legal wand Scotland will go “Oh that’s alright then” and forget that politicans are supposed to be responsive to the wishes of the people, not the other way about.

Meanwhile, there was more nonsense from Westminster’s Scarestories-R-Us department on the defence issue.  Philip Hammond is the UK defence secretary.  He only got the job because Davie Cameron thought Hammond had a big organ and could man it up in a way Liam Fox could never hope to emulate.  Hammond is still trying to convince us that an independent Scotland would have to pay for Westminster’s nuclear sex-aids which allow them to make squishy lurve with the Pentagon and run off together on dirty weekends to Middle Eastern countries.  But Westminster made people in England pay for their prescriptions, so the MoD can pay for its own Trident viagra too.

The Dug takes a keen interest in Iberian politics.* Serious debate about the future of Scotland was covered in another pile of Westminster mierda with the ‘news’, well I say ‘news’, that Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU.  The story was reported with a straight face by the Independent, a publication which is woefully misnamed as far as Scotland is concerned.  Rumours that the failing newspaper is planning a Scottish edition called the Utterlydependent have not been confirmed.  According to unnamed sources, unnamed Spanish officials have registered unspecified “concerns” with unnamed officials of the UK government.  It’s rigorous investigative reporting like this which has ensured that the Independent’s sales figures are plummeting almost as fast as the Union’s hopes of survival and Johann Hari’s chances of a career as a serious journalist.

The Independent, the unnamed Spanish officials and the equally unnamed British officials they spoke to about unnamed concerns had all failed to tune into the French media during the week.  French news agency APF reported that EU lawyers have said that whatever is left of the UK and an independent Scotland would equally be successor states to the UK.  Both would be treated as existing members of the EU.  The only appropriate response to Westminster scare stories about Scotland and the EU are those which are typically Gallic – Your mozzer eez a ‘amster and your fazzer eez a Unionist MP.

But titles and legitimacy were very much in the news this past week.  Fred the Shred might have his knighthood taken off him.  One of the most loathed individuals in the land believes that having a title gives him a magic invisibility cloak like Harry Potter and we won’t notice the greedy little weasel lurking underneath.  In this he shares the fond belief of Tinkerbell Tankerness that their pretensions to moral probity are respected outside their own narrow social circles.

But whatever title Goodwin has, we’ll still call him Fred the Shred, at least when we’re being polite.  Instead of taking away his knighthood, they ought to strip him of the cash he made from RBS and make him a dame.  Then he can appear in panto alongside Baron Hardup and whenever he appears onstage we can all boo and hiss and shout: “Your pension’s behind you!”.  Sadly, that’s not going to happen.

But Goodwin is scarcely the only one who possesses an honour he does not deserve.   It transpires that it was Jack McConnell, aka Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, who pushed for Goodwin to be nominated for a tap on the shooders by Queeny.  Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale thinks that the honours system is fair and transparent, but he would say that wouldn’t he.

The UK honours system is morally bankrupt and ethically indefensible. Peerages are routinely awarded to politicians who have ‘served their time’ like Tinkerbell Tankerness and Joke MConnell, and gongs are ladled out to party donors and those who have done politicians favours.  The UK honours system is institutionalised cronyism.  We live in a crony-ocracy.  

Thousands of individuals devote their careers to public service. Nurses, rubbish collectors, council planning officers and teachers, all make an invaluable contribution to public life. On retirement they return to their private lives. But not politicians.  Politicians continue as the Westminster undead, casting their malign influences on our lives from beyond the grave.

Take for example Michael Forsyth, in media reports he is referred to as Lord Forsyth, he is a ‘noble Lord’. Forsyth’s leadership of the Scottish Conservatives was so unsuccessful that he managed to lose his party every single seat it possessed in the House of Commons, including his own. That’s an achievement worthy of some recognition, like becoming an object of public derision for the rest of your life and having small children point and laugh at you wherever you go.

Imagine Forsyth had been a teacher who had presided over the educational failure of all the children he taught and was sacked by the school after a barrage of protests by angry parents. Such a professionally unsuccessful individual would be spending his days looking after his garden in deserved obscurity. He would not be allowed to continue to influence the education of the children he had failed.  He’d be served with a restraining order to keep him away from the school, not admitted into classes and given free lunches in the school cafeteria.

Despite the complete humiliation of Forsyth and his political agenda by Scottish voters, he was ‘ennobled’ by his party colleagues and now sits in the House of Lords as Baron Forsyth of Drumlean where he is still able to shape public policy and exert his baleful brand of miserabilism on legislation affecting the voters who overwhelmingly rejected him. And he can claim his lunch expenses too.  We are supposed to refer to him and address him as Lord Forsyth as though he was deserving of our respect and deference.  But he’s really Count Forsythula the undead political vampire.  

Nothing can kill off a Westminster politician.  They’ll keep sucking on our lifeblood no matter how many electoral stakes we plunge through their hearts.

The self-aggrandisement of our political classes contaminates the awards granted to those who do genuinely deserve public recognition. Chris Hoy was awarded a knighthood after winning three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, and Mr Hoy enjoys the respect and affection of the public for his genuine and real achievement. Sadly, Mr Hoy’s knighthood is rendered meaningless because the same title is also regularly awarded to those who are clearly undeserving.

Using Mr Hoy’s title under current circumstances would be as though he won his three gold medals in a competition where other contestants obtained their gold medals by bribery, cheating, because they were colleagues of the competition organisers – or indeed by coming in last like Count Forsythula. Such a medal would be dismissed by the public as a valueless bauble instead of the outstanding achievement an Olympic gold represents. Mr Hoy’s title grants legitimacy to the conceits of our political masters.

So let’s stop using titles granted by Westminster.  It doesn’t mean we have to be rude, well not unless you want to be rude, Mr Mrs or Ms are perfectly respectful enough for any sane individual in the 21st century.  It’s a small symbolic action which won’t change anything much, but social change begins in the mind and in the form of words we use.   Westminster politicians might have an over-inflated sense of their self-worth, that doesn’t mean we have to go along with them.

*Biographical note. Like many modern Scots, the Dug is Scottish by adoption and affection.  He was found as a half-starved stray in a small village in southern Spain and rescued by his Scottish daddy.  He’s now sold his heart to square slice and turns up his nose at olives.  He is fully bilingual in Spanish and English, and is equally disobedient in both languages.  Catalans and Basques are also pretty good at being disobedient in Spanish, and do not require lessons in it from Scots, or Spanish-Scots mongrels with a taste for square slice.