Good morning Lemmings and hold on to your hats because there’s just too much excitement going on here. Dundee. Four panelists. Half a show on Scottish independence and a man who got slightly confused as to whether you really do get £500 pounds if you vote one way or another – it truly is a thrill-seekers manifesto. So brace yourselves for impact Lemmings, this is going to be one wild ride.
Did I say ‘wild ride’? I think I actually meant ‘a slightly more subdued rehash of every Scottish independence episode we’ve ever had’….
…You know the deal: The Yes camp paint a picture of the sunlit uplands awaiting a newly independent Scotland, the No camp retaliate with a bleak canvas of the fog drenched lowlands that lie in store for a mutinous Caledonia while both side’s fan clubs clap obediently on command and use the word ‘scaremongering’ a lot. Yup, pretty exciting stuff!
Still, at least there was a subtle variation to the formula as the usual question of ‘Will it be Salmond or will it be Sturgeon for the SNP’ was rendered moot by the debut appearance of John Swinney, head of all things monetary and economic in the Scottish Parliament. Now so far as I can tell, Swinney takes most of his cues from the classic Salmond playbook (which basically means promise everyone everything and move quickly when the details get irksome) and he mostly does ok on this front – except for one thing: He can’t do The Knowing Look.
To the uninitiated, the Knowing Look is the thing that makes Alex Salmond so special and it all seems so simple on paper – you make pledges that sound completely unobtainable but instead of just releasing them into the wild and hoping they make it to safety in one piece you send them on their way with a twinkle in your eye that says ‘I know. Everything I just said sounds completely mental but trust me, I’ve got this covered’ (and in fairness to Salmond he usually does have it covered – or at least partially clad). John Swinney’s problem is that despite having an air of general likability and making a decent fist of bigging up the positives in independence, he just looks a little skittish when the facts start getting awkward. Take the part when some of the questions regarding the White Paper were raised (i.e. where’s the money?): This is the sort of situation where Salmond flutters those ‘Trust me, this is so crazy it might just work’ eyelashes at the crowd and everyone ends up going along with it because it just feels right. Swinney on the other hand simply doesn’t have that magic and when things start getting tricky his eyes suddenly begin to dart about, the tempo increased and it all just felt a little – well – wrong. Was it a deal breaker? Not really but by the same token it wasn’t a case of unalloyed triumph either.
We nearly had a proper good fight in the No camp… Nearly…
So both Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale managed to set their tribal differences aside in the face of a common foe (no doubt aided by the main recipient of political woe this week being the absent Lib Dems) but it was a close run thing and there was a split second where it looked like it could all go very wrong. The pretext was about the recovery and both were bashing away at their party lines until their eyes met briefly then locked together for just a little too long, each set inviting the other to come and have a go if they think they’re hard enough. Alas it came to nothing but I reckon it would have been a good scrap as they’re both able panelists who are more than capable of fighting their own corners. Personally, my money would be on Davidson as I imagine being a kickboxing lesbian Scottish Tory involves quite a lot of standing up for yourself but I wouldn’t rule Kezia out either: For a QT first-timer she did well and she’s got a clear height advantage over Davidson. Anyway, it’s a shame it never came to pass but should either panelist feel like they need to satisfy their honour in the arena of single combat, I will more than happily officiate.
A Nearly Fight and some darting eyes? Is that it? Please tell me this gets better…
It does, thanks largely to Jim Sillars and not just because I couldn’t quite tell if he does genuinely believe that money grows on trees. No, while the impassioned tales of imperial decline and the zero tosses given about the Lord Rennard case were happy little affairs, I liked watching Jim because it reminded me that we used to have people like him in England – you know, authentic, unabashed socialists for whom politics is less of a game and more of an ache that they feel in their bones. I guess we still have a few of them kicking about – Dennis Skinner springs to mind – but most were either co-opted or quietly shuffled out of the spotlight by a Labour party that was desperate to impress the cool kids and couldn’t abide the thought of its cranky old uncles turning up at the disco. On the evidence of last night the reverse is true in Scotland as not only was Jim a hit with the crowd, the panel also showed him a great level of deference when it would have been very easy to dismiss him as a pedlar of last century’s monkeyshine. I’m into that. I’m into that almost as much as I’m into how Jim’s face looks like a blissed-out version of Alan Sugar’s (see Fig. 1).
(Full to the) Brim (of old school socialist thunder)
The Crowd: 6/10
(Would really help with the rhyming process if they were all called either) Jim, Tim (or) Kim…
Alright, so it wasn’t quite as dreary as I made out in the intro but still, I can’t say I’m in a terrible hurry to watch another Scottish independence episode, particularly if they’re going to run with the 4-on-the-panel format. But hey, what do I know?
Right, Norwich next week and you’ll pleased to know that I’ll still be in the dark on all current affairs thanks to Celebrity Big Brother being extended. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of CBB, remember how I said last week that one of the male contestants would end up pregnant? Well Lee Ryan from Blue ended up lactating last week. A coincidence? I think not…
Next week Lemmings, next week…