Up in smoke

It’s only after you break a bad habit that you realise just how bad it was for you. Like giving up smoking or voting Labour in Scotland. That’s been a vicious addiction that hundreds of thousands have given up, and which they have no intention of returning to – it’s been much easier than giving up smoking. Labour produces nasty bile and shortens your life span. Vote Labour and get cancer of the body politic.

That’s now over two weeks without a ciggie and I’m feeling increasingly confident that this time I’ve given up for good. From time to time I still think about how much I’d love a smoke, but the cravings are not strong and far less frequent than they used to be. I don’t ever think that I’d love to vote Labour, I never wistfully wonder what it would be like to have a wee sly drag on Jim Murphy just for old times sake. But Ed Miliband wants us to sook on Jim Murphy so he doesn’t have to. It’s a very easy temptation to resist, like the temptation to lick a turd or the temptation to have a wet dream about Ed Miliband.

Labour’s appalling polling figures continue to plunge to new depths. A poll for STV this week shows that they’d do even worse in a Holyrood election than the unprecedented thrashing they got in 2011. The poll showed that they’d get just 23% of the vote share, well down from the 31.7% they managed in 2011. By an eerie coincidence, 23% is also the proportion of Scottish adults who still smoke – and that’s falling too, although not quite as quickly as Labour’s vote share. Labour’s the fag-end party, the only thing left about it are doubts and a lingering smell. Their prospects of re-election have gone up in smoke.

Labour is increasingly resembling a Cheech and Chong movie, 1980s comedies beloved of those who are too stoned to notice that the jokes are rubbish and the plot is rehashed. If that’s not enough to drive you to drugs then probably nothing is. This is why the party organ is the Daily Record, with its reading age of seven. Labour has the concentration span of a goldfish on speed. The party would have to study for a week for a urine test, and they’d still fail. Now they want us to believe that reality is an illusion caused by a lack of Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale, this is because Labour is a gateway drug – that explains how it’s ended up in Narnia. However there is an essential difference between people who get stoned on a regular basis and Labour politicians. Labour politicians don’t inhale, they just suck.

What didn’t go up in smoke was an effigy of Alicsammin in Lewes in Sussex, in the heart of Toryukip Ingerland, as opposed to Lewis in the Western Isles. One of these places is barren, far from civilisation and inhabited by narrow minded bigots with 19th century attitudes, the other is an island off the West Coast of Scotland. Or maybe the effigy did go up in smoke, reports on the subject have been as confused as Labour’s attempts to find some coherent policies. Some people on Twitter and social media were claiming that at least one of the effigies was burned after all. Anyway, Lewes is somewhere that few in Scotland had heard about and even fewer cared about right up to the point where we heard that they were going to set fire to a papier mache effigy of Alicsammin and Nessie as part of their Guy Fawkes celebrations. Because burning Catholics just isn’t offensive enough.

It’s all just a bit of fun of course, and only humourless nats get offended by this sort of thing. I have no particular objection to burning an effigy of Alicsammin – it’s just a tasteless tradition which the non-PC residents of a town I’ve never visited and am never likely to visit indulge themselves in each year. They’re previously burned effigies of Angela Merkel and other European politicians as well as effigies of Cameron and Clegg. It’s a tradition not unlike the Catalan tradition of caganers, when every Christmas they exhibit an effigy of a public figure dropping a jobby. It’s supposed to be ‘naughty’, and to provoke a giggle in the likes of people who go to golf clubs in Sussex and vote UKIP. It’s a joke for the kind of people who think Jim Davidson is funny. And to be fair, those of us who voted Yes do want to bring down the Westminster Parliament – even though it’s in an entirely peaceful and democratic manner. We are modern Guy Fawkeses. We certainly put a rocket up the arse of the British establishment during the referendum campaign.

What is interesting however is the non-reciprocal nature of the humour. It’s always just a bit of harmless fun when the English indulge in offensive stereotyping of Scottish people. It’s not a bit of harmless fun when Scottish people indulge in offensive stereotyping of English people, because this points to something dark and evyle lurking at the very heart of the Scottish psyche. There is a persistent English racist stereotype that the sole definitive feature of Scottish culture is a hatred of English people. Being Scottish is all about the English, apparently. So it’s not the burning of an effigy of Alicsammin that annoys me. It’s the double standards. We saw it all the way through the referendum campaign, from Steve Bell’s cartoons to the hysterical editorials bewailing the anti-English racism that is supposed to stalk every street in Scotland.

Imagining the reaction if Scottish people burned an effigy of David Cameron isn’t quite a reasonable comparison, because if Yes voters had made a Guy Fawkes night effigy of Cameron, half the voters of England would have come to Scotland with matches – in fact half the Conservative party would have supplied cans of petrol and napalm. Instead – imagine the reaction from the anti-independence parties if Yes voters had burned effigies of Alistair Darling, Gordie Broon, and Jim Murphy. Would anyone be telling us then that it was just a joke and where’s yer sense of humour? The polis would have been called before anyone could say egg-flinger.

So the response from outraged Scots isn’t really about burning an effigy of Alicsammin – or even an effigy of Nessie – what’s outraging them is the fact that others are being indulged in behaviours which they can’t do in response. It’s the non-reciprocal nature of what is considered “harmless fun”. That’s what’s unfair, that’s what’s offensive, not the effigy of Alicsammin.



Jim Murphy’s BOGOF

Less than two months after the referendum, you know, that vote that was supposed to establish the settled will of the Scottish people until the Sun expands in a ball of hot gas and consumes the Earth – or at least for the length of the career of the average Labour politician – a new poll from YouGov has discovered that a significant number of No voters have changed their minds and now want independence. The other significant development is that two months is now also about the average career life of a Labour politician in Scotland. Only may flies have a shorter life expectancy, but they don’t have any mouth parts. Sadly the same cannot be said for Jim Murphy. A male may fly is basically nothing more than a mobile reproductive organ – it’s just a dick sniffing for something to screw – which you can say for Jim Murphy, so order is restored to the universe.

Despite the oft repeated media message that the candidate most feared by “the nationalists” is Jim Murphy – a message largely put about by Jim Murphy and his supporters – it’s not. It’s Sarah Boyack. She is the only candidate with any chance at all of uniting the ragged remains of British Labour in Scotland, and putting an end to its knee-jerk circle-jerk. It’s not a big chance. It is a tiny wee chance, but it’s a chance nonetheless. Jim has nae chance. All Jim is capable of uniting is his bank balance and an expenses claim, or a Middle Eastern country and a Western invasion.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I knew Sarah Boyack at university – she was a Labour hack even then, and a protege of Magrit Curran and Johann. However people can and do change, all those years ago I had a whole lot more hair and a head that was very firmly lodged up my own arse, but Sarah is still a Labour hack. Even so, on a personal level she’s a decent human being. She is also the only one of the three candidates who does not automatically respond to all and any proposal from the SNP as though it was contaminated with the ebola virus. And this is why Sarah has no chance of getting elected.

Even Neil Findlay would make a better party branch manager than Jim. Neil’s idea of taking Labour back to the left is essentially the correct one – but it has precisely zero chance of ever being implemented. Westminster Labour is not going to permit its Scottish branch office to introduce left wing policies which would make it unelectable in England, and the Scottish electorate is not going to be fooled by a Labour party which preaches one thing in Scotland and something else in the rest of the UK. We get the English news on Scottish telly, thanks to the Unionists’ parties insistence that broadcasting is a reserved matter.

Not that either Sarah or Neil have much chance of success even if one of them were elected branch office manager. The truth is that even if British Labour possessed a candidate with the political guile of Machiavelli, the moral stature of Mahatma Gandhi, and the intelligence of Albert Einstein – the party would still be screwed. It’s far too late now, and a change of leadership isn’t nearly enough to turn Labour’s fortunes around. Labour in Scotland has been a long time dying, but it finally shuffled off into an irretrievable demise the day that Davie Cameron persuaded ASDA’s managing director to issue a scare about price rises after independence, and Johann and her wee bunch of minions stood outside a branch of the supermarket grinning like skulls. There is absolutely nothing left for Labour except to crawl under a rock and rot away, unmourned, and unloved, not even fit for the cut price shelf for items at their sell by date.

There’s now a full on media onslaught pushing the Smurph. Sarah Boyack and the other guy – the Ken MacIntosh of this branch manager campaign – have been sidelined and ignored. Other guy is likely to pick up some trade union support in the Byzantine system of elections used by Labour for its branch managers, but the party hierarchy has put its weight very firmly behind the Smugurph. Ed Miliband is very keen for him to get the job, because he hates Jim Murphy as much as anyone else and he’s hoping that the Smugurph will condescend his way to Embra and conveniently remove himself from Westminster. Ed views Jim candidacy as a sort of supermarket BOGOF offer.  He gets rid of a troublesome plotter who hates him, and at the same time gets a “big hitter” to rescue his arse in Scotland – or so he thinks.  Mostly he just wants Jim to BOGOF, a sentiment he shares with pretty much everyone else. Labour are the baked beans of politics, and just as likely to make you fart.

Meanwhile the Smugurph’s chances of being anything other than a long distance branch manager are receding faster than Ed Miliband’s chances of becoming the next prime minister. Ed may very well end up with the worst of all possible outcomes – he’ll have the odious Jim as Scottish branch manager, and Jim will still be in Westminster. At least until May next year. The Sunday Herald reports today that the three MSPs whose names have been suggested – by Jim’s pals, it has to be said – as willing to stand down in order to allow Jim to contest their seats in a by-election held on the same day as the Westminster General Election have all said that they intend to remain in Holyrood. So nae chance for Jim there then.

This gives Jim a big problem. If he can’t find a seat in Holyrood before the 2016 Scottish elections when he can sneak in as a list MSP, he’ll have to contest his Westminster seat in May 2015. This is because Labour’s rules state quite clearly that their Scottish branch manager has to be either an MP, an MSP or an MEP. And with the current mood of the Scottish electorate, it’s by no means certain that Jim would retain his seat in East Renfrewshire. If he fails to be re-elected, he’d have to stand down as party branch manager and it would be an ignominious end to a less than glorious career as well as an end to his expenses claims. You can be certain that the SNP and the other pro-independence parties will be doing all they can to ensure that Jim gets his jotters in May.