The great Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes gained literary immortality for his novel Don Quixote, the tale of an errant knight who famously battled against windmills which he claimed were monsters, something he had in common with Donald Trump. Don Quixote tried to compensate for the low esteem in which his compatriots held him by winning mighty victories against imaginary enemies. But you don’t have to go back to classical Spanish literature in order to see delusion in action, there are more modern examples of the serially incompetent who claim to win imaginary victories in order to compensate for the contempt in which the public hold you. And here in Scotland we have the Labour party, its cheerleaders in the Daily Record, and the Don Quixotes of the Arran ferry.
Back in the dim and distant past in 2005, when Scotland was too wee and too stupid to have a proper government and we just had a Scottish Executive instead, back when the d’Hondt electoral system was working as its designers intended and was producing Labour Lib Dem coaltions, back when the Unionists had the power to convince the public that their victories over windmills really were the defeat of monsters, the CalMac contract came up for renewal. Our Labour masters put the contract out to tender, as they were obliged to do under EU law. The Daily Record didn’t mount a campaign to save CalMac, the Labour party was only doing what the law told it to do. The executive put out a press release saying that you can’t have a government breaking the law now, can you. We’re as upset about it as you are, but our hands are tied. It’s not our fault. And since the SNP wasn’t in power at the time, they couldn’t blame the SNP for it, so that was that.
Fast forward a decade, and the CalMac contract came up for renewal again. Cue Labour wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth and the appearance of a monstruous windmill in the shape of an SNP government that Labour claimed was hell bent on selling off a beloved Scottish institution whose contract Labour had put out to tender just a few years before. “The SNP want to sell off CalMac to Serco, the basterts!” cried Don Quixote from the bar of the Stornoway ferry, pitching and rolling and staggering even though the Minch was for once as smooth as Wee Dougie Alexander’s baby bum like cheeks. It’s just that pitching and rolling and staggering is Labour’s normal means of locomotion these days.
Labour then started a campaign to pressurise the Scottish Government to do what Labour wouldn’t do ten years earlier because Labour said it was illegal. How very dare you not break what we told you just a wee while back there was the law, they said, hoping that since that uncomfortable fact wouldn’t be mentioned in the pages of the Daily Record that no one would be able to remember something that happened not that long ago. However since Scottish Unionism is the political philosophy that is dependent on the public forgetting what Unionist politicians were promising just last week, you can understand why they thought it was a reasonable step to take.
After all, Ruth Davidson fought an entire election campaign on the basis of trying to get people to forget that she’s a Tory and an apologist for Davie Cameron and £7 billion extra of cuts to the Scottish budget. When you have the collective amnesia of the Scottish Unionist press on board, you can try to make any leaky auld ship look like it’s a brand new ferry. Ruth Davidson’s little band of buffalo riders and their pals in the press have been acting like they won the Scottish election even though they came a very distant second. They’re about to discover that their boat won’t float and they’re doomed to spend the next five years screaming SNP bad. The only ship that’s been torpedoed here is their own.
You can bet a ticket to Rothesay that if the SNP had indeed said that it wasn’t going to put the CalMac contract out to tender and it was going to break the law, that the Labour party would have cheerfully got into the same boat as the Tories to fire a broadside at the illegal actions of the Holyrood administration would have done their utmost to sink the entire Scottish Government. The truth of the matter is that all that the Labour party is interested in is in scoring a few cheap political points using whatever it is that comes to hand at the moment. They don’t have a long term strategy, unless incompetence counts as a strategy. It’s their incompetence that has reduced them to their current dire straits.
Labour are serially incompetent, so they need to find imaginary victories in order to have any victories at all. They are now in such a state that they couldn’t score a victory against a light bulb. How many Labour MSPs does it take to change a lightbulb? All 23 of them. One to arrange a PFI contract to get a company his mate runs to lease a bulb from and then charge the public through the nose for generations to come for a new light fitting, five to make excuses for the new light fitting falling out of the ceiling, ten to claim it on expenses, and the rest to blame the SNP for James Kelly falling flat on his face in the darkness.
It now transpires that there was no real threat to CalMac’s contract as the private company in contention admits that its bid was not realistic. That hasn’t stopped Labour and its pals in the Daily Record crowing that it was them wot won it. Sure they did, they tilted at a windmill and told us it was a mighty monster. The original Don Quixote had his faithful servant Sancho Panza to burst his bubble and bring him back down to earth. Labour and the Tories don’t have that, all they have is the puffery of a Unionist media. But their bubble has already burst, and all the hot air in the world won’t float the Don Quixotes of the Arran ferry. They’re on their way to the bottom. Unlike Cervantes’ great creation, these Don Quixotes are destined for oblivion.
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