Fake news UK

 

From pixabay.com

 

Looking back at the entries on this bog that I’ve filed in the category of ‘politics’, I realise that in many of them I haven’t actually written about politicians.

 

Instead, I’ve spent as much time writing about another profession, one that sets a large part of the political agenda, decides what issues of the day are brought to the public’s attention and helps create the prism through which those issues are viewed by the public.  In a word, journalists.

 

And regular readers of Blood and Porridge will know I’m not a great fan of journalists, newspapers and the mainstream media generally in the UK.  I’ve found the non-stop abuse doled out to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over the past couple of years nauseating – the nadir coming on June 7th this year, just before the general election, when the Daily Mail devoted 13 pages to portraying Corbyn and his Labour Party associates as a bunch of foul, neo-Marxist, neo-Maoist, Jihadi-condoning, Gerry Adams-hugging, devil-worshipping, child-sacrificing, bloodsucking monsters.  Nor was I impressed by the barrage of nonsense that Britain’s newspapers published in the run-up to the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, when the Daily Express saw fit to warn Scots that independence would threaten the discovery of a cure for cancer and the Daily Record predicted that independence would trigger a 21st-century version of the Great Depression.

 

And of course, there was the absolute smorgasbord of bollocks that most of Britain’s newspapers served up before last year’s vote on the UK leaving the European Union.  (Funnily enough, the newspapers that were shrillest in denouncing the EU and urging British people to vote to leave it were the same newspapers that two years earlier had warned Scots that an independent Scotland would suffer because it’d lose its EU membership.)

 

However, at times in 2017, I’ve wondered if I’ve been on the wrong side.  Because this year the journalistic profession has been under sustained attack by Donald Trump, the large blobby orange lifeform that last autumn managed to get himself elected 45th president of the USA despite winning 2.9 million fewer votes than his rival Hillary Clinton.   Trump’s reaction to the media reporting any facts that might appear unflattering to him or his cause is to shriek “Fake news!” at it.

 

For example.  Those photographs suggesting that the crowd at his presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington DC was as sparse as the crowd you’d get in a pub hosting a Gary Glitter 1970s Nostalgia Night?  Fake news! barks the man with a face like a giant orange arse.  Those polls showing Trump’s approval ratings to be the lowest for a president since, well, approval ratings were invented?  Fake news! howls the man with a mouth as big and unappealing as an H.R. Giger-designed entrance-orifice for a derelict spaceship in an Alien movie.  Allegations that Vladimir Putin’s role in his election to office might have been a wee bit more proactive than one of detached, distant, neutral observer?  Fake news! screams the man who, if the Buddhists are right, is destined to be reincarnated in his next life as an Australian cane toad.  (That’s because cane toads are gross, poisonous and so stupid that they attempt to hump animal carcasses, including “dead salamanders, snakes, lizards, mice, anything,” which sounds perfectly attuned to Trump’s karma.)

 

From pixabay.com

 

With Trump ranting at them night and day, trying to discredit every bit of reporting critical of him by slapping a ‘fake news’ label on it, trying to neutralise every uncomplimentary fact that’s dug up about him by dismissing it as an ‘alternative’ fact, shouldn’t I be more sympathetic to journalists?  Surely, set against the slobbering horror-show that is Trump, the mainstream press and its journalists are on the side of the angels?

 

Well, no.  I don’t feel that way, at least not towards the bulk of the mainstream press in Britain.  And here’s why not.  Imagine how the situation would be if Donald Trump was British and not American, if he was UK prime minister instead of US president, if he was ensconced in Number 10 Downing Street rather than in the White House.  Imagine how Britain’s national newspapers – most of whom are owned by five right-wing millionaires / billionaires, Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond, the two Barclay Brothers and Jonathan Harmsworth, or 4th Viscount Rothermere as he likes to call himself – would react to a UK government headed by Prime Minister Trump.

 

I’m sure the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Sun would totally love him, because his anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-tax, anti-environment, anti-universal-healthcare rhetoric would press all their xenophobic, reactionary buttons.  Meanwhile, those right-wing yobs whom Fraser Nelson keeps in the kennels over at the Spectator, like Rod Liddle and James Delingpole, would no doubt be writing adoring columns about what a great, bang-on bloke he was.

 

The BBC would be terrified that Prime Minister Trump might abolish the licence-fee and deprive them of funding so they’d pussy-foot around him – making sure, for example, that on every five-person Question Time panel there’d be two or three Trump devotees arguing that it’s perfectly okay for Prime Minister Trump to spend all his time playing golf up at Balmedie and Turnberry, and as for that business where he tried to grab the Number 10 tea-lady by the pussy, well, that was just him doing what all red-blooded alpha-males do, right?

 

Obviously, left-wing publications like the Guardian and the New Statesman would strongly disagree with Prime Minister Trump in all matters.  Well, in almost all matters.  They would support him in his opposition to Scottish independence.  Indeed, both publications would occasionally commission the likes of David Torrance or Chris Deerin to pen opinion pieces with titles along the lines of DONALD TRUMP IS WRONG ON MANY THINGS BUT ON SCOTLAND HE’S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

 

© NPR

 

Very fine people

 

© The Independent

 

Thank you, Grand Wizard Trump, for that enlightening and perceptive press conference you gave on Tuesday in which you set the record straight about the previous weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

In my wide-eyed, libtard, snowflaky naivete, I’d thought the violence in Charlottesville had been the result of some bad guys: Nazi white-supremacists marching around with swastika-emblazoned flags, swastikas being the symbol of people who sent six million of their fellow human beings to the gas chambers during World War II.  That sounds pretty bad, right?  At Charlottesville, they were challenged by some good guys: counter-protesters who took exception to the Nazis and their genocidal ideology.  That sounds like a good thing to do, right?  The bad guys reacted badly to being challenged by the good guys, to the point where one of them drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19 others.  Not only did that seem like a very bad action, but some folk argued that it qualified as terrorism.  However, some other folk disagreed, since the perpetrator wasn’t a Muslim and he only did non-terroristy things like idolize Adolf Hitler.

 

However, now that Führer Trump has explained in fluent and convincing detail what really happened at Charlottesville, I stand corrected.  You see, he knows “a lot about Charlottesville” because, as he pointed out, he has a winery there.  (“I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States that’s in Charlottesville.”)  So we can take his pronouncements as truth.  I now realize that the Nazis weren’t such a bad lot because there were many “very fine people” among their ranks.  Furthermore, they could “innocently protest” and “very legally protest” because “they had a permit”.  There were a few bad eggs among those Nazis, of course.  But let’s not forget “there’s blame on both sides” because those pesky meddling anti-Nazi demonstrators (“you can call them the left” or “alt-left”) had a contingent “that was also very violent” and “came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs” and “were very, very violent” and “it was a horrible thing to watch.”  They were “troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the clubs.”  Plus they “came charging in without a permit.”

 

Oddly enough, Reichsmarschall Trump’s wise words have not been well received by American politicians of both Democrat and Republican persuasions who’ve spent the past two days tweeting their dismay at him.  But David Duke, boss of the KKK – that’s the Ku Klux Klan, whom I hear are a wee bit racist, but I’m sure many of their members are actually very fine people – did tweet admiringly: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists.”

 

Now that the scales have finally been removed from my eyes about the Nazis, thanks to Il Duce Trump, and now that I understand how they included many fine people and only did Nazi-type things when they had a permit to do so, I can revisit all the Nazi-related pieces of popular culture that I grew up with and view them in a new light.  For example:

 

© Ealing Studios

 

Let George Do It!  (1940)

German Führer Adolf Hitler has a permit to very innocently and legally give a speech at a Nuremburg Rally attended by thousands of Nazis, who include some very fine people.  Suddenly, however, the notorious alt-left music-hall troublemaker and all-round bad hombre George Formby shins down a rope from a passing balloon and gives a blood-curdling Marxist cry of “I’ll knock your block off!”  Then he charges in with a cheeky grin and with a Wigan accent and with a ukulele in his hand and punches the poor Führer on the chin.  After President Trump apportions blame to both sides, Adolf Hitler tweets: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #GeorgeFormby and condemn the leftist Lancashire terrorist.”

 

© Penguin Books

 

Moonraker (1955)

Fanatical Social Justice Warrior / feminazi / ecofascist James Bond of the alt-left terrorist outfit MI6 is directed by his boss M (short for ‘Mao’, presumably) to be very, very violent towards Hugo Drax, who’s a Trumpian multimillionaire, the former head of a German Nazi commando unit and a very fine person.  Nasty Bond comes charging in with his licence to kill and with his shaken-not-stirred-vodka-and-martini and with his twangy Monty Norman theme tune and messes up Drax’s plan, which he has a permit for, signed by himself, to fire a nuclear missile at Londonistan and sort out its Muslim mayor with fire and fury.   It’s a horrible thing to watch.

 

© Associated British Pathé

 

Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

Alt-left troublemakers Johnny ‘Guevara’ Mills, Harry ‘Ho Chi Minh’ Andrews and Sylvia ‘Osamu’ Sims commandeer an ambulance and in a cold-blooded act of terrorism drive it straight into the middle of Rommel’s Afrika Korps, which contains some very fine people.  Luckily, because this is the eastern Sahara, they miss their targets, who are innocently and legally attacking Tobruk, by several miles.  Then the thirsty terrorists head for Alexandria to have a beer and link up with ISIS.  “Worth waiting for!” declares Mills at the end, no doubt referring to the overthrow of capitalism.

 

© United Artists

 

The Great Escape (1963)

It’s 1943 in peaceful, neighbourly Nazi Germany.  A rabble of leftist terrorists, whose codenames include such sinister monikers as Big X, The Forger, The Scrounger, The Tunnel King and Eric Ashley-Pitt, bust out of a high-security detention camp set up by the Nazis, who include some very fine people, and terrorise the surrounding countryside.  One alt-left troublemaker called The Cooler King commandeers a motorbike and in a cold-blooded act of terrorism drives it straight into the middle of an innocent Swiss-border fence.  Finally, the Gestapo round up 50 escapees and machine-gun them all to death, which is okay because they have a permit.  “There’s blame on both sides,” comments President Trump.

 

© BBC

 

Dad’s Army (1973)

A sinister alt-left collective known as the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard come charging in with some M1917 Enfield rifles and with a butcher’s van and with a variety of comic catchphrases and take hostage the crew of a Nazi-Germany U-Boat, who include some very fine people and who have a permit, signed by Adolf Hitler, to innocently and legally torpedo and sink large amounts of British shipping.  The sadistic and arthritic leftist troublemakers goad their victims by singing the blood-curdling Marxist anthem, “Whistle while you work / Hitler is a twerp / He’s half-barmy / So’s his army…”  It’s a horrible thing to hear.

 

*****

 

But seriously – seriously – I can only surmise that the reason why Trump was so keen to give those Nazis / white supremacists / KKK / alt-right goons a friendly nod and wink, as if to say, “Don’t worry, guys, I’m on your side, really,” is because so many of them showed up at Charlottesville armed to the teeth and wearing militia uniforms.  He must be hoping that if the House Committee and the Judiciary ever get around to impeaching him, his swastika-bearing admirers will swarm out onto the streets, start shooting people and mount a coup d’etat to save him.

 

Meanwhile, I’m bemused by how so many British right-wingers have been jumping to Trump’s defence and / or shouting “It’s none of our business what happens in America!” on social media.  These are people with avatars that show Union Jacks and with profiles that express their love for UKIP and Brexit.  You know, the sort of folk who normally never shut up about how plucky little Britain fought off the Nazis during World War II.

 

Oh well.  Here’s a clip of George Formby’s finest 50 seconds.  Go on, George.  Lamp the bastard.

 

No news is good news

 

From Twitter / @Fergoodness

 

Well, that was embarrassing.  On August 9th, the Scottish edition of the Times printed a column by journalist Kenny Farquharson headed THROW THE BOOK AT POLITICIANS WHO DON’T READ.  Its first six paragraphs took aim at former Scottish First Minister and former leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond because, supposedly, he wasn’t a reader.  Farquharson based his assertion that Salmond didn’t read books on two things: an acquaintance who’d visited Salmond’s home in Aberdeenshire and hadn’t seen any books lying around and a quote Salmond allegedly gave to a student newspaper about not having read a book for “eight years straight”.

 

Later the same day, after a photo of the library at Salmond’s house (which Farquharson’s first source evidently hadn’t seen) had circulated on twitter and Salmond himself had tweeted that in the student-newspaper interview he’d been misquoted – he’d said ‘write’, not ‘read’ – the column vanished from the Times’s online edition and Farquharson issued an apologetic tweet: “Student paper that interviewed Alex Salmond has now withdrawn the quote, so we’ve removed my column from online.  Apologies to @AlexSalmond.”

 

At least, Farquharson apologised.  Fellow Scottish newspaper hack David Torrance, who’d also peddled the Salmond-doesn’t-read story, reacted to Salmond’s intervention by tweeting: “It’s like being harangued by a mad old man in a pub.  ‘I used to be First Minister you know…’”  Thus, if the mainstream Scottish media smears you and you object, you’re the equivalent of a pished auld haverer in a bar.  That’s journalistic integrity in Scotland 2017.

 

I knew Farquharson slightly from my college days in Aberdeen, when he was a stalwart member of the campus Creative Writing Society (along with now-celebrated novelist Ali Smith), so I’m surprised a literary-minded man like him failed to question and check his sources.  Among other things, Salmond has interviewed both Iain Banks and Ian McEwan at the Edinburgh Book Festival, feats that’d require massive amounts of chutzpah (even by Salmond’s standards) to pull off if you were a non-book-reading philistine.  I suspect Farquharson rushed to conclusions because, like most of the Scottish press, he just doesn’t like Salmond and is happy to believe the worst about him.

 

© The Guardian

© Pauline Keightly Photography / From musicfootnotes.com

 

Now I admit that Alex Salmond, a man not known for his modesty, can be hard to like.  Even sympathetic profiles of him usually contain, at some point, the phrase ‘love him or loathe him’.  But the mainstream Scottish media’s antipathy towards Salmond is symptomatic of wider antipathy.  It also just doesn’t like Salmond’s party, the SNP, and how they’ve run Scotland since they won their first Scottish parliamentary election in 2007.

 

You get the impression that Scotland’s national print media – Scottish editions of the London-based dailies like the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Sun plus supposedly ‘home-grown’ titles like the Scotsman, Herald and Daily Record, though the Herald and Record’s owners, Newsquest and Trinity Mirror, are based in England – never forgave the SNP for disrupting the old status quo in Scotland.  That old status quo had seemingly stretched back through the mists of antiquity to the Stone Age.  Simply put, Labour dominated Scotland (first at council level and then, after its creation in 1999, the Scottish Parliament); while the Conservatives and, occasionally, Labour oversaw Scotland and the rest of Britain from Westminster.

 

As the sainted messengers who conveyed information from that establishment to the great unwashed and who offered interpretation and comment on how the establishment was doing things, Scotland’s journalists had their own comfortable and privileged niche in Scottish society.

 

The relationship between Scotland’s old politicians and journalists was a symbiotic one.  Iain Macwhirter, columnist with the Sunday Herald, one of only two newspapers in Scotland that gives the SNP much support, has recalled how the Sunday Herald’s decision to back the party in 2014 was made in spite of “fears… that stories might dry up if the Sunday Herald was black-balled by Labour – an indication that, though Labour had been out of power for seven years, the tribe still held on to many key positions in public life.”  He also noted that “Scottish journalism is almost as tribal as Scottish politics, and Labour has traditionally called the shots in the Scottish media through its extensive patronage networks.”

 

Many Scottish journalists seem unaware of those wise words by American novelist and filmmaker Stephen Chbosky: “Things change and friends leave.  Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”  They’ve reacted to the SNP’s decade in power with continual aggrieved negativity.  Nothing the SNP government, originally headed by Alex Salmond, now headed by Nicola Sturgeon, does can ever be good.  It can only be bad.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, their headlines have regurgitated the message that Scotland is going to the dogs and it’s all the SNP’s fault.

 

What must be awkward for Scotland’s newspapers is the evidence that pops up now and again and suggests that things might not be going so badly after all.  For example, figures in June showing Scotland’s economy grew during the first part of 2017 – at a rate of only 0.8%, admittedly, but four times the equivalent rate for the UK as a whole.  Or Scottish unemployment dropping to its lowest level since the start of the 2008 financial crash.  Or passenger-satisfaction levels with ScotRail reaching 90%, its highest-ever rating (and way better than the 72% satisfaction-level for Southern Rail in England).  Or the Scottish National Health Service exceeding its targets for treating accident and emergency patients.  (Or indeed, evidence that the Scottish NHS is the best-performing one of the four health services in the UK.)

 

The condition of Scottish education remains a concern, with the 2016 Pisa rankings showing Scottish pupils performing considerably less well than English ones (though better than Welsh ones).  However, one thing that commentators have constantly lamented about, the small number of Scottish school-leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds getting into university, seems to have improved.  Recent figures show an increase of 13% in university entrants from poor backgrounds.

 

So hey, it’s not all bad news, is it?  Scotland’s newspapers will surely let a little sunshine filter out of their normally dour front pages and give credit where it’s due, right?

 

Dream on.  The Herald’s front page on August 7th gave a rubbishing of ScotRail: HALF OF TRAINS ARRIVING AT BUSIEST STATIONS ARE LATE.  After it was pointed out that the figures for this story were inaccurate, it vanished from the Herald’s website and an apology appeared the next day admitting, “The most recent figures show that 93.7% of ScotRail trains met the industry standard public performance measure (PPM).”  However, this wasn’t before similar stories had appeared in the Glasgow Evening News, Daily Record, Scottish Daily Mail and Dundee Courier.  Meanwhile, I only have to type ‘Scottish NHS’ into Google and click on ‘news’ underneath to get a long list of headlines suggesting that Scotland’s health system is ‘doomed, all doomed’ (© Private Fraser, Dad’s Army): SCOTTISH NHS AT RISK OF STAFFING SHORTAGES THANKS TO POOR PLANNING (the Daily Telegraph); HOSPITALS AND NHS FACILITIES MAY NEED TO BE ‘AXED’ (the Scotsman); NHS STAFFING SHORTAGES ARE COMPROMISING PATIENT CARE (the Scotsman again); SCOTTISH NURSES SLAM NHS STAFFING CRISIS FOR AFFECTING CARE OF PATIENTS (the Daily Record); etc.

 

Even the jump in students from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university has been sourly received.  In January 2017, the Times’s Daniel Sanderson wrote an article decrying the fact that in Scotland FEWER THAN 10% OF STUDENTS COME FROM POOREST BACKGROUNDS.  Well, those new statistics about university entrants should cheer him up, right?  Nope.  This week, the same journalist wrote in the same newspaper an article decrying the fact that in Scotland MORE MIDDLE-CLASS STUDENTS ARE MISSING OUT ON UNIVERSITY PLACES.

 

For the record – as opposed to the Daily Record – I don’t think it matters much politically if 90-95% of Scotland’s mainstream press hate the party in power and monster them at every turn.  I’d rather live in a society like that than in a Putin-esque one where the government controls everything the newspapers say about them.  The fact that, despite the overwhelming hostility, the SNP have won two more Scottish elections since 2007 suggests that not many people believe what the newspapers tell them to believe these days.  (See also how Jeremy Corbyn secured 40% of the vote in the last British election despite the massive abuse he received in the British press.)

 

What does depress me is how this adversity must affect the many people working in the Scottish public sector and / or in services widely used by the Scottish public: hospital workers, teachers, train-staff, etc.  Clearly, they’ve made huge efforts to achieve good results in an era of austerity and financial uncertainty.  (That might sound like a platitude but it isn’t – for months now a close family member of mine has been looked after by the Scottish NHS and received excellent care.)  But when you go the extra mile for your patients, pupils or customers, and still get nothing but negative headlines screaming at you about your profession and your sector from the newspaper stands, it must be demoralising.

 

The Scottish press’s negativity-at-all-costs policy is not a case of, as some people have argued, ‘doing Scotland down’, because the SNP government is not all of Scotland – no more than Teresa May’s lunatic Brexit-obsessed Conservative government is all of England.  But, often, it seems discourteous to an awful lot of ordinary people who are just trying to do their jobs well.

 

From scotbuzz.co.uk 

 

Everybody won – and lost

 

© Daily Record

 

My head hurts.  Since Friday morning I’ve been trying to figure out the results of the British general election and I still don’t feel much wiser.  Here’s how it appears to me.

 

Theresa May’s Conservative Party got the most seats in Parliament, 317 out of 650.  So they won the election.  Right?  Wrong.  Their total was 13 down on what it’d been before, which left Theresa May looking the world’s biggest dolt for calling the election in the first place because she’d assumed, from the polls, that her party would be returned with a thumping majority.  In fact, the biggest thump heard as the results came in was that of Tory jaws striking the floor in shock and disbelief at their majority failing to materialise.  Now they’re nine seats short of the magic 326 number required for a working majority and it looks like they’ll have to do a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.  More on whom in a minute.

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been hailed as the election’s big winners because they performed much better than expected.  There’s rarely been an election campaign where the odds against the main opposition party doing well seemed so great.  In particular, Corbyn and his followers had opprobrium heaped on them by the British press – two days before the vote, for instance, the Daily Mail seemed to devote an entire edition to telling us that Corbyn was an evil, crazed, corrupt, terrorist-loving, Satan-worshipping, child-murdering, baby-eating ghoul.  However, despite the unexpected bounce in their fortunes, Labour still managed a total of only 262 seats.  Even if they joined forces with the all the other non-right-wing parties in Westminster, they’d barely come within touching distance of that 326 working-majority number.

 

Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats increased their share of seats by a third.  That’s a win, right?  Well academically.  They now have 12 seats instead of nine and remain utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  Next!

 

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party got its second-biggest share ever of seats in Scotland, 35 out of 59 and comfortably more than all the seats won by the other Scottish parties put together.  That surely qualifies as a win, right?  But no.  The party lost 21 of the seats it’d won in the previous election of 2015, which had been its all-time high-water-mark, with the result that their performance this time has been interpreted as a loss.  That’s certainly how the anti-SNP mainstream media in Scotland has been spinning it furiously since Friday.

 

The Scottish results are rich in irony.  The Scottish Labour Party managed to increase its number of seats from one to seven, helped no doubt by the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing credentials north of the border.  Yet for the past few years the Scottish Labour Party has been notable for its loathing of Corbyn.  ‘SLAB’ leader Keiza Dugdale claimed that Corbyn would leave the Labour Party ‘carping from the side-lines’ and Ian Murray, previously Labour’s only Scottish MP, once resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in an effort to undermine him.

 

Meanwhile, the way the media has fawned over Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson since the election has left many with the impression that Scotland has now entirely turned Tory and Davidson has somehow become the new Queen of Scots.  I’ve seen comments on Twitter by hurt English Labour voters, berating the Scots for changing the habits of a lifetime, voting Tory en masse and letting the Conservatives finish ahead of Corbyn.  For the record, Davidson’s Tories won 13 seats in Scotland, 22% of the total – a lot by their usual standards in Scotland but nowhere near a majority.  Though in the topsy-turvy world of Britain’s 2017 general election, a showing of 22% is construed as a victory.  (Yet another irony is that the pro-Brexit Scottish Tories won their seats in regions like the Borders and the North-East, heavily dependent on agriculture, which will likely get hammered when Brexit goes ahead and EU farming subsidies stop being paid.)

 

One group who lost utterly was the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, which went from a vote-share of 12.7% in 2015 to a share of 1.8% in 2017, won no seats at all and saw its leader, the wretched Paul Nuttall, come close to losing his deposit when he stood in the constituency of Boston and Skegness.  Thus, UKIP are dead, buried and hopefully already in an advanced state of decomposition.  Good riddance to them.

 

© Daily Mirror

 

And probably the party who are feeling most chuffed post-election are the afore-mentioned DUP in Northern Ireland, who won 10 seats; and who since Friday morning have had Theresa May, desperate to form a Conservative-DUP coalition, wooing and serenading them like Romeo under Juliet’s balcony in Act 2, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet.  Yes, because the DUP have become the new kingmakers at Westminster, they could be identified as the real winners of this election.  Mind you, if you examine their beliefs and political record, you soon appreciate what a shower of losers they are.

 

Where to begin with Theresa May’s new best friends, the DUP?  Well, there’s the fact that as a bunch of Bible-thumping, science-hating nincompoops they include in their ranks such specimens as Thomas Buchanan, who campaigns for creationism to be taught in schools, condemns evolution as a “peddled lie” and proudly asserts that “the world was spoken into existence in six days by His power”; and Trevor Clarke, who until very recently believed that HIV was something that affected only gay people; and Sammy Wilson, who mind-bogglingly served as Northern Irish Environment Minister whilst denying the existence of climate change and dismissing the Paris agreement with Trumpian scorn as “window dressing for climate chancers”.

 

They have a medieval attitude towards women’s issues and gay rights, ensuring that that Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion is illegal, and vetoing any move towards the legislation existing in the rest of the UK that allows same-sex people to get married.  Former DUP politician Iris Robinson – whose hubby Peter served as Northern Irish First Minister for several years – once described homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ and prescribed psychiatric treatment as a cure for it.  “Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ,” she reasoned, heart-warmingly, “so can a homosexual…”  I hope some journalist tackles out-and-proud lesbian Ruth Davidson about what she thinks of her boss in London climbing into bed with Robinson’s party.

 

I’m from Northern Ireland originally so I know it’s futile hoping for religion and politics to be kept apart in the province.  But even if you forget their religiosity and focus purely on their performance as politicians, the DUP are useless.  Their disdain for environmental issues didn’t stop them running the disastrous Renewable Heat Incentive or ‘cash-for-ash’ scheme, encouraging folk to switch from fossil fuel to biomass heating systems; which not very smartly meant that claimants could get £1.60 back for every £1 they spent.  Hence, crafty local farmers were soon rushing to install biomass heating in empty sheds.  This happened while current DUP First Minister Arlene Foster was running Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and is believed to have cost the taxpayer £400 million.

 

And then there’s the tale of the DUP receiving a £425,000 donation from dodgy sources, of which £282,000 was subsequently spent on funding a ‘vote leave’ advertisement in the Metro newspaper during the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum.  The Metro isn’t even published in Northern Ireland.  Soon after the vote, and despite her own party backing Brexit, DUP Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen went scuttling off to Brussels to plead for continued EU support for Northern Irish farmers – a shameless act of grovelling hypocrisy.

 

But the most entertaining instance of DUP duplicity and corruption is, of course, the 2009 scandal involving Iris Robinson and a man nearly 40 years her junior.  Robinson not only had an extramarital affair with him but also illegally procured some £50,000 to help him out with a business project.  Needless to say, this turned the supposedly God-fearing and holier-than-thou Robinson into a figure of ridicule.  And with a name like ‘Mrs Robinson’, she was really asking for trouble.

 

© Irish News

 

Right, that’s enough politics for now.  I’m seriously depressed.  The UK has become the equivalent of a clown-car, trundling towards Brexit, with the beleaguered Theresa May and those idiots in the DUP at the steering wheel.  The only way this scenario might change is if May gets usurped by her party, which isn’t known for showing mercy towards failed leaders.  But if that happens, her replacement is likely to be Boris Johnson – and substituting Boris for May is like treating an open wound by pouring sulfuric acid into it.

 

So there’ll be no more politics in Blood and Porridge for a while.  Unless they decide to clear up the shambles caused by this election by holding another bloody one next week.

 

Expect open season on Jeremy Corbyn

 

© The Independent

 

In my previous blog-post I said going to a music concert was a way of enjoying culture “in one of its most egalitarian, communal and spontaneous forms.”  This makes Monday night’s bomb attack by an evil psychopath on a concert in Manchester seem especially heinous.  Mind you, it was made even worse by the fact that the bomber had targeted an event that would clearly be attended by many youngsters.

 

Afterwards, social media was dominated by reactions to the bombing, some of which rekindled your faith in human goodness – the way the city of Manchester came together, for example, to help those left injured or stranded by the attack – and some of which had the opposite effect.  Witness hatred-vomiters like Katie Hopkins, who tweeted a demand for a ‘final solution’; or Daily Telegraph hack Allison Pearson, who raved that thousands should be put in ‘internment camps’.  (If we’re going to intern potential trouble-makers, why not start by interning people who call for politicians to be decapitated, as Pearson’s headline-writers did for a Telegraph piece she wrote about Nicola Sturgeon not so long ago.)

 

Talking of newspapers, I have a queasy feeling that once campaigning for next month’s general election resumes – it’s currently suspended as a mark of respect for the Manchester bombing’s victims – there will be an awful lot of shit flung at Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by the country’s many right-wing newspapers: the Telegraph, Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and so on.  Against all expectations, Corbyn has enjoyed a decent election campaign so far.  Okay, he hasn’t been that more effective than his usual somnolent self, but his party has proposed some policies that seem to chime with the public mood and at least he’s been visible on the campaign trail, which is more than can be said for his opposite number, Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Theresa May.  So far, she’s been woeful.  Her strategy this election seems to be to hide from the public, hide from journalists and hide from any questions that might involve even a modicum of spontaneous thought.  She’s hopelessly unable to think on her feet and on the rare occasions that a journalist who isn’t afraid to ask awkward questions gets near her – as Andrew Neil did in a BBC interview a few evenings ago – the results are cringeworthy.

 

In fact, throughout the campaign, the lead May has enjoyed over Corbyn, once vast and seemingly impregnable, has gradually shrunk.  The way things were going, I’d still have expected her to win; but Corbyn looked capable of polling more votes than Ed Miliband did in 2015 and May was no longer guaranteed the massive majority in the House of Commons that she assumed she’d get when she called the election in the first place.

 

What I expect will happen now, though, is that the majority of Britain’s newspapers, which are owned by various right-wing millionaire and billionaire moguls like Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond, Lord Rothermere and the Barclay Brothers and which have been rattled by the fact that their heroine Theresa hasn’t been performing as well as they’d expected, will exploit the Manchester bombing and hammer home the message that JEREMY… CORBYN… IS… SOFT… ON… TERRORISM!  They’ll go beyond that, in fact.  They’ll relentlessly smear him as a terrorist sympathiser and imply that anyone who votes for him is betraying the memory of those killed in Manchester.

 

Corbyn’s supposed weakness for terrorism comes from the fact, as a left-wing backbench MP in the 1980s, he supported the principle of a united Ireland and had dealings with the IRA.  Now a couple of decades ago, when the Northern Irish Troubles were at their worst, I was deeply irritated by the fact that for many left-wingers it was trendy to express solidarity with the IRA.  I say that as a Northern Irish Protestant who, among other things, briefly attended school with the boy who was killed when the IRA blew up Lord Mountbatten in 1978.  But Corbyn wasn’t the only British politician hobnobbing with the IRA back then.  The governments of Conservative Prime Ministers Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major spoke to them too, albeit surreptitiously.  So did the 1970s Labour government of Harold Wilson.

 

And even the most hard-line Northern Irish Protestant politician of the era, who spent decades bellowing, “NO SURRENDER TO THE IRA!”, ended up talking to, working with and from all accounts getting along rather well with one member of the organisation, at least.

 

© BBC

 

Meanwhile, post-Manchester, Theresa May will no doubt be portrayed by the press as an unflinching, Churchillian bulwark against the evils and dangers of terrorism.  But actually, back in March, she threatened our European allies that intelligence on terrorism could be withheld if Britain didn’t get its way in the forthcoming talks about Brexit.  (Murdoch’s Sun reported this with the jeering front-page headline YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIVES.)  Yes, that was Teresa May making a veiled threat that Britain might put other Europeans at risk from terrorism if Brexit didn’t go swimmingly.  However, because of the way the newspapers are in contemporary Britain, I bet you won’t hear many journalists mention that between now and election day.

 

The leaning tower of Theresa

 

© BBC

 

I haven’t written anything about politics on this blog recently.  This is because writing about politics involves thinking about politics, and these days thinking about politics involves fighting off the urge to go away and shoot myself.  However, in the United Kingdom, a lot has been happening lately – the council elections in England, Scotland and Wales held two days ago and the unexpected announcement of a general election to be held on June 8th.  Thus, I guess I’d better say something.  Here goes.

 

Wow.  That was some speech by our Prime Minister Theresa May the other day, once she’d been to Buckingham Palace to inform the Queen about parliament being dissolved in preparation for the general election on June 8th.  May claimed that the European Union was out to get her, and her government, and by extension dear old Blighty itself: “Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials.  All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election which will take place on June 8th.”

 

For someone who’s been making a big hoo-ha about the strength and stability of her leadership recently, these allegations about nasty Johnny Foreigner sounded particularly unhinged – not so much the utterances of a Prime Minister but the utterances of the crazy old lady who gets onto the bus and sits beside you and spends the ensuing journey wittering about how purple lizards are eating her feet.

 

And is it just me, or is the gurning May looking more and more like Bette Davis as the grotesque Jane Hudson in Robert Aldrich’s 1962 gothic classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

 

© Daily Mirror

© Warner Bros. / Seven Arts Productions

 

However, as Polonius remarks in Hamlet, “Though this be madness, yet there is madness in’t.”  Her diatribe against the Europeans might have made any sane listener think she was a basket-case; but many people, not necessarily sane, who in recent elections had been voting for the xenophobic right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, aka UKIP, decided they liked the cut of May’s jib and voted instead for her Conservative Party at Thursday’s local-government elections.  As a result, the Conservatives surged in those elections, whereas UKIP’s representation on councils across Britain dropped from 146 to… one.

 

It’s good to see UKIP, the toxic tarantula of British politics, get stomped to death.  Unfortunately, that tarantula has been stomped on by a rabid gorilla, the Conservative Party, and it’s going to stomp on you next.

 

If these results are repeated in the June general election – and with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party looking so spectacularly useless, there’s no reason why they won’t – then the Conservatives will get a whopping majority in parliament and May will be queen of all she surveys, in Britain anyway.  Unfortunately, she’ll then have to try and negotiate Brexit, i.e. Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.  Which means sitting down with and spending the next few years in long, complicated and arduous talks with the very people she’s severely pissed off – the EU itself and its 27 member governments.

 

Already, May’s government has approached these negotiations with the finesse of Godzilla taking a stroll through downtown Tokyo.  Her initiation of Brexit on March 29th came with a warning that, in the event of no deal being agreed, the UK might be reluctant to share intelligence about terrorism with its former EU partners – a charmless threat that prompted the Sun newspaper to run the front-page headline: YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIVES (“Trade with us and we’ll fight terror.”)  Although May says she disapproves of foreigners interfering in UK politics, she’s never spoken out against the constant, decades-long interference by one foreigner, the Sun’s proprietor Rupert Murdoch, who’s Australian-American.

 

Soon after came an insinuation by former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard that Britain could go to war with EU-member Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar.  (Cue the Sun again: UP YOURS, SENORS!)  I’m perfectly aware that Howard is an old idiot and not to be taken seriously, but it’s depressing that neither May nor anyone in her cabinet saw fit to condemn his comments.

 

Then, the other week, there was the now-infamous dinner attended by May and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, at which Juncker was astonished by how ill-informed and simplistic May was about the complexity and length of the negotiations ahead.  No wonder afterwards he got on the phone to Angela Merkel and warned her that the British PM “lived in another galaxy.”  Details of the dinner were leaked to a German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, which seems to have inspired May’s rantings about EU interference in the forthcoming election.  Not that I imagine many of the British electorate reading the Frankfurter Allgemeine, or being able to read German for that matter.  I wonder if some of the people likely to vote for May can even read English.

 

Following the May-Juncker dinner debacle, just to make the Conservatives’ charm offensive of Europe complete, Ruth Davidson – May’s loyal lieutenant, ventriloquist dummy and mini-me in Scotland – suggested that Juncker’s comments weren’t to be taken seriously because he’d probably been drunk during the meal.  Yes, accusing your opposite numbers of being pissheads.  That’s the way to lay the groundwork for really successful negotiations.

 

It seems to me that Theresa May, once she has the general election in the bag, is in for a very long and very hard reality-check when the Brexit talks begin in earnest.  She may have reached the top of the pile in British politics by Euro-bashing but her words will return to haunt her.  After the abuse that’s been flung at it across the English Channel, is the EU going to show Britain a shred of sympathy or allow it a modicum of wriggle-room?  I doubt it.  Brexit looks set to be a disaster, ending with the UK tumbling out of the EU with no deal at all, something that sane economists agree would be a very bad thing indeed.

 

No doubt, though, many Conservative hardliners are rubbing their hands in glee at this prospect.  It’d wreck the British economy, yes.  But then they’d be free to build that economy up again from the wreckage, fashioning it into a low-tax, no-minimum-wage, regulation-free, zero-hour-contracts-galore monstrosity that fits their scary alt-right vision of Britain as Air Strip One / Tax Haven Two / Sweatshop Three.

 

In the short term, Theresa May has scaled the heights thanks to anti-European opportunism and calculation.  But I predict it’ll end badly once the Brexit process kicks in.  The Tower of Theresa has been built on rotten foundations and it’s going to topple.  Let’s hope Britain as we know it isn’t flattened beneath the rubble.

 

From madhatters.me.uk

 

And incidentally, if you need any more reasons not to vote Conservative in the forthcoming general election, here’s 30 of them. 

 

I hear you’re a racist now, SNP

 

© Hat Trick Productions

 

Well, that was nice of the Scottish Labour Party.  Last weekend, they held their spring conference and presumably, like any political party, they hoped they’d present themselves in a good light.  Good enough to win a few new voters or, in their case, win back a few old voters.  Because in recent years the Scottish Labour Party has haemorrhaged support – in 1999 it had 56 seats in the Scottish Parliament and another 56 in the Westminster one, compared with 24 Scottish seats and just one Westminster seat today.  And a great many of those former Labour voters have defected to the pro-independence Scottish National Party.

 

So in their wisdom what did Scottish Labour do?  They got Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, to come to Scotland on Saturday and give a conference speech that accused the SNP of racism.  Yep, that’ll win those old supporters back.  Call them racists.

 

Specifically, Khan talked of “Brexit, the election of President Trump and the rise of populist and narrow nationalist parties around the world” and said there was no difference between the likes of the SNP and “those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion.”  Which sounds like a pretty good definition of racism to me.

 

Admittedly, when Khan delivered the speech, he tried to tone it down slightly – but the damage had been done for it’d already been printed in the Scottish Labour-supporting tabloid the Daily Record.  And it sparked a tremendous uproar from SNP supporters, furious that despite backing a party that’s probably the most pro-immigration and pro-European Union of the major parties in Britain today, they’d been told they were no better than, say, the British National Party, National Front and English and Scottish Defence Leagues.  You know, real racist organisations.

 

One thing that stuck in many people’s craws was the fact that back before the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, while the SNP had campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote, the BNP, National Front, EDL and SDL had all campaigned for a ‘no’ one.  Indeed, the racists’ campaign literature had often warned that in an independent Scotland the SNP would bring in more immigrants, more refugees, more Muslims, etc.  Though I have to say this picture tweeted by ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin as a warning about how an independent Scotland would look is so cool it surely made more people vote for independence than against it.

 

© Metro

 

Incidentally, Khan’s mention of religious divisiveness seems ironic too considering that there have been moments in recent history when his party in Scotland has cosied up to the pro-Protestant, anti-Catholic Orange Order – Labour councillors in Falkirk handing more than £1000 of public money to the Order in May 2016, for instance, or Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council throwing more cash at it in June 2012 so it could stage street parties in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

 

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/8416/labour-party-council-leader-votes-give-orange-order-community-funding

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13060185.City_funds_Orange_events/

 

Labour’s response to the furore was to claim that, because Khan comes from a British Pakistani family, anyone disputing his ‘SNP equals racism’ claims were themselves racist. Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Anas Sarwar, also of Pakistani descent, tweeted: “Quite ironic that 2 brown guys are being abused / trolled by mob of angry white men in a racism row.”

 

Actually, the people who got angry about Khan’s speech included the correspondent Robert J. Somynne, lawyer Aamer Anwar, entrepreneur Yasmin A. Choudhury and SNP politicians Humza Yousaf and Tasmina Sheikh, none of whom are ‘white guys’.  Not all of them are ‘guys’, either.

 

At least Khan received some backing from Scotland’s not-in-love-with-the-SNP mainstream press.  Among those voicing support for him were Stephen Daisley, columnist for the totally non-racist, pro-immigrant, pro-refugee, pro-Muslim Daily Mail, and Iain Martin, former deputy editor, head of comment, columnist and blogger with the totally non-racist, pro-immigrant, pro-refugee, pro-Muslim Telegraph newspapers.

 

Then on Monday evening the Guardian newspaper poured fuel on the fire and published an opinion piece by a PhD student at Stirling University called Claire Heuchan.  Baldly titled THE PARALLELS BETWEEN SCOTTISH NATIONALISM AND RACISM ARE CLEAR, the piece promptly started its own shitstorm.  By the time the Guardian decided to close the comments thread underneath, two hours after it’d appeared, there were 1242 comments – many of them not written in admiration of Heuchan’s thought-processes.

 

Well, regular readers of this blog will know that I’m sympathetic to both the SNP and its goal of an independent Scotland and I have to say Heuchan’s Guardian piece annoyed me even more than Khan’s speech, mainly because her arguments were so half-baked.  For example: “Zeal for national identity invariably raises questions of who belongs and who is an outsider”, which makes me wonder why this has to be a peculiarly Scottish issue.  After all, zeal for national identity in Britain as a whole amputated the country from the European Union recently and left many EU nationals living in Britain fearful for their futures.  Actually, if national identity’s so bad, shouldn’t Heuchan be petitioning for Britain to shed its borders and merge with France, Germany and everywhere else in Europe?

 

She criticises the independence movement for its supposed belief that that Scotland is better than England, which will be news to those who simply want an independent Scotland run by the people who live in it – including English folk, ethnic minorities and EU nationals – because they believe it would be better run that way than by Westminster.  Not better than England or anywhere else, but just better than how Scotland is now.

 

She castigates independence supporters for holding England “accountable for all the wrongs of imperial expansion while denying this country’s own colonial legacy”, which forgets that prominent pro-independence Scottish historians like Tom Devine have written extensively about Scotland’s role in shaping the British Empire.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6524149.stm

 

Then there are the claims that Heuchan, who’s a person of colour, makes about whiteness.  Being white means your’re entirely immune and oblivious to racism, apparently.  The trade unionist Claire Hepworth is criticised for tweeting that she’s never heard any of her SNP-supporting friends and followers being racist.  “Comments such as Hepworth’s only make it harder for people of colour to come forward about the discrimination we face…”  Suggesting that because she doesn’t know anyone who’s racist, Hepworth is an accomplice to racism.  And a claim that “(w)hite SNP supporters and allies have never been subject to racism” seems unlikely considering that many SNP voters in Scotland are of Irish descent or belong to other white national groups and quite possibly have been subject to racism.

 

Soon after the Guardian’s comments thread was closed, Heuchan disappeared from Twitter too.  I imagine certain newspapers like the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the also totally non-racist, pro-immigrant, pro-refugee, pro-Muslim Daily Express will soon be running horror stories about her being hounded off Twitter by racist SNP scumbags.

 

To be honest, I suspect the real reason why the Twitter account vanished was because people were reading her past tweets and finding items from before the 2014 independence referendum that showed she was a ‘British and proud’ activist campaigning for a ‘no’ vote. Now Heuchan is free to define her identity whatever way she likes.  But it might have been wise to temper her piece with a wee bit of balance and admit that British nationalism can be racist too.  Ask those many people who were abused on British streets for speaking a language other than English during the giddy days that followed dear old Blighty voting for Brexit.

 

No political movement consists wholly of angels.  I’m sure a few racist bampots who object to both coloured people and English people do support the cause of Scottish independence.  And I know that in the past the SNP had its share of anti-English bigots.  (Though in the 1980s I knew some Scottish Labour supporters who’d mouth off about ‘English bastards’ too, on account of them voting Maggie Thatcher into power every four years.)

 

But if the pro-EU, pro-immigration SNP are going to be maligned as racists, what does that make Theresa May’s Conservative Party, hellbent on steering Britain out of Europe, using EU nationals in Britain as ‘bargaining chips’, ramping up the rhetoric against immigrants and refugees and toadying to a bigoted thug like Donald Trump?  Indeed, what does that make Sadiq Khan’s Labour Party, now that at Westminster they’ve resolved to support the Conservatives over Brexit?

 

Worse, I’d say.  Much worse.

 

© The Independent

 

Time’s up for Tam

 

© BBC

 

It’s fair to say that the state of modern British politics is dire.  Desperate for a trade deal that might punt a little money the way of post-Brexit Britain (and desperate to show that the country still has friends on the international stage and isn’t a global Billy No-Mates), our Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has just hobnobbed in Washington DC with President Donald Trump.  Trump is a man whose idea of a successful trade deal is to make sure he ends up with all the money in his pockets and the other guy is left with a big, fat, humiliating zero – he wrote a book with Tony Schwartz in 1987 called The Art of the Deal but it should really have been titled The Art of the Steal.  So I suspect that Theresa’s attempted wooing of the Trumpster isn’t going to end well.

 

Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is an oaf whose ideas about how to make friends and influence people involve such antics as going to France and cracking jokes about World War II punishment beatings.  And the British Labour Party seems to have given up on providing any meaningful opposition to May, Johnson and co and has gone from setback to disaster to catastrophe to apocalypse.  Instrumental in this has been the woeful leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.  Ethically, I don’t think Corbyn is a bad bloke, but he seems to have the management skills of a drunk chimp.

 

This makes me nostalgic for an older era of British politics when at least a few politicians managed to combine intelligence with conviction.  One such person was Tam Dalyell, Member of Parliament for West Lothian and then Linlithgow for over forty years, who died a few days ago at the age of 84.

 

Tam had a privileged background.  He spent his childhood in a grand Scottish mansion near the Firth of Forth and inherited a title, the Baronetcy of Dalyell, from his mother’s side of the family.  He got much of his education at Eton College and Cambridge University, whilst doing national service with the Royal Scots Greys for a period between the two institutions.  Significantly, he didn’t get through officer training and ended up serving as a common soldier.

 

Later, he taught for three years at Bo’ness Academy, near to his family home, and he also wrote a column for the New Scientist magazine.  This interest in science was just one example of his eclecticism – he’d started off studying mathematics at university, then changed to history and then done an additional degree in economics.

 

Despite his well-heeled origins – which gave him a rather languid, aristocratic air – Tam was left-wing in his politics and when he became a Member of Parliament it was for the Labour Party, not the Conservatives.  Not that Labour Party leaders had less reason to curse him than Conservative Party ones had, for when it came to being a contrarian Tam was in a league of his own.  Whenever he got his teeth into an issue he felt was worth fighting for, he didn’t release it in a hurry and didn’t give a damn whom he annoyed.

 

An early cause was the injustice wreaked upon the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, whom the British evicted between 1968 and 1973 to clear the way for the establishment of an American military base there.  He was also a thorn in the side of the 1970s Labour government when it tried, then unsuccessfully, to introduce devolved governments for Scotland and Wales.  Tam’s argument was that the devolution proposals made Britain’s system of government unfair and unbalanced.  It would be wrong to still have Scottish MPs present in Westminster influencing decisions that affected England, if there was a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh making decisions affecting Scotland that English MPs had no influence over at all.  Four decades later, the UK has a devolved system of government and the conundrum identified by Tam – which became known as the West Lothian Question after the name of his old constituency – has never been satisfactorily addressed.

 

Elsewhere, Tam’s role as a one-man awkward squad knew no bounds.  He spent years hounding Margaret Thatcher’s government about the General Belgrano, the Argentinian warship sunk with heavy loss of life by British forces during 1982’s Falklands War.  The Belgrano had been torpedoed outside, not inside, the 200-mile-radius Exclusion Zone established by Britain around the Falkland Islands as the war’s official combat zone.  He also questioned the verdict of the Lockerbie Bombing trial, the legitimacy of the first Gulf War and of military intervention in Kosovo, and the justification for invading Iraq in 2003.  Indeed, the Iraq fiasco prompted him to brand his then party leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair a war criminal and he came close to having the Labour Party whip withdrawn, i.e. he was nearly kicked out of the party.

 

Needless to say, Tam blew his chances early on of being considered for a ministerial position and high office.  He got as far as being Parliamentary Private Secretary to the minister Richard Crossman in the 1960s.  But I suspect he was happier sitting on the back benches, being a pain in the neck.

 

After retiring as an MP in 2005, one way in which Tam kept himself busy was by writing obituaries – often for people from Scottish political backgrounds such as Sam Galbraith, Bruce Millan and Albert McQuarrie – for the Independent newspaper.  His obituaries were erudite and gracious towards political friends and foes alike.

 

I recall one obituary Tam penned a few years ago about Margo MacDonald, the formidable one-time Scottish National Party MP (and later an independent Member of the Scottish Parliament).  Tam concluded by sheepishly admitting that he’d liked Margo so much that, despite his credentials as a long-time opponent of Scottish self-government and her credentials as a long-term supporter of it, he’d gone and voted for her in the last Scottish parliamentary elections.  More evidence that right to the end Tam Dalyell was his own man.

 

© The Independent

 

The multiple personalities of Ruth Davidson

 

From caltonjock.com

From zimbio.com

(c) BBC

 

I’m looking forward to the new movie Split, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.  Ever since Shyamalan made his name in 1999 with the spooky classic The Sixth Sense, he seems to have frittered away his talent with a string of increasingly disappointing films like Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008), The Last Airbender (2010) and After Earth (2013), but early reviews of Split have been largely positive and suggest Shyamalan has retrieved his mojo.  What has particularly impressed the critics is the film’s central performance by Scottish actor James McAvoy, who plays a man with multiple-personality disorder.  In fact, McAvoy’s condition is so extreme that he’s inhabited by no fewer than 23 different, competing and sometimes conflicting personalities.

 

But James McAvoy isn’t the only Scot who’s displayed symptoms of multiple-personality disorder recently.  If you examine the pronouncements of Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, it’s clear that poor Ruth isn’t a single psychological entity either.  Rather, she’s a walking battleground where various, often diametrically-opposed personalities fight for supremacy.

 

For example, there’s one personality within Ruth that’s staunchly pro-European Union.  This personality was in control, temporarily, when she took part in a debate before last June’s vote on whether or not Britain should leave the EU.  Railing against the Brexiting likes of Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom, she declared, “The other side have said throughout this debate that they don’t like experts but when it comes to keeping this country safe and secure I want to listen to the experts.  So when the head of GCHQ says we are safer in the EU I listen.  When five former NATO chiefs say we are safer in the EU I listen.  When the head of Interpol, who is a Brit, says we are safer in the EU I listen.  When the head of MI5 and MI6 says we are safer in the EU I listen.”  Even the left-wing, anti-Tory New Statesman magazine was sufficiently impressed to call her a ‘stand-out performer’ afterwards.

 

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/06/eu-referendum-debate-sadiq-khan-and-ruth-davidson-give-remain-punch-it-needs

 

From politicshome.com

 

Presumably it was the same pro-EU version of Ruth who, before the referendum, posed with other Scottish political party leaders of in support a ‘remain’ vote.  And the same version again who, two years earlier, had urged the Scots to vote ‘no’ to independence (and ‘yes’ to remaining part of the UK) for the reason that this would guarantee Scotland’s place in the European Union: “No means we stay in, we are members of the European Union.”

 

Oops, that didn’t work out well, did it?

 

But fast-forward to today.  The British public narrowly voted to leave the EU and suddenly a new personality has wrested control of Ruth Davidson, one that’s in favour of Britain quitting the EU too; one that sees juicy economic opportunities for post-EU Britain; and one that opposes everything the Scottish National Party, which runs the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh, is trying to do to preserve Scotland’s place in the EU.  Britain – though admittedly not Scotland, which voted by 62% to 38% to stay – chose to leave the EU, barks this new Ruth.  So get over the result and get on with Brexiting!

 

Admittedly, Ruth’s new pro-Brexit personality has at least expressed support for the UK, and by extension Scotland, remaining in the EU’s single market.  It’s something she believes Scotland should have “the largest amount of access to.”   Though Theresa May, British Prime Minister, Tory supremo and Ruth’s big boss in London, ruled this out in a speech a week ago when she declared that Britain “cannot possibly” remain in the single market because it would mean “not leaving the EU at all.”

 

Oops again.  That didn’t work out well, did it?

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-38555683

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-38641208

 

I suspect a third personality might surface in Ruth Davidson soon.  One that’s totally hard-line in its support of Brexit and rejects the single market as much as it rejects every other aspect of the EU – you know, sort of like what Theresa May’s been saying.  I don’t know why I think this.  Call it a hunch.

 

There’s yet another personality lurking inside Ruth that manifests itself occasionally – one that loathes the USA’s new president, Donald Trump.  This personality was clearly in control of Ruth last year when she borrowed a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 and trolled the ginger-skinned tycoon on Twitter: “Trump’s a clay-brained guts, knotty-pated fool, whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch, right?”

 

Yet two days ago, her boss Theresa May arrived in the USA to meet President Trump and suddenly another personality took hold of poor Ruth – one that seemed a lot more sanguine about the clay-brained, knotty-pated, whoreson, obscene, greasy, etc. businessman-cum-world-leader.  This new version of Ruth believed May – who described Trump’s presidency as dawn breaking “on a new era of American renewal” – just had to open her mouth and talk a wee bit of sense into him and everything would be okay.  May’s first speech in the USA, tweeted this new Ruth, “promotes liberal internationalism, warns on Putin, defends Muslims and makes case for democratic leadership in the world.  Bravo.”

 

Actually, Ruth’s words about May defending Muslims were perhaps a bit premature seeing as soon afterwards Trump slapped a ban on refugees entering the USA from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.  On Holocaust Memorial Day of all days, too.

 

Oops, that didn’t work out well, did it?

 

Some people would argue that Ruth Davidson doesn’t have a multiple-personality disorder at all – that her situation as a Conservative with reasonably liberal instincts and something of a social conscience who runs the Scottish branch of her party but who has to take orders from a considerably more right-wing regime in London means that during her pronouncements she needs to do more twisting and turning than a whirling dervish.  But I don’t believe Ruth could be as supine and pathetic as that.  I think there’s something genuinely, seriously wrong with her.  She ought to see a psychiatrist immediately.

 

But who’s going to have a word with her?  Who’s going to take her aside and give her this well-meaning but unpleasant advice?  Probably not her many sycophantic fans in the mainstream Scottish press, who kiss her arse as enthusiastically as Theresa May’s been kissing Trump’s arse recently.

 

© Blinding Edge Pictures / Blumhouse Productions

 

Mid-January news round-up

 

Here at Blood and Porridge I like to think I have my finger on the pulse, offering opinions on the big news stories the moment they happen.  Alas, I’ve been up to my eyes in work this last fortnight and haven’t been able to post much.  And meanwhile, during the same fortnight, the big news stories have come thick and fast.

 

To make amends, here’s a quick round-up of those recent news items as Blood and Porridge sees them.

 

Knobhead of 2017 found already

Only two-and-a-half weeks ago I named Nigel Farage as the biggest knobhead of 2016.  The reason why Farage won that title despite stiff opposition from US president-elect Donald Trump was because: “Trump is the equivalent of the loud malevolent playground bully who blighted your childhood.  But there was always one kid who was more detestably obnoxious than that – the slimy little sneak who grovelled before and sucked up to the bully, hoping to attain a smidgeon of his aura of cruel power.  And since it became clear that Trump was going to be the most powerful man on the planet, Farage has been doing a good impersonation of the slimy little sneak, scurrying across the Atlantic to do some major sucking up to the gruesome orange-skinned tycoon.”

 

Well, if that’s the criteria for making yourself the most loathsome and pustulent human being of the year, it looks like we already have a winner for 2017.

 

© The Daily Mirror

 

Michael Gove recently scuttled over to Trump Tower in New York to sychophantically interview Trump on behalf of the Times newspaper.  The resulting article was shocking even before Gove started the interview.  Describing the ascent in the Trump Tower’s infamous gold-plated lift, he wrote, “It was as though the Great Glass Elevator from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been restyled by Donatella Versace, then staffed by the casting director for Gone with the Wind.”  Gove felt moved to insert that Gone with the Wind reference because the lift had an “African-American attendant kitted out in frock coat and white cotton gloves.”  I wonder if the Trump organisation had forced him to pick the cotton that his gloves were made of.

 

Is Trump a Russian plant?

Speaking of Donald Trump, there’s been a kerfuffle lately about an intelligence dossier accusing Trump of being a puppet of Russian president Vladimir Putin.  The dossier alleges that those pesky Russkies spent more than five years cultivating Trump as a US presidential candidate with the intention of getting him into the White House and letting him wreak havoc on the Western world.  It also warns that they have “potentially compromising personal and financial information about him”, including saucy stuff involving prostitutes and what’s euphemistically known as ‘golden showers’.  Cue a million jokes on Twitter about Trump being the next Pee-OTUS and about him talking pish.  Oh, and ‘urine for a shock’ when he becomes president.

 

From talkingpointsmemo.com

 

Just before Trump’s lawyers get in touch with Blood and Porridge, I should say the dossier’s claims are so far unverified and their accuracy has been questioned in many quarters, not just by Trump’s supporters.  And the Orange One himself has strenuously denounced them as ‘fake news’ and ‘phony stuff’.

 

Still, this malarkey calls to mind certain works of fiction and celluloid – for example, Richard Conlon’s conspiracy thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1959), filmed in 1962 and 2004, about the Chinese and Russians using a brainwashed Korean War veteran to carry out a political assassination in the USA; and Robert Harris’s The Ghost (2007), filmed three years later by Roman Polanski, in which a very Tony Blair-esque former British prime minister turns out to have been a CIA plant.

 

My favourite entry in this sub-genre, though, is the Don Siegel-directed movie Telefon (1977), based on a 1975 novel by William Wager, in which mad Russian scientist Donald Pleasance tries to start World War III by activating a network of brainwashed sleeper-agents across the USA.  These agents develop a glazed look and lumber off and attack American military installations as soon as Pleasance gives them a ‘trigger’, which is the recital of certain lines of verse by Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep…

 

© MGM

 

Not that I think Trump would become glazed-eyed and trudge off zombie-like to attack a military installation if you recited Robert Frost at him.  Somehow, I doubt if poetry has much effect on him.  In fact, he probably he thinks Robert Frost was the guy who interviewed Nixon.

 

May rejects Europe, except for Bulgaria

January 17th saw British prime minister Theresa May give a historic speech about the nature of Britain’s ‘Brexit’ from the European Union at Lancaster House.  Guess what?  It’s going to be hard!

 

If there was one thing ghastlier than Ms May’s pronouncements – she even warned that if the EU didn’t accommodate Britain’s demands, she would “change the basis of Britain’s economic model”, i.e. slash taxes to lure businesses away from the EU even though this would leave next-to-no-money to pay for Britain’s public services – it was the head-to-toe blue tartan outfit she wore that day.

 

© The Daily Telegraph

 

It makes me wonder if someone somewhere is making a movie of the old British TV children’s series The Wombles and May fancies her chances of landing the role of the Wombles’ venerable patriarch, Great Uncle Bulgaria.

 

From Wombles Wiki

 

Trump’s inauguration still short of talent

Back to Donald Trump.  His presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington DC on January 20th has been beset by problems.  At least 50 Democrat lawmakers have announced they’ll be staying away.  The demand for hotel rooms has been low compared to previous inaugurations, with some Washington DC hotels reporting they’re only half-full.  And scalpers are struggling to offload tickets for the event.

 

On top of all that, there’s been a noticeable reluctance among the musical community to perform at the thing.  Everyone from Elton John to Celine Dion, Kiss and even Vince Neil of Motley Crüe have turned down invitations to sing / play and the names booked for the inauguration concerts aren’t exactly household ones, at least not in the Blood and Porridge household: Jackie Evancho, Three Doors Down, The Piano Guys, Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, DJ Ravidrums and the Frontmen of Country.

 

Apparently, a group called the B Street Band, who do covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were on the line-up but recently cancelled.  They cited as their reason the ‘respect and gratitude we have for Bruce,’ who coincidentally hates Trump’s guts.  Maybe there’s another Springsteen tribute band that could be recruited?  The C Street Band?  The D Street Band?

 

But if Trump’s people are still hunting for a performer to enliven those inauguration day concerts, I could direct them to one famous artiste whom I’m sure would be only too happy to step in at the last minute.

 

He’s someone whose stomping, glitzy anthems capture both the brassy boldness that Donald Trump no doubt believes is one of his winning qualities and the shiny opulence of the Trump empire, gold-plated lifts and all.  Someone who was a legend in his time, but who’s been off the radar for a little while and would surely welcome the new exposure that playing the inauguration would bring.

 

Yes, I give you…

 

From blog.thecurrent.org