(c) Channel 4
Imagine what would have happened if during my schooldays I’d arrived home one afternoon and told my mum in a jubilant voice: “Mum! I had a big test today and I got 22% of the answers right! And thanks to my superb result everyone now thinks I’m amazingly clever! Even the principal’s so impressed by my brilliance that in future she’s going to defer to my judgement in all decisions affecting the school!”
Actually, this is what would have happened. My mother would have promptly whacked me around the lug for being a lazy waste-of-space who hadn’t done any studying for an important test and had got 78% of the answers wrong. After that she would have taken me to a psychiatrist to have my disturbing narcissism and delusions of grandeur treated.
Yet the mainstream media has adopted a similar attitude in its reporting of the Scottish Conservative Party’s performance in the Scottish parliamentary election on May 5th. Leading the Scottish Conservatives is 37-year-old Ruth Davidson, a politician who’ll do anything for a scrap of publicity. The gregarious Davidson will ride a tank, sit on top of a bull, dress up in Highland dress and pretend to play the bagpipes. She’ll do anything, in fact, except stick the word ‘Conservative’ on her party’s promotional literature. Scottish Tories like Ruth, you see, are a wee shy about identifying themselves as Conservatives. That’s because since the reign of Margaret Thatcher Conservativism in Scotland has been, to borrow a simile from Billy Connolly, “as popular as a fart in a spacesuit”.
(c) Daily Telegraph
What happened in last week’s election was this. The Scottish National Party got 46.5% of the votes, up 1.1% on their previous performance, though they finished with 63 seats, six less than last time, and narrowly missed getting an overall majority in the parliament. Labour got 22.6% and 24 seats, 9.2% and 13 seats down on last time. The Greens and Liberal Democrats won six seats and five seats respectively. And the Tories, traditionally loathed in Scotland? They actually showed some improvement. They increased their share of the vote by 8.1% to 22% and their number of seats by 16 to 31, making them the second-biggest party in the parliament. Though thanks to the vagaries of the Scottish electoral system, they finished seven seats ahead of Labour, who got 0.6% more of the vote than they did.
So the Tories did reasonably well – but only in terms of expectations and compared with their dismal performances in Scotland in the recent past. And let’s put things in perspective. In the UK general election of 1987, the Tories polled 24% of the votes in Scotland – and that was with another female figurehead, the aforementioned Margaret Thatcher. In fact, by 1987, it’d become common knowledge that most Scots hated old Maggie’s guts and the feeling was no doubt mutual. This was when the satirical TV show Spitting Image was doing gags about Thatcher slashing a map of Scotland with a razor-fingered Freddy Krueger glove and Number 10 Downing Street having a secret laboratory where men in white coats administered Tory policies to struggling, squealing rats that wore kilts.
So last week Ruth and her gang still fell two percent short of what their party achieved in Scotland in the last election that they were led by Margaret Thatcher, the great bête noir of late-20th-century Scottish politics.
Mind you, as soon as I heard about Ruth Davidson’s result, I grimaced. I knew what was coming next. No matter what the reality, the Scottish mainstream press – which consists largely of right-wing rags like the Scottish Daily Mail, Scottish Daily Express, Scotsman and Scottish editions of the Times and Daily Telegraph – was going to have a gigantic right-wing orgasm. It was going to give us Ruth, the whole Ruth, and nothing but the Ruth. And it did. The Daily Mail proclaimed her better-than-expected showing with the headline THE ROAR OF MIDDLE SCOTLAND. (Because its volume was turned down to 22%, I assume it was a very quiet roar.) The Express’s front page shrieked SNP INDYREF 2 PLAN IN SHREDS, in the belief that because Ruth has less than a quarter of the seats in the Scottish parliament and less than half the seats of the SNP, she can now boss First Minister Nicola Sturgeon around. Starting by ordering her not to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. Aye, that’s you told, Nicky.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s legion of right-wing journalists, columnists and commentators seemed to come in their venerable tweed breeks. The Spectator’s Alex Massie, for instance, penned a piece about the Scottish Tories’ supposed revival entitled THE UNION STRIKES BACK, which was accompanied by a picture of Ruth Davidson’s head photo-shopped onto Princess Leia’s body. Someone should remind Massie that the folk who did the striking back in the celebrated 1980 sci-fi fantasy movie were the Empire, who were space-Nazis led by Darth Vader – probably not the analogy he was looking for.
Time for a reality check, guys. The SNP may not have enough seats to be a majority in the Scottish parliament but there is a pro-Scottish-independence majority – the Greens support the cause too and if you add them to the SNP you get a total of 69 seats, nine more than the combined number of pro-unionist Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat ones. And even if this wasn’t the case, the Daily Express’s claims about a second independence referendum being thwarted would be disingenuous. It’s well-known that Nicola Sturgeon has no intention of holding a second referendum anytime soon. She intends to wait a few years until she feels confident that independence has enough support to win the next referendum.
And somehow I don’t think the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats will be in any hurry to line up behind ‘Team Ruth’ and launch a great unionist uprising against the SNP government. Both parties now have bitter experience of getting humped at the polls after becoming too closely associated with the Tories. Labour suffered badly after they shared the same platform as them during the referendum campaign, as did the Liberal Democrats after they formed a coalition with them at Westminster in 2011.
In fact, if I was a moderate voter in Scotland who wanted to maintain the link with the United Kingdom, I’d feel very uneasy about Ruth Davidson and co. now being the main voices of unionism in the Scottish parliament. Unionism will now be associated more than ever with the Toryism that prevails in Westminster and all that that entails: a posh Eton-educated Tory Prime Minister who’s worth millions and who benefited financially from a Panama offshore trust; a ruling Tory cabal who in their youth would strut arrogantly around Oxford dressed in tailcoats, waistcoats and bowties and smash up restaurants; a Tory health minister whose policies have sparked the first full walkout in the history of England’s NHS; a Tory London mayoral candidate whose campaign against the eventual winner Sadiq Khan was a revolting exercise in anti-Muslim racism; a Tory government whose intention to cut £4 billion from disabled people’s benefits was deemed so ‘morally indefensible’ by its Work and Pensions Minister that he quit in protest; a Tory government that scrapped child poverty targets and wanted to turn away 3000 abandoned Syrian children; a Tory government that’s outsourced the country’s nuclear industry to China and bowed and scraped to Saudi Arabia, the world’s most notorious financer of terrorism.
Ruth Davidson might try to play down the fact, but at the end of the day she’s still Scottish branch manager for the unpleasant outfit calling the shots at Westminster. And underneath her grin and her big bubbly laugh and her general veneer of bonhomie, I can’t help suspecting there’s lurks a nasty little right-wing homunculus that looks a bit like this:
Or perhaps like this:
(c) The Guardian
Or perhaps even like this:
(c) The Guardian