Monday, May 03, 2010

Alex Salmond: pantomime villain

In the four-seasons-in-one-day weather of the Aberdeenshire coast I get into the rhythm of the election campaign. The mechanics of leafleting, avoiding the problems that dogs and tight letter boxes may bring. My mind wanders as the repetition of gate opening, walking to the door with folded leaflet ready, posting and returning builds up. First tens, then twenties, odds, evens, side streets, all build up into a pattern. Then walk one, walk two, walk three; the slight tiredness of being in the open air, the wind, the sun, the occasional spits and spots of rain. Thus leafleting. With canvassing, the organisation of the clipboard, the check of the name, the confident walk to the door- more external than internal- the knock on the door, of the ringing of the bell. "I'm calling on behalf"... "can we rely on your support this time"... "Do you think?" "Thank you for your time". Blue doors, red doors, different men, different women, and the responses: "Dad's not in", "never vote your way" "Always support..."

Thus the campaign unfolds on the ground.

Meanwhile I reflect on last nights leaders debate here in Scotland. It was a shockingly amateurish affair, the way it was broadcast reminded me of the "Good Old Days"- an old time variety show on television in the 1970s. Alex Salmond- now a bloated and jowly figure- continues his slightly sinister bullying tactics. At one point, as the Moderator yet again defers to "The First Minister" I reflect how pointless the SNP is becoming. Salmond himself is not standing for the Westminster Parliament, and although he has taken a duel salary for several years he claims to have donated his Westminster income "to charity". However, since that "charity" seems to focus entirely on Mr. Salmond's Scottish Parliamentary constituency, it looks uncomfortably like bribing the electorate of Gordon with their own money. It is hard for Alex Salmond to grasp that his time may already be past: he seems to spend much of his time trying to boost the Liberal Democrats. It is only when Salmond mentions them that the moderator takes any notice of Alastair Carmichael- serious and highland lilting. Indeed the three national parties have sent actual Westminster candidates and all of them debate the issues. However the Scottish media have a vested interest in promoting the SNP- and sure enough some of Mr. Salmonds more egregious "mis-speakings" are not picked up, still less challenged- even when the other contenders raise the various issues where the SNP is vulnerable.

The SNP has sent Salmond- which they think is a trump card- but increasingly his bluster is not applauded by the audience. He has no answers to the big questions of this campaign. He had forced the BBC to take him and no other SNP representative, even though he is not a candidate in this election. It is a bit like some heckler at a meeting- a lot of noise and attention, but essentially not part of the debate. Indeed, by forcing himself forward into centre stage he exposes the essential vacuity of his arguments.

He thought he would be Prince Charming. He looks more like King Rat.


Richard T said...

If you track back to the USA in the 1930s, Alex Salmond has more than a whiff of Huey Long (the kingfish of Louisiana politics) about him - not I hasten to add the tinge of fascism but his deep seated populism and his tendency to demagoguery. On that basis I have see him as the Kingfish in Scotland - slight pun intended.

JPJ2 said...

Referring to Alex Salmond as a "rat" rather exposes the true face of "Liberal" "Democrats" does it not.

You also say "Indeed the three national parties have sent actual Westminster candidates and all of them debate the issues."

However only the SNP actually sent its leader-don't forget Brown is the leader of the Labour Party even in Scotland, ditto Cameron, never too sure about the Lib Dems constitution but I am sure no-one in Scotland sees Carmichael as their leader.

"However the Scottish media have a vested interest in promoting the SNP"

Sorry but that comment is delusional-nobody but you belives that. Don't you read the Scottish press?

Of course, you remain the man who was certain Salmond would not win Gordon. Salmond will have a major place in the history of Scotland-a positive place and not a footnote

Colin said...

I wonder if you could elaborate on your claim that the media have a "vested interest" in promoting the SNP.

Ian R Thorpe said...

Variety Nights and pantomime villains? If only the election could hope to elicit the same kind of enthusiastic audience participation

Cicero said...

JPJ2- "King Rat" is a pantomime villain- but if the SNP think that the cap fits, then I suppose "Rat" might be appropriate.

The debate was about Westminster, so it was the Secretary of State and his shadows, which is why it was Alastair Carmichael and not Tavish Scott, who is certainly our Scottish leader.

The SNP is not supposed to be interested in Westminster, but of course there is not a Minister for UK affairs in the SNP government and -as always- they misunderstand the value and the power of our relationship with the other nations of the UK. It is not that the SNP sent its leader: it is that they do not have anyone else good enough and in the end Salmond had to bluster and bully his way in to a debate where he was not the most appropriate figure.

As far as the interest of the Scottish media is concerned- do watch again to the debate and you can see the fairly clear -but frankly unjustified- deference given to Mr. Salmond. BBC Scotland are very grateful to him, since he is the justification for their larger budgets for opted out programmes.

Ciraric said...

Aberdeenshire coast? Where have you been Cicero? And why haven't I met you in my campaigning?