Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Whither Scotland? The Last Days Of Mr Jack McConnell Are A Like A Wistful Nuclear Winter
The nation, apparently, is in ferment. An election is underway. Rosettes are being ironed, and freshly-laundered babies delivered to party headquarters, so that they may be kissed by strange men - a fate which would prompt a lynch mob in any other month.
Looking out from the windows of the Old Manse, it is hard to imagine that revolution is in the air. The weather, as usual, is like a nuclear winter, where wistful mist turns to tearful smog. There is a little less traffic - the schools are on holiday - but the roads still hum with HGVs and angry cars amber-gambling and playing jungle drums as their drivers shout into tiny phones and programme computers to guide them home, like lost astronuats, to the executive bantustans on the edge of town, where life is a cobbled cul-de-sac of saddened bankers planning fraud, adultery, and a timeshare at a golf resort in Portugal. Or death. Whichever is easier.
The buses still run late; the peaceful chug through the upholstered slag of Midlothian is still as relaxing as a practice run with the Jamaican bobsleigh team. The mail is still junk. The pavements are still sticky with a carpet of gum, spat out by people chewing mindlessly to ease their stress, or mask their breath, which is rotten with the sulphur of pointless commerce, imbibed in anxious gulps of filter coffee which taste like earth trowelled from the grave of hope, or Burke and Hare's petunias.
These, it seems, are the last days of the spring-heeled Senior Retainer, Mr Jack McConnell, a politician who has met the demands of office by shrinking to fit the space. He looks, in the dying days of his regime, like a seal pup praying for the quick release of a hunter's club, hardly daring to imagine a better future, but dreaming, in his more feverish hallucinations, of a retirement to the pebbled shores of Scottish commerce, the shale and flotsam of Edinburgh lunchers, that nest of fearties with nuts on trays and brains battered by drink and rugby into yesterday's mince.
I have more to say about this election, and will return to it when I am suitably scunnered. In the meantime, I will eat one of Mr Tunnock's excellent teacakes and wonder how we got here, to a place where it is possible to be nostalgic for the dynamism and charisma of the butter-fingered ex-goalkeeper, Mr Henry McLeish.