Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mr Alex Salmond May Resemble The Cartoon Monster Shrek, But His Fairytale Election Will Not Make Scotland A Magical Kingdom

This morning, as I prepare to make the lonely trek to the polling station, I feel the hand of history on my moleskins. Scotland, it seems, is on the verge of electing a nationalist administration on a platform of "independence lite", which means that while Mr Alex Salmond (above, right) will have the keys to Bute House, and a mandate to stick a sprig of lucky white heather in the radiator of the ceremonial Hillman Imp, he will not hold a referendum until the nation has grown so bored of the question of self-government that it will do anything to make it stop. (Or, if you believe the ITN news - which I do not, having once met Mr Sandy Gall in a public bar - he has pledged to hold a referendum within 100 days).
It has been a queer election, and it may grow queerer still. If the polls are correct, the electorate has decided to vote for Mr Salmond because he has pledged not to implement the one policy which is his party's reason for existing - an act of selflessness which is at odds with his personality. In recent months, Mr Salmond seems to have modelled his appearance on the world's most famous Scotsman, the cartoon monster Shrek, but I am not yet convinced by his expressions of humility.
Mr Salmond is a contradiction wrapped in a contradiction. His popularity is based on the fact that he has proved himself on the big stage - the Westminster parliament which he refused to abandon until he had a realistic chance of heading an administration in the home country. The current Senior Retainer, Mr Jack McConnell - who even as I type is doing an inventory of the teaspoons of office - never graduated to the big school, and has done everything he can to make a virtue of small-mindedness. He has, however, succeeded in his pledge to "do less well".
Frankly, I am bored already by questions of nationality. I feel no great kinship with the Edinburgh bankers who play roulette with the economy, or the Glaswegians and the Gaels who decide that our national identity is best-expressed by television and radio schedules full of stairheid rammies and what used to be known as "the banter", but which might more accurately be viewed as a form of verbal diarrhea. As far as I can see, the Scotland of the nationalists does not exist, and even if did, it would do nothing to placate my disquiet with the crass materialism of the modern world.
In elections, I always ask one question designed to expose the misguided ambitions of our prospective leaders: will your party get the chewing gum off the streets? To this, I have added a supplementary question: why can I no longer leave my bicycle in the street without chaining it to a lamp post?
In the fairytale world of Shrek, I might expect some answers.

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