Friday, August 24, 2007
Mr Alex Salmond Has Avoided Banana Skins In His First 100 Days: No Mean Feat In A Parliament Of Pygmies
The other morning, when the Senior Retainer, Mr Alex Salmond, was celebrating his first 100 days in office, I rose early and checked my reflection in the mirror. Steadying myself from the disappointment, I washed my face, before mashing the tea to the sound of Mr Edward Stourton mashing his vowels on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. (Mr Stourton reminds me of Sgt Wilson in Dad's Army, while in his irascibility Mr John Humphrys [above, right] grows increasingly like Captain Mainwaring). The weather resembled a nuclear winter, as usual. I could hear sirens, and the distant bleat of a car alarm above the thrum of the commuter engines rolling insolently towards Edinburgh from the executive bantustans . There was milk in the fridge, but it tasted of water and industry, not cream. It did not feel like the early days of a better nation. It felt like another day with nothing to do.
By common consensus, Mr Salmond has had a good 100 days. He has avoided banana skins, and has looked more presidential than his predecessor, Mr McConnell. He was aided in this by the fact that Mr McConnell always resembled a town councillor who - on successfully organising a fete - found himself in receipt of the keys to the tuck shop, and was subsequently paralysed by the responsibility. My sources within the Executive tell me that on gaining office, Mr McConnell instructed his officials to dream up measures which would transform the country, but cost nothing. After a week of this dreaming, he amended his plan to something less ambitious: doing nothing which would transform the country.
Mr Salmond, by contrast, looks like a politician. He is, and remains, a graduate of the Big School, Westminster, and is thus an accomplished practitioner of wheezy rhetoric. Thus, even when he is doing nothing, he is able to look as if he is shaping the destiny of the nation (see the "national conversation").
The politician who defined the concept of "the first 100 days" was President Roosevelt, who came to power in the USA at a time of fear, panic and economic ruin. He avoided a collapse in the banking system by declaring a bank holiday, and told the electorate that the only thing it had to fear was fear itself. (This, palpably, was nonsense). Nevertheless, his confidence is credited with saving the capitalist system from oblivion, and he introduced the New Deal, was a big deal for some, and a smaller deal than it appeared for others.
Mr Salmond has made Scotland feel good about itself, and has launched another period of national self-examination. For this, he has been treated as a guru, when, by any rational examination, he is merely a good politician in a parliament of pygmies (with all due respect to the small people of Central Africa).