A KICK UP THE TABLOIDS

I’m writing this column two days after the end of the Edinburgh Fringe. After a month of a frantic gig schedule of three shows a day every single day in August, my life is returning to something approaching normality, as is the city itself. Just when any kind of normality will return to the Labour Party is anyone’s guess.

At least in Scotland, it now has a leader. Kezia Dugdale, in her acceptance speech said the party had to rid itself of ‘the baggage of the past’ – which, in my humble opinion, is a very disrespectful way to talk about Johann Lamont.

I did a daily political panel show at The Assembly Rooms at the Fringe, along with Mark Nelson and Keir McAllister. Kezia Dugdale was in the audience one day and didn’t crack a smile once. Gordon Strachan came to the show a few days later and was falling about laughing. Things have come to a bizarre point when the manager of the Scotland football team has a better understand of left-wing satirical comedy than the leader of the Scottish Labour Party!

So how will Kezia face following that toughest of acts to follow (in the figure of one Jim Murphy)? Let’s face it, in terms of publicised buffoonery, Murphy set the bar pretty high, from the referendum Irn Bru crate to the pre-election claim that he’d sniffed glue as a kid. The remarkable thing about Jim Murphy is that he is a teetotaller. Nothing unusual about that until the realisation dawns that when he was talking all that utter bollocks over the last few months, he was stone-cold sober all the time. At least, Nigel Farage has a ready-made excuse.

Jim Murphy went from national hero to national joke in a remarkably short period of time. In November 2013, he was at the scene of the Clutha disaster and helped carry survivors out of the pub, widely seen as an act of bravery. Just before Christmas last year, he turned up at the scene of the Glasgow bin lorry crash, which a lot of people thought was a rather weird co-incidence. He then became leader of the Scottish Labour Party, at which point most people were thinking, ‘Is there not a single fucking disaster this guy won’t get involved with?’

Meanwhile, down in London, Labour is tearing itself apart, as those on the right-wing of the party are appalled at the idea they could end up with a vaguely-socialist leader.

Both Neil Kinnock and Gordon Brown have come out the woodwork to warn party members against voting Corbyn. Both claimed that it would be a disaster were Labour to have a leader who was ‘unelectable’. Of course, when it comes to unelectability, these are two men who know what they are talking about, having lost a total of three general elections between them.

We then had Tony Blair warning his party that it could risk ‘annihilation’ under Corbyn. While we all may be used to Tony Blair lying through his teeth, when he talks about annihilation, it is wise to take him seriously. Is he threatening to bomb the Labour Party? We’re probably only days away from Alastair Campbell claiming that Jeremy Corbyn has weapons of mass destruction.

If Corbyn is elected, there may finally be a proper Labour opposition at Westminster, as thus far the SNP has on many measures been the sole party voting against the Tories. Indeed, this has at times sparked controversy in Parliament, most notably when the Nationalists threatened to vote against Cameron’s bill to re-introduce fox hunting into England. He accused them of holding the country to ransom and claimed they had no right to vote on a bill that did not affect Scotland.

Firstly, what does it say of this government’s vision for the future of the UK when it proposes turning back the clock to re-legalise a barbaric sport, which is almost exclusively the pursuit of the privileged few? This is nearly as retrograde a measure as bringing back the stocks, or re-introducing slavery. What next? Suggesting Sunday afternoon trips to the mental asylum to laugh at the inmates? After all, it was a very popular form of entertainment in Victorian times.

Secondly, Cameron is wrong to say that the English fox-hunting bill did not affect Scotland. It certainly would have affected Scotland. We are all aware that foxes are very intelligent and cunning animals. If the bill had changed and foxes in England found that their lives were endangered and that Scotland could provide a safe haven for them, then that certainly would have had consequences north of the Border.

You would have foxes crowding into the railway station in Berwick-on-Tweed, foxes jumping on the backs of lorries at Carlisle, and boatloads of foxes crossing over the Solway Firth. As most people know, the infrastructure of Dumfries and Galloway is not able to cope with any more foxes. It’s already reached saturation point.

Vladimir McTavish’s 2015 Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Scotland: 45 Events that shaped a Nation’ will be available on DVD this autumn. Just in time for Christmas!

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