As spring arrives and we slowly emerge from the winter lockdown, we appear to have entered some bizarre parallel universe where Dominic Cummings preaches about honesty, integrity and ethics; where Alex Salmond pledges to ‘put women front and centre’ of his party’s policies; and where Gordon Brown warns ‘Project Fear won’t work’. I suppose it’s no more bizarre than Amanda Holden judging talent.
Boris Johnson claimed that ‘there’s nothing to see here’ in the cash-for-curtains scandal. And, obviously, there was nothing to see, as the £840-a-roll wallpaper was hidden behind several grands worth of curtains. I’ve been seriously thinking of setting up a crowdfunding page to help with the refurbishment of the PM’s flat, providing it’s done using the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.
Johnson is reputed to have ranted that he would rather watch the bodies pile high than order a second lockdown. Tragically, when faced with the choice of piling up bodies or ordering a lockdown, he chose to do both.
However, it does strike me as being a perverse way of keeping the economy open. Hospitality and non-essential retail may have been particularly hard-hit over the past fourteen months, but not many people are going to want to go down to the pub if the beer garden is full of corpses. Likewise, it’s pointless for Primark to be open for business if the fitting rooms resemble makeshift morgues.
Hopefully, you will be able to read this column in your local pub, as Scotland embraces a further lifting of restrictions. From mid-May, we will be able to gather in groups indoors, to stay overnight in other people’s houses, to travel overseas and to hug each other. In other words, all things that professional footballers have thought it was OK to do for the past ten months. I should qualify what I mean by ‘travel overseas’. UK passport-holders are now free to visit any country they choose. As long as they choose Portugal.
It is possible that not all the relaxations will apply in Moray, due to the worrying spread of the virus in the area. Although, a much more worrying virus has existed in Moray since 2017, in the form of its local MP. A man who has the twin roles of leader of the Scottish Conservatives and the SPFL’s most pro-Rangers referee. While he was elected unopposed to the former, competition for the latter of those two titles is extremely fierce.
Having done his best to deny Celtic getting to ten-in-a-row, Douglas Ross thankfully failed to prevent the SNP winning four-in-a-row. Which was very good news for travelling communities the length and breadth of Scotland, who can sleep soundly in their caravans for the next five years. When questioned what he would do in his first day as First Minister, Ross famously replied that he would ‘bring in tougher enforcement on gypsy travelers’. Wow! Ethnic cleansing on Day 1. One shudders to think what was in his long-term plans for Scotland.
South of the border, the biggest political news of the year was the stunning result in the Hartlepool by-election. The Conservatives’ victory in the seat was the first time since 1954 that the town has elected a Tory MP. However, from 1992 to 2004, they did vote for Peter Mandelson, which is pretty much the same thing.
Brexit was a major issue in the Hartlepool vote, which should come as no surprise. After all, this is a place where, according to local folklore, the townspeople hanged a monkey during the Napoleonic War because they thought it was a French spy. It would appear that a high degree of residual Europhobia has lingered on, more than two hundred years later.
Keir Starmer said he ‘took full responsibility’ for the Hartlepool result. And to prove how much responsibility he was taking, he sacked Angela Rayner, and completely re-shuffled the shadow cabinet. How responsible, non?
Anyway, the results are in for another election, one which may be historic on two counts. Firstly, it has delivered a clear mandate for a second independence referendum, no matter which way the Tories want to spin the figures. Secondly, if the current PM has his way, it could have been the last time you voted without having to produce photo ID. This is a sinister plan to disenfranchise the most already-disadvantaged in society, in the guise of preventing what is a near-non-existent crime. And, unsurprisingly, a complete volte-face from the PM.
When Blair proposed introducing identity cards back in 2005, Johnson claimed that if he was asked to produce one, he would ‘take it out of wallet and physically eat in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded I produce it.’ That statement explains one thing at least. Namely, that if he is prepared to put any old shit into his mouth, it is no surprise so that so much shit comes out of it too.
Vladimir McTavish is one of the regular panelists on ‘The Thursday Show’ live on Twitch and YouTube every Thursday evening at 8pm.
Derek McKechnie explains why he created the UCS work-in image on the back cover
My parents grew up during the 1970s in Glasgow to working class families and both their fathers worked on the shipyards. I think the UCS work-in directly had an effect on the people they became. Both became social workers, both joined unions, and both protested for the miners. And as their parents have influenced them, they have influenced me by imparting a desire for social justice and equality. This is why I chose to research the UCS for my honour’s year art degree at the Gray’s School of Art at Robert Gordon University. As it is 50 years since the work-in, it seemed appropriate to investigate a topic I have been aware of the majority of my life but have never fully understood. I was immediately intrigued and revered the power of solidarity of the workers, the support they generated and the impact the protest had on Scottish history. The legacy of UCS should never be forgotten.