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What the Eck?
Salmond's resurgence is the surest sign of how big the crisis of nationalism is. Kate Forbes joining his end-of-the-pier show should kill the idea that she offers them hope.
Alex Salmond is back.
I have written before about the amazement I felt at the rapturous applause he received as the headline act at the pro-independence rally a couple of months back. Now he’s popping up on Question Time and relaunching his chat show (without funding from Putin this time).
Salmond can do this for two reasons. The first is the downfall of Sturgeon and replacement with the deeply unconvincing Yousaf means there is a space to occupy. The second is that nationalists are not fussy. The admitted bad behaviour by Salmond, although it never rose to criminality, has never been addressed. On the puzzlingly few occasions he has been questioned on this, he has sidestepped his admissions of obviously inappropriate contact with subordinates and pointed out he was cleared at his trial. His own infamous “sleepy cuddle” testimony is being erased from the collective nationalist memory.
This is terrible news if you care about the cause of breaking up the UK because Salmond’s ratings are appalling. The figures below are from Savanta’s polling series. Since the SNP’s crisis began his numbers have improved - presumably this is hard-core nationalists pining for the good old days. Two years ago his net favorability was -64. Last month they were -47. So it’s all relative.
Just as the Conservative government are spending their time defending Nigel Farage over his banking issues, the Scottish nationalist movement’s inability to turn its back on its demagogue is a sign of political decline.
Salmond is also back at the Edinburgh Fringe. Kenny Farquharson in the Times points out how extraordinary is that Kate Forbes chose to jump aboard for his latest ego trip:
“This man leads a rival political party highly critical of the SNP and intent, some believe, on its dismemberment. In 2019 he was charged with multiple sexual offences against women including a number of SNP politicians and Scottish government officials. A jury returned a verdict of not proven on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape, and not guilty verdicts on all the other charges.
It is no exaggeration to say some in the SNP now consider Salmond a sworn enemy unfit for public office. They feel the trial and its aftermath uncovered aspects of Salmond’s personality that have pushed him beyond the pale.
Quite what Forbes hopes to achieve by chumming up to Salmond is unclear.”
Don’t forget, in Salmond’s last Fringe show, long before the concerns he cites were made public, his opening monologue contained this dry-boak inducing ‘joke’:
“I promised you today we’d either have Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon, or Ruth Davidson or Melania Trump, but I couldn’t make any of these wonderful women come…to the show”.
Forbes is treated as the ‘Prince Across the Water’ by so many. Commentators seem to believe she is somehow a more astute and marketable alternative to Yousaf. She is supposedly poised to rescue the cause following a potentially terrible General Election for the man who so narrowly defeated her.
If her 1950s morality was not enough, or her 1980s economics were not enough to dispel this unfounded faith in her, perhaps her appearance on his 1970s end-of-the-pier show might do it.
How many catastrophic lapses of political judgement are needed from Forbes before people realise that Yousaf is as good as it gets from this generation of the SNP?
Too Big to Miss
Nothing stays secret for long in Scottish politics and so it wasn’t surprising that the media immediately got hold of the fact that I have thrown my hat into the ring for the forthcoming Labour selection in Paisley and Renfrewshire South/East Renfrewshire. If that sounds confusing, Labour is selecting seats in twinned selections so one man and one woman can be selected.
I thought long and hard about whether to stand. I’m lucky that the work I do, especially the opportunity to stand beside those standing up to dictators around the world, is satisfying and meaningful. I love my life right now. However, this feels like too much of a big moment to miss being part of it when I think I have something to offer to a bit of the world that means a great deal to me.
The announcement was a tad premature. At this stage, I’ve only applied. Nobody has been shortlisted or even longlisted yet - but thanks to everyone who messaged me with best wishes. If you’re a Labour member and fancy doing some campaigning for me in the selection drop me a line!
It will be business as usual for the newsletter.
Culture Corner: Health and Safety Gone Glad
A few weeks ago, Mary and I took the kids to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. I knew I would enjoy it: when I was seven the ship was discovered and I used to spend hours looking at photos of the wreck. What I wasn’t prepared for was how emotional the experience would be. Sadness at the stories of immigrants full of hope for a new life. Anger at the inequality of the tragedy, with the rich floating away while the poor were sucked down into the icy ocean.
Regular readers will know I love a good political poem and this by the brilliant Callum O'Dwyer gives voice to that feeling of anger. It is a timely reminder that neither health nor safety are negative words.