BY ECK, COULD THIS BE THE UK’S NUMBER 2?

KEN HOUSTON

 

In campaigning for a ‘Yes’ majority in the Referendum, presumably Alex Salmond saw himself as eventually becoming the first Prime Minister  of an independent Scotland.

As we know, this did not happen. But the SNP surge in the pre-election polls has led to the fascinating prospect of Mr Salmond, should he become SNP leader in the Commons, being elevated to Deputy Prime Minister – but of the UK rather than Scotland.

Just eight months after the Referendum: who, to paraphrase Victor Meldrew, would have believed it?

But the prospect should not be deemed beyond the realms of fantasy. Back in 2010, after the Conservatives failed to gain an overall majority, the Liberal Democrats were very much the junior partner in the resultant Coalition – but the position of Deputy Prime Minister went to the Lib-Dem leader, Nick Clegg.

There is a highly possible scenario, following the election on 7 May, of Labour being the largest party but without a majority and, like the Tories five years ago, forced to form a governing coalition with another party, possibly the SNP.

Consequently, just as with the present Coalition, the junior partner could insist on its leader becoming number two in the Cabinet. With SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon making several speeches south of the Border recently, and talking openly about wanting to extend her “progressive” (i.e. lefty-liberal) policies to the people of England, it seems reasonable to infer that her Westminster ‘general’  might be open to the offer of deputy to the (Labour) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

We know that a Labour-SNP coalition is possible because neither party leader has ruled out the possibility. The one arrangement absolutely discounted by the SNP is a coalition with the Tories, which to some ears might seem strange as it is likely that the Conservatives would willingly concede many more powers to Scotland than Labour as these would be electorally beneficial to the former but harmful to the latter.

Ms Sturgeon justifies her stance on the grounds that the Tories are “toxic” north of the Border. How much of this is actually true and how much mere political propaganda?

If the Tories are, indeed, toxic in Scotland, for most of the electorate it is probably for the same reasons they are toxic in England – i.e. they’ve become much too close to fat-cats, spivs, porn barons and tax-dodgers.

However I suspect that “toxicity”, in the thinking of the SNP has less to do with the above than with the closure of the mines, steelworks, shipyards and numerous manufacturing plants during the 18 Thatcher/Major years.

The more the SNP go for the Labour vote the more they sound like ‘Old Labour’ hacks. And Labour should thank their lucky stars they were not in power during the 1980s and first part of the 1990s because these closures would have taken place anyway, as a result of the market and EU laws.

Maggie had been in power for only four months when Massey-Ferguson announced the closure of its large combine harvester plant at Kilmarnock. But she and her party got the blame for this and everything that followed – Ravenscraig, Robb-Caledon, Linwood, Bathgate, etc.

Rightly or wrongly, the deindustrialisation of Scotland happened on the Tories’ watch and the Scottish party paid a terrible price electorally as a result.

But are they really still suffering at the polls because of this? The closure of heavy industry started to gain momentum 35 years ago which implies that those who still see the Tories in Scotland as “toxic” belong to an increasingly ageing sector of society (miners who lost their jobs in middle-age following the 1985 strike will now be in their 70s or even 80s).

It could be argued that the contemporary Tories’ lack of success in Scotland is because they are irrelevant rather than toxic. With just one MP, the Conservatives have no more than half a chance of winning in roughly six Scottish seats. And in most constituencies they can hope for no more than third place; thus younger floating voters who might otherwise have been prepared to give the Tories a try will continue to see little point in doing so.

But the toxicity approach suits the purposes of the SNP and the MacChattering commentariat who support them (self-styled journalists who in their entire careers have never covered so much a chip pan fire).

Classing the Conservatives as “toxic” provides the perfect excuse not to co-operate with a right-of-centre party. Heaven forbid! They’d rather sup wi’ the de’il.

Which brings us, once again, to the still unanswered question of what exactly the SNP is supposed to stand for – is it still a movement whose principal aim above all is repeal of the Union with England and the re-emergence of Scotland as a nation-state? Or is it a party whose stance on social and economic matters has become almost as important as the goal of independence?

 

‘ZERO SHADES OF GREY’ – MIXING BOOZE AND BLOCKBUSTERS

A night at the pictures used to be such a civilised affair; when the only irritations were the rustle of sweetie papers or the middle-aged woman occupying the seat in front whose hat seemed to obscure half the screen.

Not every patron behaved impeccably but if people seated in the row behind turned out to be chatterboxes, you could turn round and politely ask them to quieten down without the risk of being carried out on a stretcher.

Unfortunately, nowadays violence has been known to move from the screen to the auditorium, which was what happened during a showing of Fifty Shades of Grey at a cinema in Glasgow over Valentines weekend.

As the film played, a cackle of weemin – reportedly the worse for alcohol – began constantly talking and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Then, when a man in front asked them to be quiet, he was the subject of an assault. I’ll bet the poor chap went to see Fifty Shades unaware that the film’s main female character would not be the only one getting whacked.

It is not clear whether the alcohol they consumed was sold on or off the premises but this incident does bring into question the relationship between cinema and drink.

Selling alcohol in cinemas is not new but consumption was once restricted to a designated bar area and most patrons usually confined themselves to just the one – perhaps in preference to sitting through the adverts. Now it’s OK to take alcoholic beverages into the auditorium and top up as one sees fit.

Yet it doesn’t require a degree in medicine or even sociology to know that cinema-going and alcohol just don’t mix. Watching a film requires concentration while supping beer or wine loosens the tongue; which is why one expects cinemas to be quiet and pubs noisy.

The contemporary cinema industry loves to boast about ergonomically-designed seating, high-definition screens, super stereophonics and 3D.

But perhaps a guarantee of “Peace and quiet in all our screens” might be the best promotion of all and win back some of cinema’s lost audience among older age groups.

And does the sale of alcohol really make much difference to cinema margins? Surely the overpriced popcorn and watered down soft drinks are profitable enough on their own?

 

Twitter: @PropPRMan 

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