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by Rab McNeil
16 September 2014
Creating the right image

Creating the right image

I AM concerned. Oh, you too? Fine, but let’s leave your ingrowing toenail out of this. My concern is of more fundamental importance to the nation.

I am concerned about gurus and lifestyle coaches, ken? They’re consultants of the soul, and the sole business of consultants is money for old rope. Many of my old colleagues in the press became media consultants, and neither they nor I have a scooby what that means, except that they make a lot more money than I do.

Before discussing gurus, lifestyles and consultants vis-à-vis the dirty business of politics, let’s look at an even more important matter. Football. Don’t worry, if it’s not your thing, we won’t dwell on it. But I was intrigued by the case of one Ronny Delia, a Norwegian who became manager of Celtic and got off to a ropey start. Despite that, I liked the cut of his jib. Like many Norwegians, he seemed rational and honest, and I hope he remains so, because there’s a lot in football that impels folk to be the opposite. And I’m not just talking about referees here.

I was intrigued to read that Ronny frequently had recourse to a “thought field therapist”. Thought? Field? What in the name of the wee man was yon? Deciding to investigate further, I put on my trilby and raincoat, then remembered we do all that stuff on computer now, so sat back down and Googled it.

I didn’t like what I read. To be fair, it’s a difficult subject to summarise easily but, without getting too technical, one way to describe thought field therapy would be as follows: cack. The gist is that, when you think a thought or experience an emotion, that creates a field of energy that you can literally ‘tap’ into (with your fingers, like), through various ‘meridian’ points on the body. I see.

Well, good luck with that in a crisis. Ronny seems to think it works. But so does drink, though admittedly it doesn’t look good to be swigging from a bottle of sherry at the side of the pitch when your team is getting slaughtered.

So much for Ronny. Maybe not so rational as first we thought. And what of the First Eck, Alex Salmond of that ilk, official leader of Scotia Minor? During the referendum campaign, there’d been much idle chatter about his having hired a lifestyle guru to tweek his smug mien.

I cannot think such talk true, or it must have been a guru offering a freebie. If there was any cost, the Eckophobic press would have had a field day with it.

All the same, for a bit, in a bid not to turn off the sensitive (or women, as they’re sometimes known), he went all passive and even boring. It didn’t really work, as his trouncing in the first television debate proved. He was more himself in the second debate which, consequently, he won, and without becoming shouty and aggressive like Better No’ bully boy, Alistair Darling.

For the rest of the campaign, both took to their natural habitats: Eck to the streets, Alistair to the TV studios. It’s what differentiated the two campaigns: one engaged with the people, the other with the media. But wherever you are, the best thing you can be, like, ever, is: yourself. Folk don’t like a phoney and, while it’s possible to amend one’s behaviour and retain one’s personality, the ratepayers can smell a rat just the same.

It’s all to do with modern politics and its obsession with imagery and media presentation. It would have been inconceivable for Sir Harold Macmillan or Sir Alex Douglas Home to have employed thought field therapists or other mooncalf mystics.

But official politics is so controlled and scripted these days. You can’t have a nice wee gaffe without the media making a meal of it. To err is human, except in politics, where it is suicide. And make no mistake, it’s this sort of thing that is turning the voters off, as was Darling’s rude pointing and oikish references to “him” during the television debates. Perhaps he should have got a therapist, as Loretto private school clearly didn’t teach manners.

I’m not sorry to say that, particularly on the Yes side, the campaign subsequently became less about politicians and more about people. The suits will still be with us yet, and I cannot pretend I’m completely against any kind of self-improvement for them. However, the therapy field is hoaching with flakiness, and a sedated suit might emerge from a session sporting a beatific smile that barely disguises the fact that they’ve lost the plot.

Politics is getting less straightforward every day. It remains the case that whenever a politician says something straightforward, political correspondents, ever paranoid about having one put over on them, diss what they say and try to present it as a ruse.

But the chickens really are coming home to ruse now. You don’t know where a politician is coming from these days or what coaching they’ve had. And, if you see one fiddling with his meridians, you know that he feels rattled.

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