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Goggle boxing

Goggle boxing

Dim the lights and get the popcorn out. Well, perhaps not yet. But the nation, in its multiple sense, is getting ready for television debates involving those who would lead us all doon yonder at Westminster.

As a Holyrood animal, I cannot get excited myself. I didn’t even watch the two Salmond v That Other One encounters before the indy referendum, the first on account of my footer team being live on telly at the same time, and the second because I do not believe these events are where politics is at. I don’t like my politics exciting or gladiatorial. I like it dull.

I don’t care for personalities either, believing these just cause trouble and would be better employed in the profession of salesman.

But, hey, maybe that’s just me. The rest of the country, to adopt a novel definition of the media, seems obsessed with the forthcoming TV encounters. Here, at the Holyrood Parliament, they do feel a bit odd and distant. But there will be implications in the associated election results for how much pocket money the Scottish Government gets to play with.

To begin with the stuff of politics – insults – Tory Prime Minister Derek Cameron (note to self: check first name before publication) has been branded “chicken” and “frit” by his political opponents for threatening to pull out of the above mentioned X Factor-style contests.

The supposed frit chicken claimed he was unhappy that the Greens were being excluded from the debates. Good heavens, how noble. So much so that it cannot be true. When did Derek start inhaling muesli for breakfast? Didn’t he once describe Green policies as “crap”? Perhaps he meant “compost”.

Besides, if he feels that strongly, why doesn’t he protest about the exclusion of the Nats, currently with six MPs to the Greens’ one? Perhaps he feels, like his Tory colleague David Davis, that the SNP represents “regional special interests”, as he put it to appreciative titters on television’s Question Time comedy show.

"I don’t like my politics exciting or gladiatorial.  I like it dull”

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom has also deemed that the SNP is not a “major” UK party and, to be fair, it made the same judgment of Ukip in Scotland. But, in practical terms, if there is something in the prospect of the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster, then that surely makes it a player.

The SNP’s general election campaign coordinator, Angus Robertson, said Ofcom’s judgment represented a “failure to keep abreast of developments since the referendum”. Correct: it still considers the Lib Dems a major player. 

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens’ co-convenor, Patrick Harvie, has argued that including Ukip will “skew” the range of voices that Scottish voters up here in Jockland get to hear. 

I hear and sympathise, but I wonder how much voters here really care. It’s not just that they see Holyrood as their parliament now and the House of Commons as some weird, historic relic. The indyref changed our perception of what politics is or could be.

True, you might look at the Greens – but certainly not Ukip – as representing upcoming young bloods versus the Establishment in the telly debates imbroglio. 

But, oddly enough, it is by taking part in such debates that they join the Establishment, a phenomenon that the revolutionary Situationists of the 1960s dubbed “recuperation”.

It’s all Suit World and the whole confrontational nature of the debates is so last century, as is the aforementioned Question Time, which David Dimbleby has been chairing since the days when folk danced the Charleston. As so often, we could look towards yonder Scandinavia, where such debates involve a dozen candidates at a time and generally seek consensus.

That all seems so sensible compared to talk of frit chickens. I should clarify that it was Labour leader Ed Miliband and Ukip’s Nigel Farage who came out with the poultry comparison – pair of clucking idiots that they are – while Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also advised the PM to “stop making excuses”. 

Clegg was the champion of the TV debates last time, which tells you all you need to know about these as a tool for judging character.

Talking of characters, improbably enough, Ed Miliband has hired former spin doctor Alastair Campbell to play David Cameron in rehearsals for the debates. Mr Campbell, who has remade himself as a full-time shaman and amateur belly-dancer in rural Wales, doesn’t like Mr Cameron, deeming him a classic toff. So one wonders what verisimilitude he brings to the role. Picture him toddling on set in a top hat and tails, calling Ed a grubby oik and asking for a sausage roll topped with caviar.

It was former Tory Party chairman Norman Tebbit who said the lieges would call Cameron “frit”, a word first deployed in decent society by Margaret Thatcher, who said it was part of the dialect in her home county of Hell.

Childish stuff, compared to the grown-up participation of recent politics here in Scotia Minor, which latter we must hope is carried forward into the next Holyrood elections in 2016. 
But I fear we’ll be back to business as usual by then, arguing about our own television debates and pitting suit against suit or, since we have gender equality here, frock against frock. 

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