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Sketch: Captain Beige comes to Scotland

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Captain Beige comes to Scotland

Welcome back to the latest adventures of Captain Beige and his Scottish sidekick, Change Man! We last left the dynamic duo celebrating their seismic win in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where the pair had… won one of their easiest seats in Scotland, one of the few that had actually voted for Labour despite the leadership of Chaotic Corbyn.

But never mind that, onward and upward, as they say.

The plain pair come together once again to address their faithful band of followers at the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow. Victor-turned-warmup act Michael Shanks praised his new boss for bringing the party back from the “wilderness”. Anas ‘Survivalist’ Sarwar had survived the years out on the tundra and had learned a thing or two.

Sacrifice, for one thing. “Getting our party ready to govern will require sacrifice,” Shanks said. And nothing is so holy it cannot be sacrificed at the alter of politics. Even deeply held values such as scrapping the two-child benefit cap or investing £28bn in the green economy.

You see, in the time Labour has been out in the wilderness society has started to break down. The two things can’t simply be coincidence. To butcher the old (New) Labour campaign tune, “things have only got more difficult,” says Shanks.

Change Man is fighting for victory, to turn yellow red, and with that victory he will… Er, he’s not sure yet

Now, though, Sarwar has dragged his party back from the edge. He’s survived the wilderness and come back a changed man – Change Man, ready to lead Scottish Labour to victory. And here he is, striding on stage to a new theme tune: Unstoppable by Sia. Do you get it? It’s very subtle. He’s saying he’s unstoppable, unstoppable today.

In Rutherglen, Sarwar says, Labour “demonstrated that change is possible”. The constituency did change hands, after all. But, he continues: “The job isn’t over. Far from it. It’s only starting.” That collective groan you hear is the political hacks who were stuck in Rutherglen for what felt like a lifetime.

Change Man, though, recalls that by-election differently. He found the whole thing positively electric. “Remember those goosebumps you felt going up your arms?” he reminisces. “Just imagine that feeling of watching the electoral map turn red,” he adds, quivering with anticipation.

He bellows: “That’s what we’re fighting for, and that’s the change our country so desperately needs!” Change Man is fighting for victory, to turn yellow red, and with that victory he will… Er, he’s not sure yet. Because of those aforementioned sacrifices.

Photo credit: Alamy

Thankfully, no one in the room seems to mind about the lack of detail. All they want – and to be fair, it seems the public wants – is an end to the “far-right crank fest”. Much like other jamborees, partygoers arrived for the Far-Right Crank Fest, had their suitcases of wine, stamped about the place and left it in an absolute state for someone else to clean up. Inevitably, there are now calls to shut it down.

“Just imagine five more years of these Tories. Imagine five more years of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel, Lee Anderson, Liz Truss, Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak,” warns Change Man. Now he’s getting goosebumps for all the wrong reasons. He shudders at the thought of no change at all.

“That’s what change means and that’s why change matters,” Change Man declares. It’s kicking those idiots out to replace them with our own, instead.

But the problem, he says, is not just the UK Cabinet. Change Man wants to change the Scottish Government too. That’s because Holyrood has been “very much a social policy parliament, rather than an economic parliament”. Oh dear. He is going to be very angry with the person who blocked more economic powers going to the Scottish Parliament when the Smith Commission discussed it back in 2014. Where is that idiot? Probably hiding in a sandwich shop.

Don’t worry though, Labour will fix it – through the power of change. Through the power of Ian Murray and Jackie Baillie and Pat McFadden. Ah, nothing says change like an MP whose been around for 14 years, a former government minister, and a man whose main claim to fame is putting someone in Downing Street over a quarter of a century ago. “That’s what change means and that’s why change matters,” Sarwar bleats.

Beige doesn’t have to be boring, he insists

Unfortunately for Change Man, he is hamstrung by Captain Beige, who flies up to Scotland the very next day. Keir Starmer has not spent time in the wilderness and is therefore more risk averse. Instead of change, he talks about “national renewal”.

He admits that some people believe his approach is “not edgy enough”. But beige doesn’t have to be boring, he insists. Because the “radical part” of his plan is to actually deliver… change. Or something. He will deliver radical beige.

And if voters aren’t convinced just yet? “The Tories can win the next election,” Starmer warns. “Imagine, even if only for a second, what it will feel like it you wake up on the day after the election and the Tories are back.”

Captain Beige might be boring. He might not have any policies. He might be unwilling to set out what his party would do with power. But at least he’s not a Tory.

And apparently that’s all change means. No one is sure why it matters.

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