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by Kirsteen Paterson
17 March 2023
SNP leadership contest: What a sandwich can teach us about politics

SNP leadership contest: What a sandwich can teach us about politics

There I was, describing a sandwich I had been unable to buy to a colleague. “It tastes of nothing,” I said, “but it’s so gentle and comforting.” “I know that sandwich,” came the reply, and then again, more emphatically, “I know that sandwich.”

And since then, I’ve thought of little else at lunchtimes. 

The piece in question is an M&S “No Egg & Cress” number. I know what you’re thinking – “why would you buy that?” I didn’t want to initially, but since going vegan more than 20 years ago I’ve been too thrawn to revert and, faced with an array of ‘prawn this’, ‘mayo that’ on the shelves before me, I held my nose, grabbed the packet and off I went for a taste-free tofu sensation that was somehow totally satisfying. I was hooked.

But in recent weeks it’s been unavailable at the tightly-packed branch in Waverley station, and things haven’t been quite the same. Wherefore my sandwich? And honestly, why do I care about something so trivial? Why would anyone spend actual pounds of actual money on something that has no discernable flavour and a texture that could only be described as ‘cloud-like’ by the most generous of reviewers?

I think I’ve figured it out. And I think I need a little more nothing in my life. Maybe we all do.

During lockdown, I ate like an absolute glutton – satay noodles here, spiced almonds there. The grub that I’d pack in my gub was more than food, it was something. Something to alleviate the boredom, something to fill up the senses dulled by weeks of repetition without an end in sight. Menu 10/10.

But now we’re (fingers crossed) out of the worst of Covid, and things have stubbornly refused to go back on track. There have been so many crises, so many scandals, so many debacles that the UK is now commonly described by sarcastic social media users as ‘Normal Island’. 

And so, amongst the bants and larks and horrors of whatever Matt Hancock’s had in his WhatsApps, whichever relative Boris Johnson has nominated for a knighthood, and however much has now been sunk into Scottish ferries which may or may not sail, it’s all a bit much, fuelling a frantic news cycle and chucking countless unanswered questions into the air about how the hell it could get to this. The antidote? A nothing sandwich; one that says, ever so quietly and lovingly, “shhh”.

All of the candidates in the SNP leadership race have been accused of being a bit ‘nothingy’. They’ve been described, variably, as being a bit devoid of personality, of authenticity, of connection with the voting public, of ideas. I’m going to argue that, in the hashtag razzle-dazzle of contemporary politics, a wee bit of ‘nothing’ might not be too bad. A return to quieter, more considered governance focused on delivery, rather than buzzy promises, might do us all a favour.

The next incumbent at Bute House will have a lot on his or her plate, but taking it bite by bite, instead of trying to load it up with more toppings, is more likely to result in a full belly and an empty dish.

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