Last week, I began this sketch with a complaint about having to listen to porkies in Parliament. By a curious, almost cosmically mystical coincidence, it was also one of those rare occasions in which I thought Labour leader Elmer Fudd had made a good point. Oh, I should have known better. Silly, silly, silly me. But one desperately wants to be fair to the hopeless clot.
Readers will recall his claim that the youth employment agency, Skills Development Scotland, was going to rebrand itself as Scotland: The Works, at a cost of £0.5 million for new notepaper and £1.7 million for marketing. Elmer had the documentation and everything. Unfortunately, he might as well have brandished a bookie’s line, as the organisation had already rejected the name-change idea.
Flustered, Elmer later said he had another document showing it had indeed changed its name – while the organisation said it hadn’t – but declined to provide this in public, perhaps (and, in the absence of any better explanation, I am guessing here) because the Labour mole who leaked it might be identified. Or perhaps because the name-change couldn’t possibly be true.
To be fair, if the organisation was using expressions like “visual identity transition” and “brand migration plan”, then it should be wound up and its top staff imprisoned indefinitely. At any rate, in future, rest assured I’ll preface any backing for Mr Fudd with the words “Assuming he’s got his facts right … “.
It’s correct to say that it was a lovely sunny day outside today at Holyrood. There were rozzers everywhere. Unable to get into my usual cark park at Holyrood Palace, I hailed a constable. “Good morning, orifice. What’s afoot?” “Prince Charles is here. And your tax disc needs renewing.” “Splendid. Keep up the good work.” Embarrassing or what?
Meanwhile, in the Hall of Embarrassments, or Parliament debating chamber, we waited for Fudd’s latest offering. Really, he has only two choices: more of these truth-free “scoops” (anyone remember Balmoralgate?); or blaming the Eck for minor earthquakes in the Andes, adolescents with skin complaints and the fact that a lavatory in a Glasgow hospital was blocked for 15 minutes.
He began: “Presiding orifice, this week no surprises, no leaked documents” – no apologies – “just the Scottish Government’s own official figures on how many new teachers have found jobs.” Very few, according to Elmer, and that was “a disgrace”. It’s certainly odd that, at a time of UK-wide fiscal crisis and harsh cutbacks in spending, someone can’t get a job in the public sector. It’s mystifying.
First Minister Eck Salmond said 90 per cent of new teachers were finding jobs, and that pedagogical unemployment was lower in Scotia than the rest of the UK. Elmer said most of those finding jobs were supply teachers, sitting at home waiting for the phone to go.
Eck said the only way you could change the situation was to take funding away from other sectors. Where would Mr F suggest? The NHS? “[The] position of the Labour Party … is that we should increase all funding everywhere. And that is simply an extraordinary, untenable and ridiculous position.”
Eck accused Elmer of “crocodile tears”, adding that, oddly enough, the lowest rates of new teacher employment were in areas with Labour cooncils.
Elmer was irate. “Don’t accuse me of crocodile tears!” Oh, all right. Crocodile tears. Damn. Forgot already.
“It’s a Salmond shambles,” the leading Fuddite added. Ah, the old alliteration gambit. Shouldn’t that be a Shalmond shambles, Mr Moneypenny? Fudd’s fantastical floccinaucinihilipilification (real word: the act of describing something as worthless) continued with this bombshell analysis: “Is this the First Eck’s message to young people: if you want to be a teacher or nurse, emigrate?”
Why just a nurse or a teacher? Anybody would want to emigrate from this nuthouse of a country.
In Bedlam Avenue, meanwhile, Tory leader Annabel Goldie peeked out from her suburban hedge and demanded: “So what on Earth is going wrong in Kinloch Rannoch?” Good Lord, I’ve no idea. What was this? Something out of Take The High Road? She went on: “Why is the health secretary refusing to speak to the people of Kinloch Rannoch?” Nicola Sturgeon, the health secretary under advisement, looked totally fogged.
Eck looked equally baffled, but averred that community representatives from the aforementioned Kinloch R had met the parliament’s health committee. Karen Whitefield (Lab), meanwhile, was bawling away like a demented infant, forcing Alex “Hercules” Fergusson, the presiding orifice, to bring down his mighty club and warn: “I have had enough individual interventions from sedentary positions for the time being, thank you.” From her arse-based perspective, Karen looking guilty. By her side was Cathy Craigie (Lab), who was even worse. What a horrible high-pitched noise. She sounded like a sozzled Stan Laurel sitting on a tack after inhaling a large dose of helium.
Not all Labour MSPs are as bad. True, in front of these two harpies sat David “The Thug” Whitton, Duncan “Disorderly” McNeil, and Helen “Two Braincells” Eadie. But behind Karen and Cathy sat Richard Simpson, Malcolm Chisholm, Patricia Ferguson, Pauline McNeill, and that wee studenty wife, an aisle of sanity in the chaotic sea of bile around them. Wendy Alexander, meanwhile, just sits and reads the whole time.
Annabel was on up on her sensible brogues again: “The question I asked was about out of hours GP cover.” Good. Glad we cleared that one up. She wondered how many other rural areas were as unmedicated as Kinloch Rannoch. “Does he know?” Loud groans from the Nats’ front bench, possibly at the absurdity of the increasing number of “does he know” questions. “How many elderly men in the Anstruther area have syphilis? Does he not know? Eh? Eh?” Or it might have been, as the Eck explained, that the out-of-hours farce was created by the previous Labour administration.
The aformentioned Pauline M, one of those Labour MSPs with some dignity about them, rose to raise concerns about events in Gaza, a politically generous gesture since it risked making Scotland look like a normal country that might have a view on international affairs. She explained this by pointing out that “the First Eck is responsible for the general welfare of all Scots”, some of whom (one in her constituency) were involved.
Eck said he’d already sent a stiff letter to the Israeli ambassador (a missive treated, one imagines, with the same rapt attention as a letter to the Treasury). For this, and other gestures of disapprobation, he won sporting applause from Pauline and some of her colleagues.
Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser asked the Eck about plans for another Homecoming in 2014. Eck thanked Murdo – normally a stickler for Queen, Union, and Glasgow Rangers – for his interest and drew attention to his recent press release, in which he stunned the nation by saying Bannockburn should be the centre of the celebrations. Eck said this made sense, since it would be the 700th anniversary of “a pivotal moment in Scottish history”.
Murdo then produced his hidden dagger and made a point about Nat ministers allegedly conspiring to dump a tourism boss. Shocking business. All together now: “Assuming it is true!” Eck said it was pish, and had more fun with Murdo’s press release, which called Bannockburn a significant Scottish victory against the English”. You could see Labour hackles rising at the very idea. Eck concluded: “Can I welcome Murdo to the cause?”
Murdo smiled wryly. Ten minutes later, outside in the sunshine, the Labour MSPs were cheesing away for a group photo. A tourist asked me: “What are they doing?”
“It’s for a progamme called Crimewatch,” I explained. “They’re among the suspects in The Case of the Missing Name-Change.”