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Silly Season?

What happened to the silly season? 

The dog days of August are supposed to be the time when deputy newspaper editors scrabble around for copy and come up with nothing more riveting than filler stories of UFO sightings or escaped tigers roaming the Essex countryside, supplemented by endless pictures of celebrities and politicians on holiday looking sexy or ridiculous on holiday beaches in inappropriate swimwear.   

This year the silly season has become the sinister season. 

The government has placed Britain on a ‘severe’ security alert.  We’ve not been told what that means exactly, other than that a terrorist attack has become more likely, an opinion presumably based on intelligence reports on increased activity among jihadists with British passports – either those returning from Syria or Iraq, or those who stayed at home to plan a campaign of domestic outrages.

And just when we thought Nigel Farage had himself slipped out of sight for a summer break – well-deserved for him and a blessing for the rest of us – he pops up gleefully to announce that the Conservative Member of Parliament for Clacton is defecting to UKIP, hinting darkly that several more, or perhaps even many, MPs will soon follow him. (I typed defecating instead of defecting; I should have left it in.)   Even if there are no more ‘traitors’ in the Tory camps, I gather we can now expect a rising chorus of demands by right-wing back-benchers to get Britain out of Europe.

Then Vladimir Putin shows up on the front pages to boast that he can, in effect, do whatever he wants in Ukraine because he controls most of Europe’s gas; and if we don’t like what he’s doing there, and are thinking about more serious sanctions, we should pause to remember that Russia has nuclear weapons and Europe’s biggest army.

As if that wasn’t enough for Prime Minister David Cameron to worry about, the Scottish National Party’s independence campaign apparently gathers momentum after Alex Salmond wallops Alistair Darling, his ‘Better Together’ opponent, in the second of their debates, despite having shed no more light on what independence actually means for any of us in this so-called United Kingdom.

Britain’s forthcoming general election, which on the back of a buoyant economy had started to look like a Tory shoo-in, now seems too close to call.  The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, widely regarded as ineffectual, or worse incompetent, can now dare to dream of an electoral upset, in what may be Labour’s last chance saloon, as losing the party’s Scottish seats would hand the Conservatives a natural majority.

What a pretty pass we’ve come to.  What a mess!

But perhaps it is the silly season, after all. 

Maybe the terrorist alert is just the government erring on the safe side of caution. 

And Cameron may yet find a way of rallying his party dissidents behind a coherent plan for our future in Europe

Maybe Putin’s sabre-rattling is strictly for domestic political consumption, and doesn’t reveal underlying psychopathic tendencies.

And some still believe, even as hope starts to challenge expectation, that Scotland, when it comes to the vote in a couple of weeks, will see reason.      

But it’s rather a larger collection of maybes than we are accustomed to dealing with.

Let’s all hope that by the end of September, we can look back on a silly season that may have been sillier than usual, but was still no more than August playing its usual wicked tricks.

We Britons are living in unsettling times.

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