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Sturgeon’s Strange Triumph

Did she or didn’t she?

That is the question being asked, if not along the corridors of Westminster this gloriously sunny Easter bank holiday Monday, then over breakfast tables across the shires of England.

The question, you may be disappointed to learn, is whether Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, did or did not tell the French ambassador  something to the effect that David Cameron should be re-elected prime minister because Ed Miliband is not ‘prime ministerial material’.  (Notes were taken of the conversation, as is the custom in such encounters, apparently, so I will leave the reader to calculate the odds on an error of transcription.)

I bet you were hoping, as I was when I caught the merest whiff of scandal on the radio, above the noise of the shower, that the question was of a more sinister or salacious nature.  Had Nicola been engaged in something nasty?  Better still, something saucy? 

No such luck.  The woman is much too clever for that.     

Too clever by half, some would say, and much too saintly, this latter-day cross-dressed rouge-painted version of William Wallace, this destiny-inspired tartan-clad bob-haired Maid of Glasgow.    

Whether she did or did not say what she is alleged to have said – and naturally she denies it – is neither here nor there in this election campaign.  Mischief-making is rampant.  It counts neither as a crime nor a sin.  Nigel Farage makes mischief every time he opens his mouth, though why people take his blathering inanities seriously is mystifying. Sturgeon and the SNP, unlike Farage, at least have a plausible and achievable objective.  Their proclivity for making mischief, regardless of the wider consequences, is motivated by a simple rule of engagement: any ruse that confuses or confounds the English can only rebound to Scotland’s benefit.  The only shading is whether the mischief committed has a short-term impact or long-term implications.  Short-term is better.  Anyway, the long-term may not exist, the SNP calculates, as Scotland by then will have left the United   Kingdom.

Nicola Sturgeon emerged from last week’s televised seven-way debate of political leaders a clear winner.  That is, a clear winner in debating skills.  These tend to distract listeners from the underlying message, one that makes little sense from the financial perspective, or at least one has not been explained.  Sturgeon, to deafening applause in the mean streets of Glasgow, and the less affluent sections of Edinburgh, wants nothing less than a socialist revolution.  That used to be the aim, the very raison d’etre of the Labour Party, but the institution founded by that other sainted Scot Keir Hardie lost its soul, says the SNP, to the siren call of greedy capitalists long ago.

Sturgeon won the debate because she was the only candidate (other than the Green woman) with a clear unequivocal message: end austerity, and spend on cradle-to-grave welfare systems, including cheap housing, free health care and feeless university education.  Where the money will come from is left unexplained. 

From industrial growth?  If so, in what sector?  Not North Sea oil.  That is a declining resource, and meanwhile the price of oil has tumbled.  External funding might be encouraged, but only by offering tax incentives.  But such concessions would benefit the very corporate fat cats Sturgeon and others seem to deplore when others offer them.  Socialist countries do not have the best records when it comes to attracting external investment.

David Cameron and the other debaters always let Sturgeon off the hook.  It is a very big hook on which Sturgeon ought to be wriggling.  The question not asked last Thursday consumes two little words:  “Who pays?”  Why it was not asked is unfathomable.  But then it never is asked. 

Sturgeon couldn’t have cared less either way.  She stood confidently at her lectern making smug faces and muttering snide asides safe in the knowledge that she was the only participant not seeking office.  Far from worrying about giving offence to English voters she can revel in insulting their intelligence.   

a pretty pass we have come to – and I’m not referring to the smiling face of the Glaswegian assassin.

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