Yes, I thought I’d write an open letter to you all, Alex, Iain, Tavish and Annabel. Not that I suppose you’ll have time to read it but hey ho – I find it cathartic.
I do hope you get the chance this evening to turn off the phone, kick off your shoes and settle back with a wee malt or similar and watch your collective performance on the BBC’s Politics Show’s live leaders debate. I’ll warn you now to have the bottle to hand, cos it ain’t pretty.
Because – heaven help us – we have a few more of these artifices to get through before polling day, I thought it might be helpful to pass on a few tips that might just improve the tone and temper of proceedings:
- when a question is asked, it is the usual form to answer it. Now I know as politicians you’ve spent years perfecting the art of not answering a question but please. Can’t we move on a little and try a different tack, one that doesn’t make the viewer grind his or her teeth in exasperation?
- when the lady interviewer asks you a supplementary or even the same question a second time in the hope of eliciting an answer, it is rude to talk over her. Worst of all, having a wee pop at her really doesn’t play well with the viewing lieges. They just feel sorry for her and think of you as a brute. You most of all, Annabel.
- getting into a squabble about who is going to pay themselves the least is pretty unedifying. No one thinks MSPs and Ministers are going to starve because they’ve frozen or cut their salaries and all you do is remind the rest of us that you earn a packet. Gives us another reason not to like any of you, see?
- if all four of you talk at once no one can hear anything. I would have thought this was obvious.
- let’s reprise this little exchange: “how tough is it going to be for families?” – Salmond: “it’s going to be tough”; Gray “it is tough” but “how tough?” “people know how tough”; Scott “people know how difficult”; Goldie “we know there are challenges”. Now, can any of you suggest how we could have made that a little more meaningful for the viewer?
- Annabel and Tavish: sitting on the outside is never easy but god knows, you both should be used to being on the fringes by now – don’t shout across the room at each other, either endearingly or abusively; it doesn’t make for nice telly
- Alex and Iain: acknowledging each other’s presence wouldn’t make either of you come across as weak – in fact, you’d come across as expansive and statesmanlike, heck folk might even like you a bit more
- when asked to say something nice about each other, please do; I’ve met all of you at various times and you all have redeeming qualities – again, the poor viewer/voter out there would warm to you for being human
Finally, please don’t listen to anything your most ardent activists and apparatchiks say about today’s little shenanigans. All of them, to a man and woman, will say how well you did, how you scored the most points, how you wiped the floor with the opposition. But you have their votes and adoration. Their view counts nane.
It’s voters what count. And given that only 50% of the population voted last time round, you might want to ponder that taking your Holyrood bar-room brawl tactics into their living rooms today will have encouraged a few more to sit on their hands and polling cards this year. If ever, in the sma’ dark hours, you get to wondering about the reasons for the disengagement and disillusionment of voters in Scottish politics today, you might want to take a long hard look in the mirror and then hit the replay button.
The answer is staring you in the face.
P.S. If you think I’m being a little harsh on you all, pop over to Lallands Peat Worrier to read his opinion of the debate… though I’d refill your glass first.