It’s resolution time again and I am resolved not to make any since I can never keep them.
Last year, I pledged to get back into reading fiction but a quick skim through Derek Mackay’s Budget was more than enough for me. So this year, I have come up with some resolutions for politicians that, with any luck, might make them more bearable.
Nicola Sturgeon should try to get through a whole year without mentioning independence
In TV’s the West Wing, the fictional Bartlet administration is so nervy about a potential recession that staffers avoid the very word, calling it a ‘bagel’ instead. The First Minister should adopt a similar strategy to dodge another year like 2017, in which her Indyref2 fixation cost her 21 seats at the General Election. For the rest of 2018, she should refer to independence as a ‘steakbake’. It’s hard to get on your high horse while declaiming: ‘Deciding whether it wants a steakbake or not is Scotland’s right as a sovereign nation; Westminster can’t force us to settle for a Greggs sausage roll and custard doughnut or even one of those fancy cakes that aren’t in the meal deal. If a steakbake is the only way to stop us being dragged out of the EU against our will, this parliament will not hesitate to legislate for a referendum on all potential puff pastry outcomes.’
Ruth Davidson should try to get through a whole year without mentioning independence
The Tory leader had a cracking 2017. She revived the Conservative brand, won 13 seats in June, and somehow convinced Vladimir Putin to give Alex Salmond his own TV show. The real challenge comes this year, when there are no elections — please, God, let there be no elections — and Miss Davidson’s team have to knuckle down to the drudge work of policy-making and scrutinising the Scottish Government. They should take this as an opportunity to define themselves beyond the constitution. Scots trust the Tories to defend the Union but they need to stand for more than that. Miss Davidson should use 2018 to hone her defining domestic policy issue — be it education, health or the economy — and draw clear dividing lines between her party and the Nationalists.
Richard Leonard should try to get through a whole year
At the rate Scottish Labour goes through leaders, it’s a big ask but if the party is to be in with any hope of staging a comeback, it needs stability. Mr Leonard should hunker down for the long haul.
Nigel Farage should get a job
2017 was a mixed bag for the former Ukip leader. The government pressed ahead with the cause he’s championed for 40 years and he got to go on TV a lot and complain that it wasn’t pressing ahead exactly to his liking. He also became the unlikeliest Brit to crack America since James Corden, delivering apologias for Donald Trump to rallies of heavily-armed Alabamans wondering how another immigrant managed to get through border security. On the down side, his personal life has suffered. As he told the Mail, ‘I’m 53, separated and skint’. Not that skint, mind, since he still plans to claim his £73,000-a-year EU pension. After decades railing against the EU superstate, Mr Farage should resolve finally to stop working for it. Walk away, use that pension pot for a downpayment on a hotel in Torquay, and start a new career warring with an affable Spanish waiter. Don’t mention the referendum.
Theresa May should keep doing whatever it is she’s doing
The Prime Minister is the ultimate survivor of British politics. She called an unnecessary election, squandered a 20-point poll lead, lost her governing majority, and somehow she’s still in post. Despite all that, it’s hard to see an obvious replacement and, absent a policy change, there is no case for her to go before Brexit Day. Yes, I know she comes across like an agoraphobic robot on a blind date but she’s the best we’ve got. Whatever she’s done to keep herself going over the past six gruelling months, Mrs May should resolve to keep doing it.
Jeremy Corbyn should decide what he’s for
A Brexiteer Remainer, a CNDer who pledged to retain Trident, an anti-austerity campaigner who backed Tory welfare cuts, Jeremy Corbyn spent 2017 cutting slicker moves than anyone he shared the stage with at Glastonbury. Such inconsistencies are to be expected when you’re a man of principle and that principle is whatever happens to advance your political career at any given moment. In 2018, Mr Corbyn should find a viewpoint and stick to it.
Donald Trump should give up Twitter
We made it through 2017 without the President sparking atomic war with one of his tweets, though it was a close-run thing. Mr Trump is obviously hooked on the social media platform and who can blame him. It’s 280-character junk food: empty calories for the mind but addictively moreish. Still, this is a website where posting a picture of a dozing kitten can end in accusations of Hitlerism. It’s no place for a man with access to the nuclear launch codes. In 2018, the President should revive the lost art of letter writing, posting handsomely penned excoriations to ‘Failing Fake News LOSERS, c/o CNN, Atlanta, Georgia’. He could insult Kim Jong-un by carrier pigeon or call radio talk shows to debunk global warming while triumphantly clutching an ice lolly.
Hillary Clinton should go away
Just over a year ago, she was the world’s last hope for stopping a Trump presidency. After contriving to lose some of the most reliably blue states in America to a permatanned Joe McCarthy, Mrs Clinton keeps popping up to blame everyone else for her defeat. If she hopes for future redemption, the former New York senator should seek out obscurity for a while. I suggest a Trappist monastery or a show on STV2.
And finally, one for the rest of us
We should realise that all these people are utterly ghastly and not one of them will save us from the rest of them. You can give up biscuits or booze or bad language. I say we try to go a year without politicians.
What a cacophony of wailing greeted the New Year’s Honours list. No sooner had the names of the newest knights and dames hit the airwaves than the nation’s spoilsports had graced us with their opinions. Loudly. At length.
It’s an annual ritual and I think I’ve got the answer. We should set up an alternative list, the Dishonours, to reward acts of heroic outrage.
A few suggestions:
Order of the Overlooked: For services to griping about your peers’ or political rivals’ gongs.
Signaller of the Virtue: Awarded to the first hundred scolds to declare themselves offended by references to the Empire.
Companion of the Lemon: Presented to sour republicans who curl their lips at the whole idea of monarchical awards.
Order of the Wrath: Honouring the smugly furious who get a kick out of mocking the little people’s fondness for baubles.
Metric Service Medal: For anyone denouncing the Honours system as a symbol of a backwards-looking Brexit Britain.
On this day in 1985, the first mobile phone call in Britain was made. Every one since seems to have been placed by someone jammed up against me on an overcrowded, under-ventilated train as I strain to drown out their oversharing of family arguments, romantic encounters and inscrutable soap opera storylines.
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Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Contact Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.