Boris Johnson may be too afraid to submit to 30 minutes under Andrew Neil’s frosty glare but at least the Scottish leaders are willing to tackle the tough questions.
Questions like ‘Bam or no bam?’ and whether the police should have their own jet skis. Putting these searing queries was Cameron Miekelson. Imagine if Andrew Neil had even less hair and thought the key Gers figures were Steven Gerrard and James Tavernier.
Miekelson is played by Jack Docherty and you might know him as the blunt Chief Commissioner of the fictional Scottish Police Force in BBC Scotland’s Scot Squad. If you’re not familiar with him, you’re unlikely to confuse him with a chief constable of the real-life Police Scotland in so far as he’s managed five years in the job without having to resign.
Scot Squad is a mock fly-on-the-wall docu-soap relaying the day-to-day activities (and indignities) of policing the thin blue line. It’s funny but BBC-Scotland-funny, and it earns a lot of good will for trying as hard as it does. At least half its appeal is willing it on to be better than it is and every now and then it raises an unforced chuckle.
The BBC decided that having to endure almost hourly election programmes wasn’t enough and so last night brought us a spoof interview show in which Chief Commissioner Miekelson interrogated the leaders of Scotland’s four main parties. Docherty, decked out in his starched uniform, pressed Jackson Carlaw on Boris Johnson’s fecundity and tried to get Nicola Sturgeon to sign off on Trident submarines for operational purposes. (Police Scotland is already tooled up with more guns than the Terminator. Now they want to routinely nuclear-arm officers.)
Sturgeon asked the pretendy polis to ‘flex your muscle’ towards Westminster and arrest Boris for unspecified crimes. She is, however, a libertarian and recognises certain rights, such as the right to protest — ‘as long as it’s not against the SNP’.
The First Minister, who was clearly enjoying herself, produced a bottle of Midori and the two vamped a drunken night out together at the Edinburgh Festival.
‘You got rid of those photographs?’
‘I left it to you.’
Whatever the merits of a fake election programme feigning to get answers out of the party leaders when the real election programmes can’t get them to do that, it was still refreshing to see Sturgeon let her guard down. Some of her material was snappier than anything the script had to offer.
Willie Rennie was also up for it. He suggested handing out free burgers in prison to fatten up criminals and make them easier to catch. The Lib Dem leader has an easygoing sense of humour, which came across in a stream-of-consciousness moment on the Rennies’ former family pet: ‘We had a cat but the food wasn’t very good, so it left, but it would come back sometimes to shit in the garden as revenge’.
Just wait till all those students still paying tuition fees find out his address.
Richard Leonard’s and Jackson Carlaw’s smiles were closer to grimaces. Neither took to the format, though Leonard let slip the occasional nervous giggle, such as when Miekelson deadpanned: ‘We’ve got our diversity officer here. Cracking wee bird’.
The Scottish Labour leader confessed to having once been caught speeding ‘on the road out of Alloa’.
‘Well, you would be speeding if you were going through Alloa, that’s for sure,’ the ersatz enforcer riposted.
Carlaw made it through, though his discomfort was evident. Miekelson asked if he would address Boris’s Christmas card to ‘Boris and however many kids you’ve got’. The Scottish Tory leader cautiously said he would leave such matters up to Mrs Carlaw. When asked to declared whether the Prime Minister was a ‘bam or no bam’, he — somewhat less cautiously — suggested his boss fell somewhere between the two.
You want to be good-humoured about programmes such as these but they only work if they work, and Scot Squad is already comedy-lite as it is without forcing it into the dull, punch-pulling neutrality of an election period. You have the right to remain silent and sometimes you should.