September has always signalled to me a return to normality from the madness of midsummer. For the past twenty-odd years, it has marked the end of the Edinburgh Fringe, and the return to a life of gigging on the road, and living out of a suitcase. By the way, the surprise hit of Edinburgh 2017 was Fat Eck’s chat show ‘Alex Salmond Unleashed’, which was a strange title. Can anyone recall a time when Alex Salmond could ever be described as ‘leashed’?
September in politics also marks the official end of the ‘silly season’. For much of July and August, there is traditionally no news of any note. That seems to have changed in 2017.
OK, there were such silly season stories as the President of the USA staring at the sun without wearing shades, against all medical advice. Indeed, Fox News claimed this to be the most impressive feat of any US President in history. I suppose Washington’s delivery of independence and Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves do pale into insignificance when compared to a luminous ball of gas being staring down by another luminous ball of gas. His place on Mount Rushmore is now surely guaranteed, doubtless staring straight into the sun.
However, very seldom can the silly season’s headlines have been concerned with an imminent nuclear war. There is a slight time gap between the writing of this column and its eventual publication, so hopefully any readers of the Scottish Left Review in Japan or the South Pacific are still able to read this and find it amusing. Indeed, hopefully they are still able to read it full stop.
I guess if World War Three is to be declared any time soon, it will not be done in the manner of Neville Chamberlain’s doom-laden, sombre radio announcement but in a tweet of no more than one-hundred and forty characters. Expect it to read along these lines: ‘North Korea are so so SAD. We bomb these BAD BAD guys now. So long folks’. This should be accompanied by any vaguely appropriate emojis, although Trump does not appear to have discovered these icons yet. This is bizarre as he himself resembles the emoji for a steaming pile of shit.
Trump managed to take time out from his demanding schedule of staring at the sun and posting rubbish on social media to visit Houston, Texas, to witness first-hand the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey. No doubt he took the opportunity, as he surveyed the rising waters caused by such unseasonal severe weather, to deny that climate change is actually happening.
The silly season does, of course, exist for a reason. It gives us the chance to reflect on the serious stuff that has happened over the previous ten or eleven months. In Scotland this year, it gives us the opportunity to get over the shock of suddenly living in a country that now has thirteen Tory MPs. Many of us still cannot believe it. Who knew there so many angry Rangers fans out there?
This year’s silly season also gives everyone in Britain a chance to take in the truly appalling prospect of a Conservative government propped up by the DUP. During the Fringe, I frequently had to explain the DUP to Americans in my audience. I found the easiest shorthand was to say that they make Donald Trump look left-wing.
Trump and the DUP do have a lot in common. Both of them are orange, and neither of them believe in climate change. The DUP go further in also refusing to believe in evolution. It has to be said, of course, that many of their members do make a compelling case for that argument.
The silly season in Scotland officially ended a day or so early, at the end of August when there was some genuine news to report, namely the resignation of Kezia Dugdale as leader of Scottish Labour. I, for one, will miss her enormously. Not because she did much to enhance political dialogue in this country, but because I write jokes for a living and she was quite frequently pure comedy gold. Fair enough, she was not quite such a gift to satirists as her predecessor, Jim Murphy. However, he had set the bar for pantomime buffoonery so ridiculously high, it is highly unlikely that any of his achievements will ever be bettered. He was like the Usain Bolt of gaffs and embarrassing photo opportunities.
Kezia, despite her keen school prefect demeanour did prove a worthy successor, but I am once again conscious of the time delay between me writing this and you reading it. She may well have changed her mind by the time this article is actually in print. Having changed her mind on both Trident and Indyref 2, she has changed her mind so often on Jeremy Corbyn that no-one is ever able to keep up-to-date on whether she supports him or not.
By the time you read this, she may well have decided she wants to be the next leader of Scottish Labour, jumped ship to the Tories or joined the SNP. In fact, it’s highly possible she could have done all three. Or launched herself into a new career as a chat show host. Kezia Dugdale Unleashed? Now there’s three words that really don’t go together.
Vladimir McTavish will be performing his 2017 Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Scotland ‘The State Of The Nation’ at The Aberdeen Comedy Festival on 7 Saturday October.