They howled like it was a kennel on a full moon...
LIkE a provincial pub tribute act, no one knew why they were on stage, who had booked them, or where the real band was. It’s not so much that the four leaders featured on last night’s election debate were all one-hit wonders (Richard Leonard could only dream of such fame), but that none of them are actually headline acts in this election.
None – neither Leonard, nor Nicola Sturgeon, nor Jackson Carlaw, nor Willie Rennie – are standing for Westminster.
Still, it could have been worse. They could have let Ian Blackford on TV again.
As it was, STV pulled out all the stops. A plain white screen with occasional dashes of colour served as the backdrop to a few hastily arranged perspex podiums. That’ll teach Loose Women to leave their store cupboard unlocked.
STV’s political editor Colin Mackay made the best of a bad format, prodding clocktalkers and waffle-burblers to get to the point, but eventually he realised he was beat and let them get on with howling like it was a kennel on a full Moon.
Mackay tried to pin them all down on their fondness for unfettered spending – ‘are you gonna shake that money tree?’ – but they were here to demand that each other apologise for something.
Sturgeon wanted Rennie to apologise for the coalition, Leonard demanded Carlaw apologise for much of the 1980s (well, someone ought to atone for Phil Collins), and Rennie expected the Scottish Tory leader to do penance for Boris Johnson’s old newspaper columns.
I could quite happily have gone through my entire life without hearing Willie Rennie describing some of the Prime Minister’s more colourful copy.
Oh for the more innocent times when the Scottish Lib Dem leader just took part in daft picture opportunities.
Carlaw picked up on the theme, directing the First Minister to her various hospital scandals and the latest education statistics. ‘You’re very quick to ask everyone else to apologise and whether they are ashamed,’ he yapped like a testy cocker spaniel that had just caught the cat dipping into his water bowl.
‘Are you shamed? Will you apologise?’
The SNP leader plunged her claws into his fleshy neck with an impromptu quiz about how much child poverty was estimated to rise under the Tory manifesto.
Carlaw didn’t know the answer and tried to step around the issue, awkwardly. He plainly doesn’t believe in some of his government’s central policies.
The best he could do was urge Sturgeon to drop her ‘holier than thou attitude’.
THAT was unfair. The First Minister could hardly invent a second personality for herself on the spot. Independence, you will be shocked to learn, was what they all wanted to talk about. Sturgeon barracked everyone who dared suggest a second referendum required a sturdier legal underpinning than the mere snap of her fingers.
‘You are not Scotland, Nicola,’ Rennie screeched.
‘Nicola Sturgeon has not respected the outcome of any referendum, except for that one in Catalonia — and that was illegal,’ Carlaw zinged.
Sturgeon told him he would never be First Minister but he
does have a career on the stand-up circuit to fall back on.
Actually, not everyone wanted to talk about independence.
Leonard was more interested in ‘people who don’t have security of employment’, understandably given the election campaign he’s had.
The low point came, though, when Carlaw broke the news to him that yet another former Labour MP was backing the Tories.
His face was redder than the flag he’s always banging on about while complaining about others banging on about flags. He tried to get past it by putting Willie Rennie on the spot over Jo Swinson’s record in government, but the feisty Fifer shut him down pronto: ‘Don’t come to me with these questions when we had to clear up your mess!’
There have been more dignified scenes in the Queen Vic at chucking out time.
‘I bet most of you are waiting for I’m a Celebrity,’ the Tory leader quipped down the camera. No, Jackson. We’ve had our fill of creeps and crawlers in this election.
All talk: Nicola Sturgeon, left, did not get things her own way at the TV debate with the other main party leaders, right, hosted by STV political editor Colin Mackay, centre