Continuing my association with the worthy public annalists of the north-west, another article for you, pulled from the pages of the Holyrood election coverage in the latest edition of the Kinlochbervie Chronicle. As usual, the redoubtable Mr Ecclefechan Mackay is willing to whiffle through tulgey political woods where the big boys and hatchetmen of the Herald and Hootsmon dare not tread...
"Gray's gift of the gaffe"
The Kinlochbervie Chronicle 9th April 2011
The latest on the Scottish Parliament election campaign, from our reporter in the field, Ecclefechan Mackay (MA)
Universally derided in the Scottish media as "a socially-inadequate feartie" for fleeing from a hardbitten phalanx of Glasgow pensioners, sources in the Labour campaign are now claiming that the "public response on the ground" to Gray's flight has been much more encouraging for the party than many commentators supposed.
"Once we stopped asking plucky airline pilots for their opinions, we really started getting somewhere," explains John Park, Labour's election coordinator. "Iain was clearly under immense pressure in Glasgow. Some of those folk had those hard west-coast faces. You know the ones I mean. Like boney scrotums, tarred with a lifetime's tobacco smoke. Voices like a bagpipe with emphysema. Look, I don't mind admitting that. Neither does Iain. But the fact is that voters looked into his fear-smitten face, deep into his damp weasel's gaze - and they liked what they saw. Fact."
Shortly after the incident, one unaligned public sector employee, Margaret Curran, told the Chronicle: "The killing fields of Cambodia really put things into perspective for me. I thought I would be haunted by those foot-long sandwiches for ever, but Iain gently soothed my fears by conjuring up the bloodied and broken bodies of hundreds of thousands of people. He's Glasgow's choice for First Minister." Another campaigner, impressed by Gray's charismatic retreat and subsequent braggadocio, spontaneously exchanged her hand-painted anti-cuts placard for a doorstop of vulcanised Subway luncheon-meat, pledging to "protest no more" and "come home to Labour". After the strategy's astonishing success in the city, Gray now plans to tour the bloodiest sites in Scottish martial history, calmly commenting how mildly they compare to the terrors and heroism of his personal biography.
Kicking off his tour in Edinburgh's hag-ridden Mary Queen's Close, Gray will make a touchingly self-deprecating speech about his fortitude in the face of slight adversity, before travelling on to the key battleground constituency of Culloden. Labour confirm that the melancholy placidity of the scene will be interrupted by a spontaneous and sustained altercation with a hand-picked local pensioner, selected for her physiological and neurological deficiencies, and bussed up from Clydebank for that purpose. Having manfully dispensed with the voter's concerns in front of the assembled press, Gray will exhibit an impromptu flash of wit, suggesting that the exchange was a "Highland picnic" compared to the Duke of Cumberland's brutal military occupation of the region, putting the population to bayonet and sword and substituting their close friends and relations for sheep, without telling them.
Having gulped down a blistering plate of soup in the battlefield's award-winning visitor's centre, Gray boldly insisting that he's had "hotter pots of broth in his puff", Alex Salmond's challenger will round off the day's campaigning with an evening event in Stirling. In his keynote address, to be unexpectedly interrupted by the loud cries of a distressed infant, Gray will casually shrug off the wails, contrasting them with the horrors of the Battle of Stirling Bridge which Gray personally witnessed, aged only 15, in 1972. In the division of the spoils of battle, the English tax baron Hugh de Cressingham was famously flayed by the triumphant Scots, his hide being transformed into various attractive bespoke leather-goods for the American market. In an unscripted display of panache, it is understood that the Labour leader will loftily disdain the sufferings of being skinned, reminding the crowd of his tearless eye as he pried a particularly sharp shard of oose from his stomach button just as the military Junta seized power in Burma in 1962.
Sources in John Smith House confirm that urgent extra funding is now being sought from the Scottish Labour membership to enhance the international profile of the party's understated First Ministerial challenger. Top aides are putting together an ambitious itinerary of events in a range of tragic and harrowing international sites before polling day on May the 5th. The first photo opportunity is scheduled to take place next week, the Scottish Labour leader contriving to look jaunty in the midst of the Somme, while nonchalantly musing on the cruel pinch of his bunion. "It's no Glasgow Central station", Gray's off-the-cuff quip. The campaign continues.