15 May 2009

On first looking into Iain Gray's Home (er…)

I’m not a great one for watching the telly. However, by some chance, I was in front of the set yesterday evening when Scottish Labour’s Party Political Broadcast for the European Elections exploded into my consciousness.

Or at least, tapped me on the shoulder, and deferentially asked me if I had a minute or two to spare. Graciously, I acceded, and settled down like a good political skygazer, awaiting a new Kuiper belt to swim into my ken. Breath was bated. Like Cortéz, my eagle eyes stared pacifically, determined to be fair and balanced. Wild surmise grew as the clips trudged by. As the reel ran off, we peeked at each other, silent and not quite sure what to make of it.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of this European Parliamentary election broadcast was the fact that it contained no European content at all. Or – save for a small apprentice excursion – any apparent political content either. Indeed, it contained almost nothing apart from Iain Gray. And the er … vivid narrative of Mr Gray’s life.

In fact, exactly the same video which Scottish Labour produced in early March of this year, entitled “Iain Gray: Working for

Ludovico Einaudi’s meandering middlebrow overtinkling “I Giori” conducts us through each succeeding tableau of civic virtue. We are treated to touching black and white photos of Mr Gray as child, clutched in the arms of a grandparental relation. Reference is made to strict, devoted, hard working, dutiful family influences. No moral compass is produced in evidence, but the instrument is certainly winkingly concealed somewhere inside one of Gray’s safe suits.

A few choice characters praise Gray’s humanity, attest to his ability to connect with children, demonstrate his frequent use of buses. Happy pictures with beards and happy snaps without beards. Committed remarks about loving teaching. Obviously, he can’t love it that much otherwise he wouldn’t be beseeching Scotland in the bowels of Christ to consider that she may be mistaken in keeping Labour out of office.

Isn’t he a grand chap? Lets vote Labour in the European Elections! It’s a cheap non sequitur, but a spot of easy fun at Gray’s expense over it is probably too straightforward to be admirable. Actually, it may be a rather good idea. After all, I’d suggest that it is too obviously partisan to claim that Iain Gray’s polled 7% “best First Minister rating” is animated by public dislike for the man. I doubt that. Largely, his anonymity is the problem. Not, of course, that I intend to suggest that people would approve of him if they did know him. However, how decisive could one be about a man who one has perhaps only caught in snatches in the media, instantly forgettably?

In this sense, given an expectation that the European election results will be answered for by different considerations, using the airtime to air Gray’s character is perhaps an instance of low animal cunning. Of course, if one was wearing one’s doubting cap, you might also suggest that Scottish Labour may be a little strapped for cash, and are hoarding their pennies for imminent, more threatening, electoral prospects. Hence, they’re doing Europe on the cheap, feeding out old footage of dubious relevance.

A curiosity, either way.

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