1 January 2010

Maximum Eck (55)

“For untae us a bairn is born, unto us a wean is given: and the (Scottish) government shall be upon his shouder: and his name shall be called Wunnerfu, Coonsellor, The mighty Eck, The everlasting Faither, The Prince o’ Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (adjusted)

Er, well. Maybe not. It has come to my attention, however, that Alex Salmond was born on
the 31st December 1954 and thus, turned a ripe 55 yesterday. Fifty five years of age that is – rather than the roll of inches that constitute the circumference of his defensive paunch. It has been a matter of comment here before that we don’t actually know very much about the man himself. We’ve seen his performances, his speechifying, his invective, his political persona. Its no accident that the etymological origins of the word ‘person’ in Greek are dramatic, denoting a player, the player’s mask. As such, I don’t mind people enforcing a fairly sharp division between the public and the private, if they feel they must. Ultimately, there is an unavoidable unity of the personality – the same soul dealing out itself in private as thunders in public. That said, if you live a stormy life of almost perpetual scrutiny and comment, I can certainly imagine that securing a pacific anchorage for yourself somewhere becomes necessary.

To continue the scriptural theme, with politicians’ characters, I tend to follow the author of the first Gospel and assume that “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16) For those of you who are less satisfied by this formulation, and seek a Freudian analysis of the Maximum Eck’s peccadilloes, a psychological account of his nationalism or a sneaky insight into the private man, you can whet your appetite on this wee article from the Times yesterday.

The Edinburgh-based journalist David Torrance writes what amounts to a preview of his current project, a biography of wur ain Megadux. (Scotland has, after all, already been graced by the reigns of three Kings who were rather grandly, and rather improbably, called Constantine. The Byzantine connection thus seems historically justified). Although I’ve never read his work, Torrance has already composed three other books, most recently We in Scotland: Thatcherism in a Cold Climate (2009). Other works include Scottish Secretaries (2006) and George Younger - A Life Well Lived (2008). Quite when and if Torrance will publish his Salmond opus remains to be seen. He does, however, quote an amusing little vignette from the memory of Tam Dalyell…

“There is another memory of him as a schoolboy. Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP, was giving a talk to Salmond’s sixth-form class at Linlithgow Academy and remembers being questioned by a precocious young Salmond. He recalls “this cheeky, bumptious, clever boy asking questions about prices and incomes policy”. Not much, then, has changed.”

In that spirit, can I wish a Happy 55th Birthday to the First Minister and a record my hopes for the New Year for us all! No doubt, whatever we do, we'll find ourselves living in interesting times...

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