Going for Gross: Alex Salmond, Blowjobs and the Duchess of Cambridge

During the Edinburgh Festival, a journalist called Iain McWhirter (who did the recent TV series ‘The Road to the Referendum’) was commenting during a show discussing the media in Scotland as part of ‘All Back to Bowie’s’, on the way that most newspapers dealt with stories that related in some way to the Referendum. The policy was to do what were called ‘BlowJobs’. This means that, if they tried really hard, they could spin ANY news story to start with the banner headline of ‘Blow to Salmond as…’. Even if it was a ‘good news’ story for ‘Yes’, they knew that it could be spun and presented negatively. See Professor John Robertson’s results at the start of the year surveying BBC and STV bias, for some broadcast equivalents. For example, – I remember when the unemployment and employed figures were both really favourable in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, and this news was presented as bad news, as it must be a sign of zero hours contracts. Surprisingly, zero hours contracts in no way featured in the same figures covered by the UK-wide BBC reports on that same day – it was purely a means of packaging by BBC Scotland.

At the same time, any pro-Union/BritNat story would be encouraged and expanded upon – almost as though this could push any Referendum coverage out, and so substitute some trite story to (somewhat lately) reinforce the idea of Britishness.

I could not help but think of this this morning, while watching the BBC News Channel. In June last year, it was something of a joke amongst Yes voters that – in order to push Britishness in the run-up to the vote – another royal baby would be required. Chris Cairns cartoon expressed this really well at the time. So this morning, as the reports were coming in about a drop of around 1% in the pound sterling (see previous post), other market concerns were highlighted. Four companies were singled out, as having dropped 2.5-3%. They were RBS, the Weir Group, Lloyds (because of Scottish Widows Fund, BofS and Clydesdale) and Standard Life. You may recognize that most (if not all?) of those companies have form for making noises about possibly disinvesting in Scotland in the result of a Yes vote, whether in 1979, 1997 or the current independence campaign. But this was not how they were identified this morning.
The BBC presenter chose a remarkable characteristic, identifying them as “Companies” as she put it, “with significant exposure to Scotland.”

‘Exposure to Scotland’? Now there is an interesting turn of phrase. I confess that I had not expected the disease metaphor to be used in a different context in the Referendum debate, after Johann Lamont described nationalism as a virus in September last year. This had chilling echoes of a 1942 speech by a certain former German leader about “the discovery of the Jewish virus”…slightly ironic, given how often Labour in Scotland desperately attempt to portray Yes campaigners as some form of incarnation of that ideology (see ‘The No Narrative 2’).

But I digress.

I am fairly sure that the BBC presenter this morning was not making such bizarre connections, and merely intended to use the word ‘risk’ in there somewhere, and fluffed it on live TV. I began to wonder if this was some sort of reflection on the noises those companies themselves had made, regarding considering moving in the result of a Yes vote – as several other companies who had been far more neutral seemed to be in no way singled out for this group.

Then suddenly there was breaking news. A royal pregnancy was announced!

Soon people were scrambled to stand outside symbolic buildings to spread the word…and I could not help but feel a certain surreal sense of what was happening. Perhaps déjà vu? The timing…was remarkable. And as the reports continued through the morning, in a slightly garbled form, with comments about the Duchess’ severe morning sickness response last time around, it emerged that this was not a pregnancy at 13 weeks. It was nearer 1 month.

Ok, so this is going to be the most gross and tasteless of these posts by far – and it subscribes very very heavily to the tinfoil hat brigade’s conspiracy theory outlook on life. So here goes…

What if the Duchess of Cambridge ISN’T actually pregnant? David Cameron went up to Balmoral yesterday, it’s true – unusually not stopping off anywhere for any publicity opportunities – but perhaps to come to an arrangement with the Queen, for one last, big ‘Britishness’ stunt, a last push to invoke that confused Olympic, Dunkirk mess of a sentimental viewpoint?

 

‘Liz – need a favour. Do you think you can get the grandson’s wife to pretend to be pregnant? Everyone loves a royal event – we can’t manage a wedding at such short notice, so I need a pregnancy.’

‘But Dave – it’s too short notice – with those ultra long-distance lenses, they’ll be able to tell that she isn’t 3 months pregnant the first time she steps out.’

‘No worries, Liz – I’ve got me a plan. We say that she is suffering that extreme morning sickness again, so is announcing after only a month’s pregnancy that she is canceling the engagements in her diary. That way, there wouldn’t be anything visible to see – so nobody gets suspicious that it is a fake royal story.’

‘But it would become obvious quite quickly…’

‘Nah, no worries Babe – I only need her to be pregnant for two weeks, then after the Referendum we can say that it was a phantom pregnancy or summat. See me right, and I won’t forget this, Liz…’

 

Well – maybe I’m paraphrasing. Slightly.

Of course, it may well be that the Duke and Duchess, as former recipients of the Scottish education system doing their degrees together at St. Andrews University, are indeed quite genuinely pregnant, and that there is nothing whatsoever suspicious about this unusually premature announcement. And that is just a pure coincidence that a little ‘royal baby magic’ could be sprinkled on the ‘No’ campaign at this difficult time for them.

But the timing of this, as a last minute ‘Rule Britannia’ publicity event…is…surprisingly propitious. It would certainly dispel the charge that the ‘No’ campaign is only ever negative. Deeply cynical and manipulative , yes – but not UTTERLY negative. And if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, maybe even walks like one…

143 countries have become independent since the war – which means that if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ then it will make it a gross. It also means that we will not be subjected to even the threat of ‘stunt Britishness’ events and TV programmes such as we have already experienced this year, in an attempt to enforce an identity on the people of Scotland that 62% of them (identifying themselves as exclusively Scottish) do not associate with, and only 18% (‘Scottish and British’) that do.

It also means that maybe I could stop seeing ducks where there aren’t any. 🙂

 

“The No campaign fail to offer such an inspiring option because it isn’t a campaign for anything. It is a wall built to hold back the tides of apathy, disillusionment and anger over centuries of mistreatment and political abandonment.” (Hamish Gibson, National Collective)

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