Shug O’ Ranter: 1986 Strathclyde Labour and the SNP
Of Brownyis and of Bogillis and of Sid Waddell full is this Blog
Efter I papped mysel’ oot o’ Glaswegian Labour circles in a sympathetic rage over my Uncle Sammy’s dignity getting a completely unwarranted kicking for my bad behaviour, I neutered my own political proboscis and sat for a while on my bright red hands; them claws o’ mine still calloused and cut from rusty guitar strings and completely unnecessary Strathclyde Regional Council leafleting in Cathcart.
I’d just been to the SECC (I think, but my memory is pure pish) where the petals of the red rose scented the stifled Clyde-side air of another whopping Labour Lakeland-style landslide by 5 sets to nil over a shambolic tripartite Opposition; a triple opposition lobbed thegither and throwing nine darts for every Labour three. There were those poisoned-arrow chucking posh blue twits cheering “Woo-ha-ha” to their extremely limited chin-less successes in the types of wards that always included a verdant tailored park and a well-funded secondary school. Also there, with a picnic and thermos for God’s sake, were a couple of fat optimistic Liberal/SDP bawbags, double-sized organic tops hung outside their troosers and desperate to have the even fatter guts to admit they were in awe of the Tories. They knew they were a bit shitty and out of their sideways-glancing league, and anyhoo they were far too busy musing and preparing for David Steel‘s groundbreaking new government in the imminent General Election, the silly tubes, to worry about getting their arses felt. With possibly more supporters in the building than either the Conservatives or the Liberal/SDP-ers, and certainly more outside with their Saltires and hauf bottles, smoking their Kensitas Club King Size, and cowrin’ beside the urine-honking protection barriers that stopped them plunging in for a quick yellow flight from the ridicule after yet another spanking, was the ridiculous SNP. What a sneer (a naturally developed one and not the nasty one taught at The Douglas Alexander School for Strays from 1997) we had at their mad-house crew, blathering fu’ and crooning o’er some auld Scots sonnet: while taking a fly glance anywhere lest Lefties catch them off the wire. Motley? Schmotley! The dicks.
But to our tale! Back in the hall as we strolled back in Convenor Charles Gray was on the oche and he’d just scored 180% of all votes available in Chryston. Rampant Chas, with the most clean-shaven chin in the history of Red Clydeside, a killer reek of Hi-Karate, surely the most coiffured hairy heid in Christianity, and perhaps the biggest bank balance in Socialist Europe, was glorious; o’er every bloody ill of life victorious. His guid grey jacket, of Paisley harn, weighed a ton. It had leather elbow patches and IT WAS IRONED. I swear it! Those patches were as flat as a rigwoodie hag’s tit.
Joe and I started having a bit of sport noising up a couple of aul’ tartan blawbags with chanters for noses who wheezed and piped and squeezed their lungs to get a breath. We felt safe in the absolute certainty that we could babystep faster than they could run. All four of us were getting a bit loud, with scarlet mockery from us and them screwing their beaks to gart them skirl, when Commissar Charles came down the stairs flowing like a real boy Disney queen. He glowered at us with a slow prudent care and none-too-gently took Joe and me aside, nodding to the Tweedy Clangers and getting a respectful, if half-barleycorned, look in return. I was so scared that I found could take my eyes of his barnet with remarkable ease for the very first time.
“You stupid wee arseholes!” he scolded, and might well have used even more gaudy vocabulary. “These people you laugh at are not here for a celebration or a victory parade. They turn up at every bloody election count, knowing that they are going to get thrashed. They’re here to support their friends who they know cannot win. They are not in this for political reasons.: they are here because they love Scotland. That’s all. So what gives you two arseholes the right to mock them as if they’re idiots? Get out you wee poofs! You make me sick.”
Election night was getting late so we took ourselves through the gate, heading off to get a taxi to take us over the keystone of the Jamaica Bridge with our tails fast between our lifted legs. Within a week of Charles Gray’s admonishment I had left the Labour family for the family reasons suggested before, and left behind the snotty prejudiced nose that I looked down on the SNP with. Thanks to Charles I eventually remembered that I loved Scotland too. I joined up to King’s Park branch (five of us in a wee pub at my first meeting) of the tousled SNP for political companionship later that year and worked hard doing the things you gotsta do. I discovered the dram and the drama of aul’ Scotia and gradually transformed without regret from a co-opted tadpole to a tartan toad as comfortable squatting on a lily as in a manky aul’ flat.
The subsequent 1987 General Election was a Krokk o’ Kakk®, the only consolation being that it was worse for Labour, and their only consolation was that it was a catastrophe for the Liberal/SDP Alliance. Catastrophic in-so-far as their mutant lovechildren, the insipid twins, the irrelevant schizophrenic Liberal Democrats, fell oot the womb with a plop and cracked their collective heid on the scullery floor before the midwife arrived.
I have never learned a better political lesson: people are in politics for a variety of valid purposeful reasons; but people are in the SNP primarily because they love Scotland and think her worthy of distilled all-consuming attention. It’s one of the greatest loves of all.
Now, wha this tale o’ truth shall read,
Ilk man and Uncle’s son take heed;
Whene’er to darts you are inclin’d,
Or Tweedy Clangers run in your mind,
Think! Ye may wear elbow patch, oh dear –
Remember Charlie Gray’s big hair