Brian Monteith: Either Hapless and Hopeless

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IT’S been a funny old week. All sorts of politicians have been having a tough time of it – doing what politicians do best, achieving the opposite of what they seek to achieve. It’s called the law of unintended consequences – and it’s the most common law that MPs and MSPs bring into effect.

Ed Miliband and the word “hapless” could have been made for each other. They have a natural fit, like two Lego bricks they just click into place – it could almost be his middle name. Ed Hapless Miliband, it has a ring to it don’t you think?

After making a cod’s ear of eating a bacon butty recently Hapless got into a touch of bother this week by giving his support to the bête noir of the left, trade unionists, and Scousers – he was photographed holding a copy of The Sun newspaper.

For some people it was as a non-event, Cameron and Clegg had both done it, and I’m sure Alex Salmond would have obliged at the drop of his chauffeur’s hat – but Hapless?

You see the red top tabloid is one of Rupert Murdoch’s papers, one of a stable from the bitter and often violent Wapping dispute of the 80s that is so reviled by trade unionists with a memory and a conscience.

It is the paper often blamed for John Major’s defeat of Neil Kinnock in 1992, and it’s the paper whose reporting of the Hillsborough disaster makes it reviled in Merseyside to this day.

Nevertheless, a statesman has to do unpalatable things to show he’s able to take unpalatable decisions – and win potential votes from readers of popular papers. So Hapless decided a Faustian pact was worth it and posed for the photograph.

No sooner was it seen by his supporters than a storm in his Greek Yoghurt blew up. It was a messy affair with the potential to become very sticky and smelly. Hapless decided he should immediately apologise for betraying his followers, who’re dwindling by the day.

Now, if you want to be a political leader who is able to demonstrate good judgement that means deciding whether or not it is a good idea to have your photo taken in particular circumstances.

It means telling your aides an idea is bad when it stinks like old socks. But most of all it means ensuring you do not put yourself in positions where you have to issue an apology – a practice that emphasises that your judgement is flawed and not to be trusted. The personal ratings of Hapless have now reached a new low – falling below that of Nick Clegg. That’s some achievement but it’s not one to aspire to.

Not only has Hapless shown himself to be a disaster waiting in the wings to happen – he’s also become the best recruiting sergeant for Scotland’s Yes campaign, for he has a certain air about him; the putrid stench of defeat.

And if Scottish voters begin to think Hapless can’t win the next general election, pollsters tell us that they will be more minded to vote for independence.

I happen to think that it is a particularly dumb reason to decide about the future of our country, it’s like saying you only believe in democracy so long as your team always wins. Nevertheless, Hapless is looking unelectable and that suits Alex Salmond down to the ground. That’s an unintended consequence.

Another politician who is beginning to look bereft of judgement is John Swinney, not so much hapless as hopeless!

The financial papers put out in the name of the SNP’s supposed safe pair of hands have started to become as worthless as banknotes in the Weimar Republic, for Swinney’s policies conjure up the image of citizens needing wheelbarrows to carry their pocket money.

Firstly he produced financial estimates for oil revenues that were shown to be a work of an overexcited mind.

That was a tad unfortunate, given all the promises of free childcare for mums, better pensions for everyone and free lollipops for kids based upon his sums.

His second estimates were ravaged by industry experts too. Now this week he’s announced an independent Scotland will borrow billions from day one. What a shame our future generations don’t have a vote for they will be the ones paying for Swinney’s debt, if he’s given the chance.

Not that we would get off lightly either, the country’s credit rating would plummet, interest rates would rocket and bills would soar. Not so much a cost of living crisis as a cost of Swinney crisis.

One is left feeling Swinney is the man who’d put all his money on black and it would come up red, or that he’d invest shares in Prestwick – oh, he’s done that hasn’t he – with your money!

Swinney’s unintended consequence is that the economic case for independence is in tatters – voting Yes is more and more becoming a vote with the heart than it is with the head.

So the referendum is becoming harder to predict and the general election impossible to call. There can only be one winner – the bookies. I suggest you buy shares in them, unless 
you find Hapless and Swinney doing it too.