Brian Monteith: Hollow laughter at Alex’s end of the career show

Alex Salmond unleashes his comedy Fringe show. Picture: Alistair Linford
Alex Salmond unleashes his comedy Fringe show. Picture: Alistair Linford
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Alex Salmond needs help. It is as simple as that. To climb to the exalted level of First Minister of Scotland – with all the pomp and ceremony, the fawning by flunkies, the five-star hotels, the exclusive golf trips overseas and meeting and befriending of wealthy celebrities like Donald Trump – it must be a serious shock to one’s self-esteem to loose not just that high office but then be booted out of politics altogether.

For Alex, a man who would take it as a compliment when I say he has turned bravado and bluster into an art form, to lose his parliamentary seat to a Tory candidate, of all things, must have been especially wounding. He has already passed the political torch on to a new generation of nationalists so one would not expect the former First Minister to re-enter elected politics again – it’s not as if he can go to the House of Lords! Although he would be welcomed there, it would be the antithesis of everything he had stood for.

Instead one would normally expect a period of reflection, a retreat for a good few months to take it all in, and then maybe write the cathartic book that is undoubtedly in him before re-inventing and re-launching himself in a new career.

Such conventional behaviour was not for Alex. Instead, after losing his seat he took a quick parliamentary trip overseas at taxpayers’ expense and then announced he was to front a Fringe show with his own comedy, interviews with special guests.

When I read about it I cringed. I thought how unbecoming and, frankly, how disrespectful to the position of First Minister that he once held – and with some aplomb.

I feared the worst and have not been disappointed. I’ve met Alex, debated with him, supped with him and played golf with him. As a political adversary, Alex is a man who is very easy to like.

He engages in rhetorical combat and gives no quarter but is able to slap his opponent on the back and exchange banter afterwards. Mostly he wins, but occasionally he loses and he was able to deal with it and move on and sally forth into the next debate. Presenting a Fringe show called “Unleashed” suggested to me he’s having difficulty accepting his defeat, that he cannot wean himself off the limelight, that he needs the full glare of publicity, indeed the adulation of his fans who have predictably flocked to hear his repartee once more. What you get then is not so much Graham Norton as Norma Desmond.

Unfortunately some of Alex’s humour has been lewd, to put it mildly, with sexual innuendo better suited to an end-of-pier show rather than an end-of-career show.

Oh how everybody laughed, but when you later read such jokes out in the cold light of day they simply make one squirm.

You don’t need a Fringe show to make people laugh, cry or find their other emotions. The thing about politics is that, even in August when its actors are meant to be on holiday, it just keeps giving – they continue to make fools of themselves.

Take the current First Minister, while Alex is telling us Scotland will be independent in four years Nicola Sturgeon finds time to attack Clark’s shoes for having ranges called “Dolly Babe” for girls and “Leader” for boys – while ignoring the tweet she put out extolling “Totty Rocks” who fashioned some of her figure-hugging dresses.

Leaving politics is a chance to wise up but Alex has to go the course. He has to complete his run at the Fringe, but for his own good I hope he takes a long break afterwards.