Helen Martin: Game of chess is worth a punt

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WELL some people might be bored with it but I think this is the most exciting general election ever. It’s like watching a soap opera, playing chess, mind-reading, and taking a blind punt on the Grand National all at the same time.

Voting for who you like and believe in is old hat, not least because – with rare exceptions – liking politicians and believing in them is, well, frankly ridiculous.

This time more of us than ever will be voting tactically, if we can find our way through the thick cobwebs of claim, counter-claim, leaks, smears, secret treaties, bluff and double bluff, and policy statements that reveal absolutely nothing. No-one is actually going to win. The keys of Downing Street are just that – a set of keys. It’s like the Big Brother house – it all depends on who moves in with you.

The intriguing twist is that we don’t have to like a party to vote for them. There could be other reasons for voting SNP apart from a desire for independence. It could be because you’re fed up with a two-party state, because you want to get rid of the Tories, you want to stay in the EU, you actually want Milliband in No 10, you do want Scotland to have a louder voice, or just that you believe in Girl Power and like high heels.

X may mark your Tory spot just because you are rich, you want to stay in the UK no matter what, you think we spend too much on welfare for idle people, you know Tories will do anything necessary to bring the deficit down, you’re the sort of person who likes Union flag cushions, or just that Ruth Davidson is too scary to disobey.

Labour could sway you because you don’t want independence, you want to trounce the Tories, you’d like the rich to pay more tax, you think they’ll work with the SNP, you feel sorry for Ed Milliband being snapped with that bacon buttie, or just feel sorry for Ed Milliband.

Even UKIP might win a few from folk who believe we should clamp down on foreigners taking our jobs and school places, who don’t like European interference, who think the Tories are too light-weight and should be banished, who hope UKIP might raise the alcohol driving limit again, and who like to be controversial at dinner parties.

Reasons to vote Lib Dem include believing that they’ll never make another coalition with the Tories, Nick Clegg being the best looking of the London Three, or just being born an indecisive Libran.

The Greens could net a lot of votes from those who want to get rid of the Tories, who want independence, who like orderly recycling in coloured boxes, those who like drinking clean water and breathing, those who care about the planet and its species, and those impressed with the sartorial elegance and eloquence of Patrick Harvie, the closest the human race has to a AAA battery – small, slim but never runs down. There is one overwhelming problem for the Greens, though. They are simply too smart, intelligent and compassionate to be in politics at all.

One improvement this time around is that there really is a difference between the parties, unlike previous contests where it was barely possible to get a Rizzla paper between Tories and Labour. It may seem a bit chaotic at the moment, but thanks to the smaller parties, UK politics just got meaningful and interesting again. Watch the turnout percentage soar.

Cops’ heads full of bricks

I KNOW today a lot of police officers have degrees. Unlike the common sense, clip-round-the-earhole local bobbies of old, these guys are career rozzers with an academic badge to fall back on. But I fear it has gone to their heads.

Police Scotland have created Lego scenarios to teach us about securing our homes against burglars, along with “fun poems” and I quote: “Staying in or goin’ oot? Lock the windaes ‘n’ front door. A simple step maybe, That’ll prevent access tae them on the chore.”

It doesn’t scan, it’s written in slang that many a householder won’t understand. I assume they got a thief to write this, otherwise it doesn’t say much for their higher education. Using children’s toys and sloppy language as a means of communicating with their paymasters tells us all we need to know about their attitude to the public.

DNA tell us research into genetics is always useful

GENETIC research is helpful for some but damaging to others. The latest discovery in Sweden shows brothers of sex offenders are five times more likely than average to commit similar crimes. It is, as they say, all in the genes. What are we meant to do with that knowledge?

It’s up to Angelina Jolie, right, if she wants to undergo surgery to avoid cancer, but what’s the point of knowing if the body part in question can’t be cut off? What’s the point of being told you are 99 per cent certain to get dementia at 70 if nothing can stop it? And what will insurers do with that information? Without an ethical frame-work, all this research is worthless and terrifying.


DOCTORS are complaining that lower budgets with fewer staff doing more work is unsustainable. Everyone’s in the same boat. Quality and time are luxuries.

That’s austerity for you.