In a post last month we referred to a 1984 ZX Spectrum computer game entitled “Worse Happens At Sea”. As we saw the First Minister on the Andrew Marr Show today, we were reminded of another one on the maritime disaster theme that was much closer to the end of Speccy’s life.
It was grim to look at in every way.
We counted a remarkable 41 blinks in the 20 seconds that Sturgeon was on the screen before she said a word, and the rate barely dropped during the 16-minute interview.
If you don’t think there’s anything important about this, we recommend that you try it yourself. Walk around your house blinking twice a second (or do so while reading this) and see how long it takes you to stop because you get dizzy. It’s like in a disco when a flashlight goes on. It really isn’t natural.
But the overall performance was poor. With a face like thunder, the FM would simply waffle and twist any question that an unusually combative Marr asked her, and each time her ultimate fallback answer (often reached via “We’re not as bad as England”) was: “We are ahead in the polls”.
It is, as we noted earlier, basically an abusive spouse’s argument, “You have nowhere else to go, what are you going to do?” The SNP are inviolable in the polls because Scotland has a ridiculous clown show for an opposition and because the no vote is split into three ways while the yes vote is owned by a single party.
But time and again Sturgeon escaped hard realities that she couldn’t explain by saying, “Hey, I’ll let people judge me.”
She would need that to survive until May.
This Tuesday, the Holyrood investigation into the botched Alex Salmond investigation will hear evidence from Sturgeon’s senior private secretary, John Somers. The evidence in itself could be explosive. Somers (far left in the picture below) has no reason to go down with the ship by covering up the SNP leader, and in the civil service he’s still a young man with a promising career ahead of him – as long as he can’t avoid guilt for this one maliciously planned and incompetently executed five-alarm train accident.
But it’s the person on the other end of the shot who may be more dramatic on next week’s news. It is widely expected that John Swinney will announce – and possibly on the same day as Somers’ appearance – that the Scottish Government will maintain its refusal to publish its legal advice on the Salmond case.
If so, the opposition parties are likely to get a vote of no confidence in the Deputy First Minister and most likely win it, leaving him with no choice but to resign. Such an event would be seen as a “you’re next” warning shot across the arches of the FM, and at that point things would actually get very interesting.
(It is perhaps worth noting how embarrassing it is for the SNP to insist that Boris Johnson “respect democracy” and give in to a Section 30 when another Scottish majority with an Indian majority is elected next year, but it steadfastly refuses respect two clear democratic voices of this same parliament.)
Sturgeon has so far used Swinney as a human shield to put him directly in the line of fire, setting the mandate for the separate investigation into parliamentary standards and also giving him the ticking time bomb of legal advice. When he leaves she has to frantically look around for other people to throw under the bus and try to somehow save their own skin.
If we were Leslie Evans, James Wolffe, Liz Lloyd or Judith Mackinnon, we would be very nervous indeed. But they weren’t the ones who had to go on TV this morning, and anyone with the slightest ability to hold a distant view will have seen for themselves what it looks like to see the inevitability of the iceberg ahead.