Usually Party Political Broadcasts are pretty boring affairs. The latest SNP party political broadcast has managed to generate considerable entertainment for independence supporters, at least those of us who follow politics enough to get the joke. The broadcast was based on the famous Monty Python sketch from the Life of Brian, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”, and featured an annoying guy with a beard, coiffed hair, and hipster glasses who constantly banged on about the SNP, and how rubbish they are. Cue outrage from the usual British nationalist suspects, who immediately claimed that the advert was an attack on David Torrance, who writes a weekly SNPbad column for the Herald, and who has a beard, immaculately coiffed hair, and wears hipster glasses. Cos obviously, every guy in Scotland with a beard and hipster glasses is David Torrance.
You can go to bars up the West End of Glasgow and find that they’re chock full of men with beards, hipster glasses, and enough product in their hair to secure a tent in a hurricane. This is why you’ll often hear the complaint from people who’d gone out for a night in Byres Road making the complaint that they couldn’t get into the venue because it was full of David Torrances. I wear glasses, and used to have a beard, but I shaved it off because people kept confusing me with David Torrance. Although to be honest no one has ever accused me of being remotely hipsterish, or indeed of having hair, coiffed or otherwise. There was also once an SNP party political broadcast which had a shot of a ginger dug in it, but I didn’t complain.
Prior to this week, David Torrance was best known for two things. The first was writing unauthorised biographies of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, which resulted in the stinging retort from Alex Salmond, “Allow me just two observations. First, I hardly know David Torrance. And secondly – and much more problematically for a biographer – he doesn’t know me at all.” That was far wittier and more cutting than anything in the book. After a social media hoo-ha-ette about the number of Tory politicians who went to private schools, David once plaintively tweeted that SNP MPs wouldn’t tell him what schools they went to, and wondered what possible reason they might have for withholding the information from him. Of course the real reason that they didn’t want to tell him was in order to stop him writing an unauthorised biography.
Otherwise, Davey was best known for banging on about politics, specifically politics of the SNPbad school, of which he is the head pupil and the leading exponent. He is in fact, to give him his due, an expert in managing to squeeze some SNPbaddery into just about any topic you care to mention. David wrote about American politics and used it to say how bad the SNP is. He writes about the EU and uses it to say how bad the SNP is. He can write about the life cycle of the Madagascan spotted moth and use it to say how bad the SNP is. It is something of a talent. He is by no means the most spittle flecked or morally repugnant British nationalist journalist in Scotland, but there’s something about David and his heavily producted hair that rubs people up the wrong way. He’s what you’d get if you crossed Alan Cochrane with a comb, dandruff shampoo, and a cereal bar in Shoreditch.
It’s not like this is the first time that party political propaganda has featured someone pretending to be an ordinary member of the public. Like that Scottish Conservative advert that featured ordinary Angela telling us why she was going to vote Tory, only it forgot to tell us that ordinary Angela was a Conservative cooncillor in North Ayrshire. Or a Labour party leaflet that dropped through my door just before an election a couple of years ago which featured statements from ordinary people from the East End of Glasgow, all of whom turned out to be Labour party activists or officials, and most of whom didn’t live in the East End. But none of them had a beard or wore hipster glasses, so that’s OK then.
Most people don’t know who David Torrance is and so won’t have got the joke. I asked a few people who have no interest in politics. One of my relatives thought that he was a character in Game of Thrones, one of the ones who had met a particularly gruesome end – which is most of them. Although to be fair my relative didn’t know what the Herald was either, and was absolutely positive that Tom Gordon used to be one of the presenters of a tartan bedecked Scottish country dancing show on STV in the early 1970s. Now thanks to the outrage of a Lib Dem MSP with far too much time on his hands, a lot more people than before now know who David Torrance is. Although it’s arguable whether any of them care.
Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, who entirely coincidentally went to the same school as David, think it’s terribly unfair of the SNP to lampoon a journalist in such a manner. He’s written a stiff letter of complaint to Ofcom. Still, it’s not really the fault of the SNP that David Torrance happens to look like the guy you get when you ring up an acting agency and ask them to send you a generic Tory-boy of the kind that would be invented by Frankie Boyle on an off-day.
You’d think that Alex ought to be getting on with the day job, instead of writing furious letters to Ofcom every time someone with a beard and glasses appears in an SNP party political broadcast. It’s a Trumpian character assassination, screamed Alex, because the Lib Dems would never ever do that sort of thing. Oh no. Just ask the former MP for Edinburgh West Michelle Thomson. She wasn’t monstered and vilified in Lib Dem election materials at all. The very idea. The truth is that the Lib Dems pretty much wrote the play book on dirty fighting in politics.
The Lib Dems have so little to do, such a lack of purpose or meaning, that writing pointless letters to Ofcom actually counts as doing their day job. The only people in Scotland less recognisable than David Torrance are Lib Dem MSPs. All that Alex Cole-Hamilton has achieved with his complaint is to get more people laughing at him than were laughing at the party political broadcast. Alex has now eclipsed James Kelly as the most-ridiculed MSP, and that’s quite an achievement. Asking what you needed to do in order to make James Kelly look statesmanlike used to be a rhetorical question, but due to Alex’s intervention, now we know. What has David Torrance ever done for us? Well he’s given us a bit of a laugh on a cold winter’s day. So thanks for that if nothing else.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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