Alex Salmond likes jokes, at least as long as he is the one making them. The SNP’s former First Minister and leader of the failed campaign to break up the United Kingdom, has a little chortle to himself whenever he judges that he has said something particularly clever or witty. He chortles in this manner a great deal. Watch him on television. The shoulders go up and down and he half laughs during sentences. Some senior SNP types took to copying this technique, although few of them do it now that Salmond is no longer leader and Nicola Sturgeon is in charge.
But the great man seems less comfortable when the boot is on the other foot, or when others take the mickey. Indeed, during the latter stages of the independence campaign, and ever since, now he is an MP eclipsed by new leader Nicola Sturgeon, I have wondered why he struggled to process defeat in the referendum and why he is so sensitive to criticism or mockery.
It seems that some of what I wrote and said during the referendum and 2015 election contributed to his wider displeasure. In the updated paperback version of his memoir, he is less than complimentary about me, although sadly in this tale I am relegated to the minor role of less original court jester to Boris Johnson’s evil prince. Salmond writes about the coverage of an SNP event:
“Boris Johnson comparing Nicola and the SNP to King Herod, thieves, foxes, weevils and scorpions all in a single article. With typically less originality his Telegraph colleague Iain Martin sends a tweet in which he compares the manifesto launch to a Nazi rally. This pair, writing from the platform of a propaganda sheet already discredited by the ‘Frenchgate’ episode, actually help us substantially. I ponder if that ever occurs to them. They do however symbolise what it is to be Better Together. Boris is English, Martin Scottish. They are perfectly at one – unified in buffoonery.”
That’s rather good that. I will have two medals made – “unified in buffoonery” – and send one to Boris.
What is troubling though is that Salmond has such a tin ear for this stuff, and such an intolerance for dissent or the prodding of the powerful. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that my comparing the Nat manifesto launch to a Nazi rally was not 100% serious. It was a joke, perhaps not a good one; a sarcastic journalistic comment made on Twitter while the Nats put on an impressive if slightly creepy television show.
Assorted wags suggested that the SNP manifesto event was so over the top, involving frenzied adulation from the faithful and tight media control, that it reminded them of the infamous Sheffield rally in 1992, when Neil Kinnock blew up. All I said was that the rumours that the SNP rally was being held in Sheffield were wrong. It was actually being held in Nuremberg. People said much worse about New Labour and few took it personally.
Salmond used to like all that stuff when it was about New Labour, when they were too big for their boots. Salmond likes it less when people take the proverbial out of his party.