It’s one of the most famous scenes in all of film history. Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan goes into his neighbourhood coffee shop, where they’ve been serving him for nine years, and he orders his usual. He’s reading the paper, so he’s not tuned in to what’s going on around him.
The waitress, who knows him well, sets up his coffee and, spotting his disconnect, lifts the sugar holder. He doesn’t usually take sugar, and whilst he’s distracted she starts to pour it into the coffee.
And pour. And pour. And pour.
Finally, she stops and he looks up and he takes his drink and he leaves.
He gets about three paces out the door and sips it, and then spits. He turns to find the staff putting Closed signs up, and he knows what’s what.
Inside, there’s a robbery going on and the gang responsible starts to rough up the customers with the local cop now outside and on his way. Except that he’s not. Like some malefic ghost he and his good buddy “Smith & Wesson” emerge from the back room, and before long all the criminals are dead but one. He grabs a hostage. Callahan walks over, his gun raised and his face calm.
The kid makes like he’s going to shoot the lady.
Callahan looks right through him. “Go ahead,” he says. “Make my day.”
I’ve been thinking about that scene a lot over the last couple of days, and especially tonight in light of the resignation of Johann Lamont.
In the movie, the bad guy does the right thing; he lowers his gun. Neither he nor his hostage gets blown to kingdom come. Here, in the world of Scottish politics, it seems to me quite likely that both would have ended up dead. The way people in the Labour Party are behaving right now, it’s as if they don’t understand the stakes.
What in God’s name is wrong with them?
John McTiernan wrote an article in the press this week that was literally breath-taking. He took solace in the No camp winning in Edinburgh, and believed it was the sign that New Labour should be reborn with a fresh Scottish accent. Apparently, he was for real.
The rightward movement of the party is now relentless. So much for Red Ed. Do not kid yourself that this guy represents hope for the future of Labour down south. With this guy as leader, ostensibly a lefty, they have pursued right-wing politics with vigour, save for on a few issues where there is more fudge than radicalism and the party is on the way to a general election defeat.
That defeat will be blamed on Ed Miliband tacking too far to the left. Mark my words. The Blairite/careerist fringe will rip him to bits, and one of them will be Last Man Standing.
Anyone who is still kidding themselves that this party can be redeemed better wise up. Things did not get better tonight. They got worse. If you thought Lamont was on the right, wait till you see who they replace her with. Do you think they’re going to allow Labour in Scotland to appoint a left-winger, who might contradict the national party platform?
Not a chance in Hell. The next Scottish leader will come from the Westminster ranks, or else be a shameless careerist who will toe the London line to the letter.
When serious media people are suggesting Kezia Dugdale, with a straight face mind, you know there is no appetite for real soul searching. They see a fresh face – and a woman at that – and think that’ll do it. That’ll spike Nicola’s guns.
No need for policies or reconnecting with the roots.
No, a 33 year old woman with no experience outside politics, elevated to the Parliament as a list MSP because of the abject failure of the party in the last elections … suggested as the next leader of the Labour in Scotland, and why?
Because she’s young. Because she’s a woman. Because she looks and sounds good on the telly. Because a young face is easier to sell as representing “a fresh start.”
They think superficial nonsense like this will counter the coming storm. It is the politics of the reality TV era. This is what passes for serious debate in their ranks.
Only one other candidate’s election would be a bigger slap in the face to this nation. Only one would represent a graver insult to our intelligence.
All this should make you want to weep. It should make you want to hit something.
Lamont, at least, appears to have seen the writing on the wall. Labour is going be chasing UKIP, and Scotland is an afterthought. Labour in London published its list of proposed tax powers for the Parliament the other day, and it was shocking although we all expected it. The contempt in which they hold us is obvious from that document.
They aren’t even remotely interested in giving Holyrood greater autonomy because that will weaken the power of their Scottish MP’s and guarantee English Votes for English Laws becomes one of the defining issues in the general election.
Scotland means nothing to Labour except to make up the Westminster numbers. It’s as simple as that. They see Scotland as having one function; send Labour MP’s to London.
Those days are over. The reckoning is coming.
One thing would turn that reckoning into an extinction level event for Labour in Scotland, and it’s already being discussed even more seriously that Kezia Dugdale. It’s the thought of this – and I have been thinking about it for a week or more, before tonight’s news – that got me pondering Dirty Harry and his ice cold challenge to a hostage taker.
There is no way in Hell that Jim Murphy isn’t going to throw his name into the hat for leader. He has to. Everyone and their dog knows he’s been briefing and shoring up support, and networking for all he’s worth and undermining Johann Lamont at every step. I have no sympathy for her at all, but he’s a slippery sod and that’s no mistake.
When we all know what he’s been up to, for him to not now follow through when the post is vacant would be an act of spinelessness so complete he won’t have to wait for the polling station to open before he can vote No in the next referendum.
He’ll be able to slither underneath the door and get in early.
If he doesn’t stand he’ll be branded a coward, now and forever. Because he will be. The job is open. If he thinks he’s got the goods, he’s got to go for it.
Truth be told, all this manoeuvring he’s been doing is further proof (not that we needed it) that these people know theirs was a Pyrric victory.
His political career can only go one way from this point on. His protestations of innocence this week, when confronted by stories about his back-stabbing, were actually pitiful.
He wants to be a member of an Ed Miliband cabinet? Excuse me as I try to stop laughing.
The next government will be led by David Cameron. That government is going to pass some form of English Votes for English Laws, and that’s it for all the wee career minded Scottish Labour hacks who dreamt of working in the Foreign Office or in Number 10.
The way it looks right now, no politician representing a constituency in Scotland will ever hold one of the great offices of state again.
Gordon Brown has this one right, at least. It’s the death knell for the union, the start of the process that unravels everything No thought they’d gained only last month.
Murphy knows this. They all do. The party is over. All that’s left is to clean up the mess, that and the scramble for taxis. The best he, or any of them, can aspire to now in their careers is the post of First Minister of Scotland, which they’ve always sneered at.
The 45% could scarcely ask for a better outcome than this, except in that he becomes leader. That would be the stuff of dreams come true.
If I could get Murphy on his own right now I’d put it to him just so:
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question … do I feel lucky? Well, do you … punk?”
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see this over-hyped, self-loving wet end stand for the leadership, and win. Nothing would give me more satisfaction than seeing him try out New Labour’s political recipe on a Scottish electorate which has a Nicola Sturgeon led alternative. There would be few political battles so one-sided, and disastrous as that.
It would compound every mistake Labour in Scotland has made in the last ten years.
With napalm. I love the smell of panic in the morning.
The only thing that would come close to giving me as much pleasure would be to watch him be routed in that leadership race. To actually learn what Labour Party members and trade unionists really think of him and his brand of politics.
I’ve long suspected that many in Labour in Scotland view him as our Peter Mandelson, as someone who’s effective in some ways but monstrously disliked, and if he reckons he’ll be elected in a landslide I think he’ll get a shock.
But there’s a bigger reason for my wanting him to run than that.
McTiernan and his notions that a right-wing Labour Party can succeed in Scotland where what he obviously believes is a left-wing one failed is a sign of chronic intellectual dishonesty or blindness that has to be challenged every bit as severely as UKIP’s party political platform.
It is time it was put to the test, the electoral test, the only one that counts. If they believe it, if they truly believe it, then Murphy will run, and if the party wants to follow him off the cliff then he will win and we’ll find out the truth.
This nonsense, that Labour lost because it didn’t move rightward enough to truly embrace the aspirational class (i.e. the super-rich) needs to be exposed in the most brutal fashion possible; at the ballot box, with a rout of its parliamentary seats. And it will be.
They still can’t bring themselves to accept that it’s the neo-con, pro-business, pro-City of London agenda being pursued at the UK level, that has brought them to this sorry, shameful place. They call the SNP a “right wing populist government” in all apparent sincerity, and never stop to wonder how, if that’s true, such a political party was able to outflank them on the left.
Time to man up, or sit down and shut up fellas.
Let your standard bearer raise it high. Let him take his “100 towns tour” national.
He always considered Scottish politics a backwater, and even with that mind-set he’s probably better off here, because a man who fled the streets fearing lynching on the back of being hit with an egg is probably not a guy you want in the negotiating room if we’ve got to get tough with Iran or the Russians.
He served as Shadow Defence for a while. To think of him as the actual Secretary of State in that post frightens me more than all the Ebola-loaded suitcase bombs that could conceivably be out there. If someone snapped a pencil in the same room as him he’d probably have to change his trousers and cover the smell.
I say he should go for it. He must. Time to expose the hype for what it is.
Get up there Jim. Get out there on the stump and sell Labour in Scotland’s members on your reasons for supporting Israel and the continuing oppression of the people of Gaza. Tell them your moral reasons for your flounce out of Parliament as it voted to recognise Palestine, as over 100 other countries have already done.
Tell them about your recent courting of the hard-core unionist and orange communities in Scotland, as part of your leadership campaign strategy, and which has won you so many new friends in the blue half of Glasgow.
Talk us through your wee expenses mistakes. Remind us again of how it was the unions who were to blame in Falkirk, anything to give them a kick and conveniently push attention away from the role in the whole affair of the husband of Gemma Doyle, one of your protégées and long-time acolytes.
Go on, Jim, tell the 45% why they are thugs and narrow nationalists, even as your membership of the Henry Jackson Society commits us to interference (including military intervention) in countries outside our own, in the name of “liberal democracy.”
Tell us all about their neo-conservative objectives and their links with the British and American intelligence agencies. Sell us on their “vision for Scotland” and their reasons for opposing us going it alone and making decisions for ourselves.
Go on Jim. Unfurl your banners. Put it all on the table.
Let the party, and then the people, decide what you and your ideas are worth.
One day you may yet be the most powerful person for at least 20 miles.
In your mind you’ve always imagined a moment like that.
To be the saviour of a nation.
Once you probably dreamed of riding like a conqueror in the back of a US armoured personnel carrier as it drove into Tehran, weeks after thousands of British soldiers had died in the endeavour.
But you’ll settle for wiping up the blood from Johann’s timely knife in the back suicide, and pulling up a chair as Scotland’s new Imperial Master.
The irony is, in terms of the SNP surge, your seat is one of the safest in the country, and you could probably continue to feather your nest down in London for years to come before taking your show on the road to a nice wee job in one of the Death Industries.
But you always wanted more than that. Destiny has bigger plans for you boyo.
Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?
As I was thinking of Eastwood’s other cracking moment today, I was reminded that one of the movies I grew up with was the 1986 film The Boy Who Could Fly. (I was ten. They were my formative years, okay?)
In that film there’s a very funny send up of Dirty Harry Callahan’s chilling challenge, when, towards the end of the picture, Fred Savage finally decides to face up to the bullies who’ve been trying to stop him successfully getting his tricycle around the block.
He dispatches the first of them by filling the road behind him with a well-timed dumping of marbles from his backpack. The second challenge is taken care of with a stunt as he drives under a protruding ladder on the top of a reversing car. As he rounds the corner his nemesis steps out from behind a fence, brandishing a baseball bat.
Savage reaches behind him, and pulls out his own weapon, and he utters the immortal line in a way Eastwood would have been proud of.
“Make my day,” he says.
The bully sneers. “I’m supposed to be scared of a water pistol?”
“There ain’t no water in this gun,” Savage says, and he cocks it menacingly, points it at him and stares him down again.
“So what’s in it?” asks the bully, sneering again for what will be the last time.
“Piss,” says Savage, and gives him a squirt that sends him sprawling.
You get the picture?
When your day is over, when you’ve destroyed the last vestiges of what your party was meant to represent, and the assassins come, I’m willing to bet that it won’t be blood your successor is mopping off the floor.
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