P&J Column 24.9.15


Initiation ceremonies: how to get ahead in politics

Struan Metcalfe, MSP for Aberdeenshire North East and Surrounding Nether Regions


Now, look here! There’s been a terrific rumpus across the Twitter-sphere these last few days over the totally ridiculous allegations about what Super Dave got up to in his Uni days. Let me be clear, I have no intention of giving these lurid stories the oxygen of publicity. In fact, I wont even offer up my usual “slightly sozzled on the obligatory 5 G&Ts after work” perspective. Central office have been VERY clear about that.

Oh, the tweets I’ve had to delete.

Let me just say this. Boys will be boys. And speaking as someone Annabel Goldie continues to call “you, boy!” I should know. Also, I’m no stranger to initiation ceremonies. Since 2006 I’ve been responsible for administering wedgies at the Tory Party Conference, and that includes Eric Pickles (mind you, he was a two man lift. Big up to Ruth Davidson for the assist)!

But…student pranks, well, we’ve all done it, haven’t we? I mean, look; at the start of my first year at Uni I was invited to join the infamous dining society The Prince Alberts. Crikey! Some of the stuff I had to ingest during the initiation ceremony would make your hair curl – they left the crusts on the cucumber sarnies!

But, trust me, no animals were involved during that initiation. It was pretty wild, I grant you, but we didn’t go the whole hog.

Cava Kenny Cordiner, the football pundit who has it in spades

My regulatory readers will know that whenever the law gets involved in the sporting arena, old Kenny gets winded up. Sometimes, though, I is prepared to make an extension; like when I seen in the paper that a High Court Judge is to decide if Bridge is a sport, or just a game.

I’m not much of a Bridger, but I hope the beak says it’s a sport because if he done that, it would set a legal president. If Bridge is made a sport, then a lot of old Kenny’s favourite pastimes could follow. Bridge involves studying information and predicting who’s going to win – just like going to the bookies. Bridge involves 4 people sitting at a table trying to trump each other – similar to me swapping old football stories in the Butcher’ Arms with Dunter, Chopper and Bill ‘the Barker’ Barclay. And, most best of all, Bridge is a game of chance that has an element of skill to it – exactly the same as playing the puggy in the Kintore Arms. At this rate, my Saturday evening trip to the boozer could become a high-paced cardigan-vascular work out!

Professor Hector J Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, I’m forever being asked questions such as “Do the risks associated with building nuclear reactors outweigh the benefits?”, “Is eating a chili-heavy diet good for you?” and “Do realise that your fly is open?” (The answers are respectively “probably”, “yes,” and “yes, it’s for ventilation purposes after all those damned chilis.”)

This week, however, the question on everyone’s lips has been:“Did Volkswagen really fool the US regulators into believing that their cars produced only a fraction of their true emissions?” Well, hard to believe as it may be, it seems that it is possible to dupe the regulatory authorities of a land where Donald Trump runs a decent chance of becoming President. Volkswagen have admitted that they included in their cars a clever little piece of software that could detect when the emissions were being tested and manipulate the results. If only they’d put a similar amount of ingenuity into actually reducing the vehicles’ emissions, they might not be in this pickle. I fear that the person who made that decision is going to have plenty of time to practice his Golf in the not too distant future!

But perhaps the most shocking aspect of this story is the fact that it is not the most disgusting news to come out of corporate America this week. That distinction falls to Turing Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Martin Shkreli, an oleaginous blob of sub-humanity who has hiked up the price of an essential HIV medication by over 5000%.   In so doing, he has rewritten the laws of medical science: it seems that is possible for a man to live, breathe, and become fantastically wealthy without having a functioning heart.