by Colin Campbell
IAN Blackford’s most admirable quality – and there’s not exactly a tableau of riches to choose from – is probably his dull, stolid willingness to turn up in the House of Commons each week to be made a fool of by Boris Johnson without ever shirking away and lamenting, “I just can’t take it anymore”.
The format is usually the same. The PM throws a cutting witticism at PMQs in Blackford’s direction and he launches into full blustering mode, sitting down only after his bulging waistcoat buttons have started popping open or he’s run out of time.
Blackford undoubtedly has a very thick skin but being made fun off each week by a far sharper opponent must still be something of an ordeal.
Most people north of the border are incredulous that this corpulent, puce-faced national embarrassment is the SNP leader at Westminster and the best they can produce down there.
But then, perhaps they look at the snouts in the trough SNP dross around him and perhaps see the reason why.
Johnson must hope Blackford stays as Westminster leader forever.
This week he extended his mockery of him to the Tory Party conference. His reference to him in his speech wasn’t much, but it was enough.
He joked that the expansion of fibre optic broadband has been so effective that it now stretches to the furthest rural and island areas such as Blackford’s “billiard room” on his croft in Skye.
Speaking from his “simple 10 acres croft” Blackford was subsequently interviewed by Adam Boulton of Sky who teasingly asked if he was speaking from his billiards room. The joke had stuck.
Blackford, who at the last count raked in £250,000 in expenses on top of his vast salary from the Westminster system he professes to hate, had the sheer audacity to say it seemed the PM enjoys mocking crofters, when his own posturing as a genuine son of the soil is a shameless fraud on those hard, wiry grafters and is one of his most repulsive characteristics.
After that, he descended into a familiar tirade about callous Tories, Brexit, the irresistible case for independence and so on and so forth. Johnson was “the ultimate snake oil salesman with empty promises of jam tomorrow”. A snake oil salesman promising jam? Let’s just say mixed metaphors like that do not exhibit razor sharp wit.
What was not established is whether he has a billiard room in his “croft”, enjoying a few cognacs with rich banker friends while the ladies are still at table.
Does he have maids? Who does the actual crofting work for him? Does he have a manservant? He certainly has Range Rovers, revealed when this arch defender of the poor and downtrodden thought it wise to be photographed buying a top of the range luxury model for his wife.
The billiards boy manages to attract loathing and revulsion while still being a figure of fun and a national laughing stock at the same time. That’s quite an achievement in itself.
At least when Johnson mocked him Blackford didn’t revert to one of his stock phrases and protest that it was “an insult to the people of Scotland”. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had.
Disastrously for the SNP, a landmark Supreme Court judgement on the powers of the Scottish Government this week virtually wiped out nationalist hopes of a legal referendum for years ahead.
So Boris Johnson can enjoy taking on the party’s finest, the billiards boy at Westminster for the foreseeable future, and potting the black every time.