This week, eh? It's the gift that keeps on giving. Not least my ex MP's decision to "help" his former colleague Alistair Carmichael which I imagine he'd like to file in the drawer marked "Hole in the Head" in his office never to be seen again.
It comes as no surprise to me that Malcolm Bruce thinks that obfuscation is de rigueur in the House of Commons for I was once his guest there and got a wee sniff of his character.
The event was called Film the House. You may have heard of it. It's the little sister of the better known and more snappy titled Rock the House, where the public is invited to enter a competition by the House of Commons about the arts. If you want to rock the house you enter a song, if you want to film the house you enter a film. The background to the whole thing is copyright awareness but for entrants there are incredible prizes donated by the music and film industry and it's a great networking opportunity for creative folks. You first submit your entry to your local constituency MP who then chooses the best of the entries and forwards them onto the next stage of the competition to compete against the entries from other constituencies from across the UK judged by a panel of experts. I had been punting the competition to my students for weeks. Most of my students are Aberdeen City dwellers so I said I would enter a music video that some of my students had helped crew on as well so we also had Gordon covered too. My entry was just over 3 minutes long. This is important to the story. You can see it below. And, yes, you may like to know that the band is the Lorelei, who happen to comprise of my husband, brother and most of my pals.
It's possible that that the office of our constituency MP was overrun by entries to Film the House and of course my ego would like to think that mine was chosen over hundreds of incredible films. Probably not the case but it was chosen and I got a letter from my MPs assistant to tell me so. It so happened that my student got a nice letter from Aberdeen South's then MP Dame Anne Begg to tell him that his had been put forward to represent his constituency. She also told him how much she'd enjoyed the film, a 20 minute documentary on the Aberdeen Sports Village. This is important to the story.
Weeks pass and we forget all about it until we are both told by the organisers of Film the House that we have both been selected as finalists in our categories and are invited to the winners ceremony as guests of our respective MPs. We, as finalists, are allowed two of our crew as guests too, so we pool all our pennies and make a trip en masse from Aberdeen to Westminster. Once we hit the city my student has a vastly different experience to I. The event itself is not until 7pm but we are all in London by noon. The Aberdeen South finalists have their itinerary packed; Anne Begg's team has arranged a tour of the House and lunch for her guests. They have a terrific day. The Gordon team kick their heels around London with no word from their MP. It is the bit of The Apprentice just before the boardroom but where the winning team get a fabulous day out and the losing team go to the stinky Bridge Cafe and blame each other over mugs of dishwater tea. OK, Kevin, Sarah and I went to the South Bank Centre and had our own fun but ye ken fit ah mean.
On a personal level I'm not as disappointed as my team members who have never been to Westminster. I had already been in the House of Commons with another student years ago and her MP was Angus Robertson who had spent the day with us, given us a tour of Westminster himself and caught up with us for dinner after he had done his parliamentary work for the day. But on this occasion we wait all day and hear nothing of any arrangements to meet our host, so in the end we just turn up at the Commons and get on with it ourselves.
Me, my students and their folks with Angus Robertson MP
The first we see of Malcolm Bruce is about half an hour after the event has started when someone tells him who his guests are at the ceremony that night and he comes over to say hello. Me being me, I use the time I have with my MP to talk about some local issues in our shared constituency. We're in the thick of the Trump carry on and I'm involved in the campaign to save the Menie Sands from the development. I want to know his position. Malcolm from this assumes that I'm not a supporter of the SNP, given Alex Salmond's intervention in the issue and proceeds to concentrate on the SNP bashing aspect of the debate as well as other issues he disagrees with them on. I decide I have to put him right on my politics. It's only fair. From that point on he just cannot be bothered with me. But it's great, because I'm his guest and my video is still in the running to win and he has to put up with me all night in case I win this thing for Gordon. Hashtag #winninghere
We talk politics most of the evening until the announcements start and it's safe to say Malcolm ain't loving me too much and can't really hide it. During an awkward lull I start to talk about the video. It is immediately apparent to me that Malcolm has not watched the video. So, because I'm a minx, I ask him why he chose my video to go forward eventually forcing him to admit that he hasn't actually seen it.
"But Susan* from the office saw it and said it was very good" he says.
My video is 3 minutes or so long. Whilst I can understand why he might not have watched all the entries that came into his office (assuming more than just mine was received), asking an assistant to do the honours, I would have expected that on the day of the event he might have given it a cursory look at the one who might win for his constituency.
"Do you want me to tell you what it's about in case I win and you have to make a speech?" I say. With a smile.
Malcolm's loving me less as the minutes tick by. He and I have a had a couple of glasses of wine by this point and it's fair to say they are not oiling the wheels of friendship between us. Mainly because I'm a Nat and he doesn't like them much, I think. But now I'm a Nat who's caught him out and is gently pulling his leg a wee bit, presumably not showing the kind of reverence that he expects.
In the end I don't win. And neither does my student, sadly. Hashtag #naewinninghere. After this fact is revealed I don't see Malcolm for dust. Not even a goodbye. But you know what, when all's said and done at least I wasn't subjected to clapping and no one was eating a chip butty. So it was fine, really.
That this week he intervenes in the Alistair Carmichael issue with a pompous indignation that constituents should expect to be lied to by their MP and just put up with it doesn't come as a surprise to me. It's not a mistake that the site where the public can keep tabs on what MPs say in the House is called "They Work for You". Some of our more comfortable representatives of yore forgot that. And hey, look what happened to them.
*Not actual name
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