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Impolitic: on Hemingway, Nicola as Minnie the Minx, and Bojo

Ernest Miller Hemingway (Ernie to his pals) was probably one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

His style and approach, along with Mark Twain's, is often attributed to their journalistic background. They both write with no flab, their sentences lean, their style economic and understated. They would've been brilliant on Twitter. 

I'm reading Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises just now and it's so good you'd think he spoke a different language. Just the way it's written, everything seems to fit in and lock.

This is then counteracted by following the language and rhetoric used in modern politics. People are coached and trained, fast-tracked from researchers to cabinet ministers, and they copy each other's style: bbefore you know it, there's a language of political speak.

Politics, especially the brand emanating from Westminster and Holyrood, is susceptible and guilty of bringing in new terminology. One of the newest most irritating phrases used is 'going forward'. They use it all the time, generally when they can't think of anything and want to change the subject.

Other than asking all politicians to provide a list of at least 500 classic works of fiction, I'm not sure if we can really improve the standard. It's very noticeable those who have read and have a thirst for knowledge.

The trouble with this dumbed-down, copy-cat political speak, full of upward inflexions in sentences when they aren't a question, and phrases like 'you know' and 'going forward', is that they eventually filter down to Robbie Savage on BBC Five Live.

Then you know that, going forward, the bad patter has reached tipping point. 

Comic capers, chaos and mayhem. There's always been something of the Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx double act between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. This week she (Minnie) celebrated her 60th birthday and the landmark achievement was celebrated with the front cover dedicated solely to her, a first since 1938.

We may argue over the intellectual heft of the White Paper versus The Beano, but you can't deny the parallels between Nicky and Minnie. When she was created, Minnie not Nicola, the publisher DC Thomson said she was 'a female warrior and an equal to the boys around her' a description apt for the Deputy First Minister. She's had a good year, 2014 may even be her best yet. 

This week, Boris Johnson criticised the No Campaign and told them to stop hectoring the Scots ahead of next year's vote.

(Time for a detour, there is a point, I promise.) I had a brief spell working weekends on the picture desk of a major Sunday newspaper. My real intention was to see if I could pitch a comedy column.

I quickly learned that the photos selected were always used deliberately to set the tone for the story. My job was to keep an eye on the news, be one step ahead of the editor, have photographs from various sources ready, and deal with any requests.

It could be anyone in the news, someone who had died, politicians, footballers. Until then, I had never really taken great notice of the importance of the photograph in the story.

Whenever you see a picture of Boris Johnson, he's always mugging and looks like a buffoon. Except for one, when he was the head of the Bullingdon Club; the Eton Trifles, the men who would be king, or at least Prime Minster, Mayor and Chancellor.

Johnson is portrayed like the big cuddly Dulux dog, or the loveable, alcoholic, racist, bigoted uncle come round to steal your piggy bank, but it's only BoJo.

Oh there he is on his bike. Oh look at him in this photo, there he's avoiding the press because he's been (allegedly but he really was) having an affair and he can't use his key to open the door. Oh look at this photo: he's promoting London's Olympics and he's stuck on a rip cord, suspended in a harness in mid air, how hilariously incompetent is big cuddly Boris? Oh he's useless.

Underneath the happy, boyish foolishness lies an ambitious, ruthless, politician who skilfully jokes through and very rarely answers a difficult question. Politics is like advertising; it's all a lie. Here's my slogan: Don't be Fooled.

A good week for the Yes campaign improved significantly when Better Together handed them a hot, smelly, steaming Yuletide log.

The sight of Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith sneaking out of a debate about the plight of families relying on food banks must surely help the cause? Not sure if IDS had IBS or maybe he was just embarrassed at the callousness of his party as they jeered and mocked families so desperate they were fighting for food. 

At one point this week, First Minster's Questions was tremendously festive. I expected Paul McCartney's Pipes of Peace to blare out of the Holyrood chamber; for the Presiding Officer to get into her referee outfit, blow her whistle; and for Johann and Alex to shake hands and have a kick about in no man's land.

Wrong. First it was the NHS, then the extending custodial sentences at Christmas - as someone from a long line of housebreaking recidivists and miscreants I found this unchristian Christmas sentence extension appalling: it's the busiest time of the year and surely this is supposed to be the time of goodwill to all men? Someone close to power has clearly been robbed: by the drooket look on his wee dour-faced chops, my money's on Willie Rennie.  

Merry Christmas.

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