THE BLOG

Guess Who's Back

08/12/2014 21:43 GMT | Updated 07/02/2015 10:59 GMT

On the surface it does not seem like there is much that connects Eminem, the hyper-aggressive and out of control alter-ego of Marshall Mathers III, and Alex Salmond. One is a self-obsessed, silver tongued performer who exists in a permanent state of hubristic arrogance worshipped by legions of fans. The other is a famous American rapper.

They do share one trait however. Both are past masters at the art of the comeback. Whether it is Mathers' return from a self-imposed exile battling drugs and alcohol addiction or Salmond's reappearance from the political wilderness both share a talent for picking up exactly where they left off.

Alex Salmond is planning a comeback. Again. After resigning as leader of the SNP and First Minister following the loss of the Referendum campaign, Mr Salmond is planning another political regeneration. He is aiming to become MP for Gordon and intends to 'turn Westminster upside down' and force Parliament to give Scotland far more concessions than the Smith Commission currently has planned. He says that, despite the result of the Referendum, the 'people of Scotland have refused to give up hope' and therefore it is 'impossible to stand on the side-lines.'

Mr Salmond it seems, just cannot bear to be out of the political limelight. If I was Nicola Sturgeon, I'd be grinding my teeth in frustration. Salmond has barely allowed her two weeks of being First Minister before forcing his way back into the news. Poor Sturgeon has barely had a chance to stamp her authority on her massively enlarged and politically raw party before Salmond swung the narrative back onto him.

If he does end up in Westminster the new leader's power in Holyrood will be under threat - the press will not hesitate to give the media savvy Salmond more airtime in London than it will Sturgeon in Edinburgh. Like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson he knows exactly which establishment buttons to press to make sure he is rarely off the news. If Sturgeon wants to remain in control of the movement she has inherited she will have to make it clear to her former mentor just who is the boss. This might be difficult, the two will be far apart, arguing against different opponents and on different platforms.

What is also pretty astonishing is the hubris on show. The fact that he might be up for a pretty difficult campaign with Labour and Tory voters potentially tactically backing the Lib Dems apparently means nothing to Salmond. To listen to him talk it sounds like he believes he has already won. This shows not only disrespect to his (capable) opponents but also a dangerous complicity. The Lib Dems have a respectable majority and there are around 20,000 Labour and Conservative votes up for grabs, few of them will relish the prospect of having Mr Salmond as their MP.

I am not saying he cannot win, of course he can; in fact he stands a very good chance. But by talking as if he has already done so, as if he faces no challenges and may as well go out and start buying office furniture now he is not only damaging his own party (especially Nicola Sturgeon's authority) and being disrespectful to his opponents, he is also providing more evidence of the kind of political game the SNP are playing.

That the SNP gained a lot of political capital for lumping Labour and the Lib Dems together with the Conservatives during the Referendum campaign is unsurprising; the question was binary and thus two broad campaigns emerged. After the No vote in September the other parties seemed happy to get back to 'business as normal' (Labour gunning down the Tories on the NHS, the Tories crying foul over Labours economic record, everyone alternately pitying and condemning the Liberal Democrats). However the SNP, having found a winning tactic have kept on pushing the dual 'SNP or 'Everyone Else (who are all Tories anyway)' line.

In this reductive political dualism sensationalism overrides subtly and nuance is lost in tactical crudeness.

This formulation also sounds a warning bell for the future. It is possible that all future votes may become painful referendum aftershocks in which you are either for the SNP or against them (and, it is implied, with the Tories). In this situation the other parties will have no choice, they will vote tactically or they will fall.

It is a depressing, dull vision of politics. The referendum ended two months ago but it feels like we will not be moving out of its shadow for many years yet.

And what of the ebullient Alex Salmond? How might he react to an increasingly stern Sturgeon asking him to keep a slightly lower profile so her voice can be heard? My guess is that he would smile, shrug and chuckle, 'We need a little controversy because it feels so empty without me!'