Tom Peterkin: From bonhomie at Leveson, to bombast at Holyrood
THE cliché “a change is as good as a rest” would seem to hold true for the First Minister. Alex Salmond looked reinvigorated when he returned from London after his appearance at the Leveson inquiry.
As ever, Mr Salmond relished the London media spotlight and gave the impression that there was nothing in the world he would rather do than field questions about himself for a few hours.
In the big smoke, he temporarily escaped from the tricky questions being posed by Labour on the economics of independence and held forth on all manner of issues with that charm which seasoned Mr Salmond observers know so well.
At Leveson, he went for a conversational style that exuded reasonableness and which makes Mr Salmond such a consummate performer when it comes to working a room. One almost expected him to slap Robert Jay, QC, on the back with the sort of easy familiarity he might use to greet a floating voter in the beer tent at the Turriff Show.
There can’t have been many inquiry witnesses, who have managed to have a gentle chat about the game of golf. “I don’t know if you get much time off this inquiry, Mr Jay, and get a chance for golf,” was one of Mr Salmond’s lines.
Without waiting to find out if Mr Jay had booked his tee-off time for the monthly medal at Sunningdale, Mr Salmond breezily continued: “I wouldn’t be surprised if your golfing partners mentioned the Leveson Inquiry in the course of the round. With me, I conduct very few conversations these days where the subject of Scottish independence does not emerge.”
Such conversational gambits were used to bring up the subject of independence. While a headline-grabbing anecdote alleging that his bank account had been hacked, took care of some of the next day’s papers.
He did look less comfortable when asked about his links to the Murdoch empire, but overall it was a performance that revealed little more than we already know – that Mr Salmond is an accomplished politician.
If he looked pleased with himself, it was probably because he was. His sojourn south of the Border, had given him much-needed boost after a torrid couple of weeks.
That fillip was in evidence as he returned to Holyrood yesterday for First Minister’s Questions. There, we saw the other side of Mr Salmond, the political operator – the bonhomie was replaced by angry bombast as he went after his questioners. Or as Ruth Davidson remarked “all his charm and candour was used up” at Leveson.
At this stage, the days of dreadful headlines, that some within the No camp were hoping would follow Mr Salmond out of Levenson, look unlikely to materialise. As campaign for Britain prepares to launch, Messrs Darling and Co should go back to concentrating on the economics of the SNP’s plans for independence if they are to get under Mr Salmond’s skin.
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