Emma Cowing: ‘Moldova is having an election, Alan’

ON HIS Twitter profile, the actor Alan Cumming describes himself as a “Scottish elf trapped inside a middle aged man’s body”. I’m not so sure.

Alan Cumming will not be able to vote in the referendum after all. Picture: Getty Images
Alan Cumming will not be able to vote in the referendum after all. Picture: Getty Images

Last week that Scottish elf seemed to be roaming free, stamping its little feet over suggestions that Cumming had received “negativity, vitriol and malice” over his decision to buy a home in Edinburgh just in time – here’s a thing – to vote in the Scottish referendum.

The reason Cumming unleashed his inner elf was this: apparently, it seems he can’t vote in the referendum after all. “Because my main residence is in New York and I will be working there on Broadway for most of next year I am ineligible to vote and have had to come off the electoral roll,” he wrote in a long piece on his blog.

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Ach, what a pity. Strange though, that he wouldn’t check on the fact he’d have to live here for a certain amount of time in order to vote before declaring his intentions. Or that, having stated publicly that he didn’t “want to miss the opportunity to make an independent Scotland a reality”, he’d commit to a job on Broadway which would mean he would do just that. It’s almost like it wasn’t that important to him after all.

Yet when it comes to making the most of electoral opportunities, Cumming is no novice. In 2008, he became an American citizen to vote for Barack Obama. He joined the campaign trail for the US president, shoring up the gay vote, attending the Democratic convention and waving his first American flag (“it was great,” he said of the experience). But in the end, timings meant he missed the chance to vote in that ­election, too.

I like Cumming. I’ve interviewed him several times and found him funny, charming, and never less than intellectually brilliant. But this notion that one can bypass rules the rest of the electorate live by in order to cast votes is not an attractive trait. I feel sympathy for my foreign-based Scottish friends who cannot vote, but them’s the breaks. They don’t live here, so they don’t get a say in how this country is run, even though it is the country of their birth. I would be appalled if one of them informed me they were buying a flat here purely to cast a vote.

Cumming said on his blog that he was an optimist, adding that he couldn’t think of “any situation, ever, that would have benefitted by more negativity and less hope”. And yet by parachuting himself into a country that he has not lived in for many years in order to vote on its future before hightailing it back to Broadway, he would have left a sour taste in the mouths of Scots who have lived and worked in this country their whole lives in order to put that piece of paper in the ballot box.

Still, all is not lost for the Scottish elf. I hear Moldova is having an election next year, as is Libya. Perhaps you could try there, Alan.

‘IT’S hard being Nigella,” the TV cook told an interviewer earlier this year. Last week we may have had an insight into just how hard, as allegations involving drugs spilled out from the trial of her two former assistants. None of us know what went on in that house, for how long, or why. But if Nigella Lawson chose to create an elaborate and cosy persona that millions of us believed in, can we blame her? This is a woman who lost her mother and sister early on to cancer, before watching her husband die while she cared for their two young children. Perhaps the person who needed to believe in the domestic goddess facade most, was Nigella herself.

IF YOU’RE anything like me, the chances are your social media newsfeeds have been clogged all week with friends informing the world that the literary character they most resemble is Alice in Wonderland, or Atticus Finch, or Patrick Bateman (ok, I made that last one up). This brilliant yet simple little quiz, developed by the Scottish Book Trust as part of Book Week Scotland, has captured imaginations worldwide. Even the author Margaret Atwood got involved, tweeting her pleasure at being informed she was most like Jane Austen’s feisty Elizabeth Bennet. It’s an ingenious idea, and a great way to get readers engaged with literature. So much so, I’m even willing to overlook the implication – given the quiz’s assertion that I am Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly – that my professional inclinations are less than entirely wholesome. «

Twitter: @emmacowing