The real comedians and magicians in Edinburgh this August are not on the Fringe, writes Kevan Christie.
Been to see anything at the Festival? The most commonly asked question in August has become the Edinburgh-centric version of your hairdresser, barber or personal stylist asking if “you’re going anywhere nice for your holidays?”
Perhaps you’ve caught the latest up-and-coming comedian, a play covering the stigma of mental health – or you’ve just taken a bijou stroll along Princes Street and are wondering where the gentle sound of Peruvian pan pipers playing the Simon & Garfunkel classic El Condor Pasa has gone.
Maybe by chance you’ve stumbled on to Charlotte Square where the Pink Chino Massive hang out during the month of August, keeping a hungry lookout for stragglers from the Yellow Cords Brigade. If that be the case then there’s a small chance that you may have caught a glimpse of a current or former politician in the New York Times Theatre. Forget Jerry Sadowitz and his inappropriate jokes, the real comedians and magicians are in the West End.
Take your pick from a basket (case) consisting of our very own First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who has appeared at this year’s Festival on four occasions, former unelected PM Gordon Broon, reality TV star Kezia Dugdale, Ruth Davidson from Celebrity Bake Off and a cameo appearance from a guy who was either Corbyn’s best mate John McDonnell or that actor Larry Lamb who once played Archie Mitchell in Eastenders.
Oor Nicola, who never travels anywhere without her well thumbed copy of Sunset Song, has been interviewed by football journalist Graham Spiers presumably about whether the Gers (not the tricky figures) can mount a serious title challenge this season.
She’s also spoken to political comedian Matt Forde, radio host Iain Dale and in true poacher turned gamekeeper style interviewed the author Arundhati Roy.
Nicola, also took time off from the day job, to address one of the big issues of our time, namely should Miley Cyrus and husband Liam Hemsworth “git back thegither” on hard-hitting political programme Loose Women. I’m hoping to catch her Marti Pellow tribute act at the Pleasance tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Broon took a break from doing the big shop in Cowdenbeath to interview leading economist Branko Milanovic in a discussion labelled Capital And Our Political Crisis. The Royal Bank of Scotland event, yip that lot, saw the former Chancellor chew the fat with the economics guy, who was on a mission to find out “what caused the current crisis of trust in politics” touching on the financial crash of 2008. I don’t know if Branko found the answer to this existenstial quandry or if he realised a hefty chunk of it was sitting across from him – as the show was a sell out and I couldn’t get a brief.
Next up for Broon is another sold-out event on Monday –what is wrong with these people? – under the imaginative title - Scotland, Britain and Europe. This is the one where Gordon invites the audience to join him in a giant conga round Charlotte Square before doing Oops Upside Your Head on the grass...if only. Nope, that’ll be as he “examines the place of Scotland in the UK and Europe in an age of fracturing globalisation, the rise of political populism and the challenges around understanding of national identity”.
However, I am looking forward to the show where he describes how he bottled calling a general election in 2007 and voted for, then provided the funding, for the Iraq War that led to hundred of thousands of civilian deaths – maybe next year, maybe not.
Anyway, all of this political, side hustle shenanigans, and scrambling to rewrite legacies (too late) got me to thinking that being a poitician be it a MP or an MSP is their actual job. Not a licence to print money or tee-up your next gig should the electorate fancy a change.
A real job doing things like making sure the hospitals are safe and not breaching your own waiting time targets for A&E a whopping 99,362 times in the year up to August. Fixing stuff, mending things and looking after us that’s what these folk are meant to do.
I compare this to the engineer who came to my house this morning to fix the in-built oven. He took 20 minutes and headed off to another job down the road leaving me match-fit as the roast tattie season draws near.
To my knowledge, he doesn’t give interviews telling of the abuse he receives on Twitter when he can’t fix someone’s fridge and he hasn’t had time yet to pen his memoirs - not when there are white goods in need of urgent repair.
It used to be that history judged a politician’s legacy but now they’re all busy trying to control public perception while they’re still alive and in some cases not even reached 50.
Contrast politicians of today with someone like Clement Attlee who led the Labour Party from 1935-1955 and served in a wartime coalition government under Winston Churchill. He had that old-fashioned thing that very few people now possess, a sense of duty.
Last year it emerged that Attlee and his wife Violet had sponsored a Jewish mother and her two children, helping them to leave Germany in 1939 and move to the UK.
The Attlees took in a ten-year-old boy called Paul Willer who stayed with them for four months until the beginning of the Second World War.
We only know about this because a 90-year-old Paul Willer revealed it in a newspaper interview last November.
Clem never spoke about it…