Hannah McGill: Salmond | Ryder Cup Stepford wives

ALEX Salmond has succumbed to the temptation to give publicity to his unauthorised biographer, David Torrance, noting “he doesn’t know me at all”.
Hilary Watson, left, Allison McGinley and other Ryder GWAGS. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/GettyHilary Watson, left, Allison McGinley and other Ryder GWAGS. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/Getty
Hilary Watson, left, Allison McGinley and other Ryder GWAGS. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/Getty

But that’s hardly a bar to penning his life and times. Indeed, it could be an impediment, since one is hardly likely to manage a warts-and-all account of a friend.

Recently I looked for a biography of a famous writer, only to reject the one I found as it had been written with his full co-operation. It was too likely to be a stage-managed affair with uncomfortable detail excised. Said Kitty Kelley, queen of the hatchet-job, “I choose to write with my nose pressed against the window rather than kneel inside for spoon-feedings.” Not that Torrance’s Against All Odds offered up revelations about Salmond as juicy as those Kelley unearthed about Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra – or to deny being wrongly represented is painful.

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But to complain of not being known misses the point. Public figures ask us to trust without knowing them all the time. Shouldn’t we hope those who profile them are motivated by the cool-headed curiosity and doggedness of good researchers, rather than the compromised interests of intimates?

Real women in meltdown at Ryder Cup Stepford Wives

DID you see the launch of the new Golf Barbie at Gleneagles last week? Actually, that’s unfair to Golf Barbie; she has her own set of clubs, and a little pink cart, and looks like she might actually be up for a game.

The Golf Wives and Girlfriends of the Ryder Cup are only there “to pledge allegiance to their men” (in the words of a delighted Daily Mail, which thinks all women should do this). This apparently entails all dressing the same, in weird little stewardess ensembles featuring trenchcoats and neckerchiefs; having masses of teeth and hair and shiny eyeshadow; and parading for the appreciation of the crowds.

It is so like The Stepford Wives that even the women themselves must realise it. Perhaps they laugh about it, as they are gluing their eyebrows on and varnishing their teeth backstage. “Ha ha, look at the state of us! It’s almost as if we were subservient automata constructed to soothe the fears of men who think giving our sort the vote was the beginning of the end of civilisation!”

Wait – I’m being unfair. Laughing is undoubtedly kept to a minimum, on account of the fine lines it causes.

The original WAGs, of course, were the female partners of the England football squad. Peak WAG was reached during the 2006 World Cup, when the media went on and on and on about the shopping-and-pouting activities of Victoria Beckham, Coleen Rooney and Cheryl Cole (as she was then) and then complained about what a distraction they were causing. Since then, there has been much talk of WAGs being banned, not that this has helped England to win much; and being a WAG has ceased to guarantee even minor media notoriety and inconclusive plans for a skincare line, let alone offer the megafame of a Cheryl or a Victoria.

In the way that something really awful and stupid can seem quite nice once it’s been superseded by something more awful and stupid, it’s possible to feel quite warm about the first set of football WAGs now, with their million-pound handbags and “modelling” “careers” and occasional acts of ultraviolence in ladies’ loos. They had a likeable tendency towards stroppiness; and however madly they adorned themselves, they at least picked out their own clothes.

The GWAGs, by contrast, appear designed by committee. What happens if one of them rebels? Says, “I fancy wearing my jeans today”; or, “I find I look better if I don’t use the whole pot of blusher in the one go?” Do the others round on her and claw her to pieces?

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No. That would be the WAG way. This lot wouldn’t risk their matching manicures. According to US sports writer Art Spander, the golf wives all dressing the same is “the Ryder Cup’s way of saying the women are part of the team”. Really? Because it looks like the Ryder Cup’s way of saying the women are passive objects. Doubtless some of them are interesting individuals – so why on earth do they sign up for being presented as though they’re anything but?

Guessing game is over

The full legacy has yet to come clear; the posters aren’t all down; and for a hefty number, the struggle continues. But one facet of the referendum I won’t miss is the rash of cobbled-together pseudo-expertise it generated. “At least,” commented a friend in the aftermath, “I can stop pretending to know about economics now.”

Perhaps it’s the internet, or a mistrust of authority but people did get obsessed with trying to prove they suddenly knew politics and money inside out. The productivity cost of everyone spending all day googling North Sea oil can only be guessed at. Or calculated. By real economists.