At its best, Alex Salmond’s YouTube party launch felt like watching a toddler mashing an iPad during an unexpected Zoom call with acquaintances you haven’t heard from in a while but were expecting to ring.
Getting straight to the point, the former first minister stands on a podium that is lit from underneath, utilising an effect Hammer would say was too on the nose.
He then went studs-up, announcing he was leading a new party before introducing his first three candidates — two of whom were, until Friday afternoon at least, members of the SNP.
Indeed, Eva Comrie was top of the party’s list for Mid Scotland and Fife, and Chris McEleny, a councillor and one-time group leader for Inverclyde, may not be quite as predictable as the SNP press office went on to claim.
So far, so normal, even though he continued to use the Sassenach pronunciation of Alba and what can only be described as a plan B enunciation of Mr McEleny’s surname.
But it was after introducing his latest cabal that things took a turn, the presentation descending into a directorial farce with all the professionalism of Alan Partridge after eight-and-a-half pints of Director’s Bitter.
It’ll be all right on the night
We cut then to an advert, expensive looking, using drone footage of assembled Yessers sprawled over Arthur’s Seat, their Saltires glistening in the Edinburgh sun.
Then…. nothing. The screen blanks, in that customary way we have all gotten used to during this pandemic.
There’s a brief start-up, we catch the face of at least one blogger banned by Twitter, before the camera returns to an oblivious Salmond, tap-tapping away on his phone or tablet, unaware of the audio-visual disaster unspooling on his watch.
When the ad, we can only assume, is due to stop playing, the nine-time Grampian seat-winner looks down the lens, as if forgetting for a second he is in an empty room — the expectant applause he feasts on eerily missing — before taking questions from journalists, broadcasters and “bloggers”.
Or, at least we think he does.
Around 20 minutes goes by and tens of questions unheard, as the feed only seems to be supplied from Salmond’s end, meaning he can receive them, but we are left listening to his answers to try to work out what was asked.
Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t like it when hacks take 10 seconds to unmute themselves during the daily press briefings so one can only imagine the monumental eye-roll she was giving this.
Eventually, the feed is fixed and the first audible question is posed by the political editor of The Daily Mail, much to the chagrin of assembled “citizen journalists”, apoplectic with rage someone was not “congratulating” Mr Salmond on his decision to
split the nationalist vote stand in the upcoming election.
And so it went on, for at least an hour and 45 minutes, underarm bowls from Twitterati called things like Indy Boy (probably) peppered among the proper questions on Salmond’s suitability for public office, his recent court cases, his general behaviour and allegations —
of which he was entirely cleared — of serious sexual misconduct, and how that might influence voters.
A running time, then, that would make even Putin blush, the show draws to a close as the relatively small number of viewers creeps ever closer to zero.
Mr Salmond has managed to do what he is best at, garnering publicity and changing the story to revolve around him.
Despite the recent inquiry ending with a statement about how badly let down women employed by the Scottish Government were, the narrative twisted so we all ended up hearing how mad it made the man at the centre of it all.
Despite a shameful rise in drug deaths, educational inequality widening, Brexit bringing about business bedlam and the soon-to-unfold unintended consequences of protecting the country from Covid , the election story will now unfold around how Alex Salmond made the splash he wanted/petered into nothing/stole independence from the SNP/handed election victory to Boris Johnson.
There will be ramifications. The Scottish Greens, so reliant on the list system, could see their seats cut like the trees they so want to save.
The D’Hondt method for counting regional votes is complicated, there is no real guarantee anyone standing will get elected. It could end up another electoral defeat for a man who might have become deputy prime minister.
And the overall nationalist movement, for decades solid in its unwavering commitment to squashing sedition in its ranks, now seems to be at pains with itself, the Cold War going thermo-nuclear.
The Alba Party launch (and we really must remember it is the Alba Party, not the Alex Salmond Party), was a lot like that ship that has wedged into the Suez Canal.
For some, it’s fun to laugh at. There will be a tonne of memes, photoshops, videos and spoofs of what went down on Friday afternoon.
Others may well look on in horror, as a very serious, slow-moving blockage continues to take up precious space in an area already precariously balanced.
What is for sure is that the full, far-reaching consequences will take weeks, if not months, to fully comprehend.