Well yesterday was quite a day down here in the so called sleepy market town of Dumfries. And it was quite a day for our small little charity.
Some background facts might be a good idea.
Regular readers will know that a few months ago the Trussell Trust decided that Dumfries was in need of a second foodbank. To say we were not best amused would be something of an understatement. I wrote a blog about it. And thousands of people read the blog including the local paper who turned it into front page news. Then The Daily Record grabbed a piece of it and amazingly enough our little Dumfries Foodbank spat went national. Somebody dusted the blog down yesterday and sent it back into the fray and another couple of thousand people gave it a read. It’s here by the way.
At about the same time David Mundell, who at the time was the one and only Tory MP in Scotland, was invited up to the Parliament in Hoyrood to answer some questions. Was the impact of his Government’s Welfare Reform Policies behind so very many people needing foodbanks?
He was very certain in his answers.
Perish the thought.
Such delude nonsense could only come from deluded Pinkos and closet communists!
Joan McAlpine, our local MSP, hit him with some figures from a blog I had written about the situation in the ex coal mining village of Kelloholm.
His ill thought out and mildly idiotic response went on provoke a minor media storm. He stated
‘Everything that man says should be taken with a pinch of salt!’
And pray why?
‘Because he is a prominent ‘YES’ campaigner!’
Oh dear oh dear David. Not so smart, right?
We invited David along to spend an afternoon at First Bass to serve a few food parcels and to listen to the back stories of those who need them. It isn’t such a terribly radical idea. Joan McAlpine MP did it. Richard Arkles MP did it.
David decided not to dignify our invitation with a reply.
Well yesterday both of the back stories came together.
The Trussell Trust decided to have an all singing, all dancing launch event for their latest franchise and they invited David Mundell along to cut the ribbon.
To be honest it was never going to be a good look and it soon became very apparent that there would be an awful lot of very angry people turning out to let him know their thoughts.
Of course there have been some pretty big changes of late. David is no longer merely the Last of the Tory Mohicans. He is now Scotland’s top dog. Secretary of State for Scotland complete with ministerial salary and ministerial car and a ministerial pension to die for. He is Viceroy now and fronting up the latest round of Welfare Reforms as decreed by London Rule.
Was it really so surprising that people who have been kicked squarely in the teeth by this nasty Government might decide to avail themselves of the opportunity to have a pop at the visiting Viceroy?
On the evening before the event I got a rather frantic call from The Trussell Trust asking if I could come along and be all nicey, nicey for the Minister.
Nice to be asked, but no thanks, actually.
I told them my thoughts about their new Foodbank haven’t changed one jot. It also seemed to me not the greatest idea to show my face after what David said about me in the Scottish Parliament.
By the way, since the new food bank opened in March they have handed out 128 food parcels. We have handed out just shy of 2000.
ITV Border called to ask if I would be there. Actually, no. Could they call round to First Base to do an interview? Of course they could. In the end they needed no more than a scrap of footage from our place: the pictures of what kicked off two hundred yards up the road were much more media friendly.
I asked Lesley and Anne if they would take a walk up and see how big the crowd was.
They took a walk up and on the way decided they would try and blag their way in and ask the Minister why he had accepted the Trussell Trust invitation and never replied to ours.
By the time they arrived, the crowd was densely packed and angry and the front door of the Foodbank was locked tight. They forced their way to the front and gained entry by identifying themselves as a delegation from First Base.
Believe me, you would have let them in as well. Two formidable ladies on a mission.
Inside the tables were groaning with buffet food ready and waiting to be eaten. A pop up banner announced that ‘EVERY TOWN SHOULD HAVE ONE’
As in a Trussell Trust foodbank.
I’m not so sure about that to be honest.
The local manager and the Minister made bland speeches and photo opportunities were taken.
Then there was a clear plan about what was to happen next. The Minister would take questions from the press and then do the rounds with the guests. All nice and informal and leisurely. Chit chat and finger food.
But it didn’t work out that way.
The two First Base ladies stepped to the front with Lesley doing her guerrilla film maker thing with her mobile phone.
“Mr Mundell, can I ask why you wouldn’t come to the First Base Agency…”
“Mr Mundell, can I ask why you will not accept First Base’s statistics….”
Oh my God!!!!!
The utter terrifying horror!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What sheer terror must have flowed through the Minister as he was attacked with such ferocity. His very own Brighton Bomb moment had arrived.
I shudder to think how he must have felt at that gut churning moment..
In the blink of an eye, everything had become dangerous and so very scary.
This was worse than any baying mob in West Belfast hurling half bricks and petrol bombs.
For these were the First Base ladies and they make ISIS look like pussy cats.
One in her twenties and one in her seventies.
AND THEY WERE ASKING HIM QUESTIONS!!!!
OH MY GOD!!!!!
At first he tried to deal with the fear and stand his ground. And he was magnificently eloquent under pressure.
“Aye…. Well….If….if ….uh…….”
But then he could stand it no more. And let’s be frank here, which of us could have stood up such a brutal attack?
He proved he is only human.
Through the back door and to the yard where the Ministerial car was waiting to get him clear of Dumfries Dodge.
Lesley’s guerrilla style video is a 40 second long classic which deserves to be submitted for a nomination at the Sundance Festival.
Follow this link if you want to have a watch.
You’ve got to love it.
Everyone inside the launch party was left rather bemused. Where was the Minister? Why wasn’t he taking any questions? Why wasn’t he doing a spot of glad handing? Why wasn’t he tucking into all of that lovely buffet food?
But of course they hadn’t seen the vicious Al Queda style ambush he had been subjected to by our two foodbank Jihadis.
However getting out of Dodge did not prove to be easy. There was a wild and dangerous mob lying in wait.
The sheer unmitigated horror.
George Bush might have thought that his cruise missile attack on Baghdad was ‘shock and awe’.
Dubya, that was nothing compared to the living hell that David had to live through yesterday. People shouted at him. Shouted! And waved banners! Oh sweet Jesus imagine it.
And I find it hard to even write this but we must not flinch in these dangerous times when wild eyed Nationalists threaten to destroy our very way of British life.
So brace yourself reader.
This will make for hard reading….
Someone stuck a ‘YES’ badge on the back of his ministerial car.
The horror. Oh the sheer horror….
No wonder the news channels blazed out the story of the heroic Minister being driven from town bay a savage, baying mob. No doubt he will now require trauma therapy for many years to come.
Maybe as voters we are over demanding. Maybe we expect our leaders to show almost impossible courage. But real life isn’t like Hollywood. Had it been the big screen, David would have ripped off his jacket and shirt and faced the mob down Bruce Willis style in his vest.
But that is the movies.
Yesterday the Secretary of State for Scotland faced truly terrible things.
People asked questions. People shouted. People waved placards.
And someone stuck a ‘YES’ badge on his car.
No wonder he ran.
Of course he ran. Surely anyone would run in the face of such a danger to life and limb…..
Well when you think about it….
They don’t actually.
I’ll trot out two quick examples.
September 1931. Ghandi has persuaded millions of Indians to boycott British cotton. All across Lancashire the mills are closed down. And people are starving. Not going to a food bank starving. Actually starving. Ghandi comes over to Britain to meet the King. He hears about the appalling situation in the small cotton town of Darwen where all the mills are closed and where people are actually staving. You can maybe imagine how those starving Lancastrians felt about the little brown man in the loin cloth who was responsible for their misery.
I guess they would have happily lynched him.
Did he run away? No he didn’t run away. Instead he got the train up to Darwen and walked out of the station and into the street to meet the thousands of starving cotton mill workers who were waiting to hang him from the nearest tree.
Instead they were awed by his charisma and his courage. It happened 84 years ago and yet the people in Darwen still remember the little brown man in the loin cloth with respect and fondness.
1981. Toxteth is ablaze with the worst riots Britain has seen in decades. It is the high point of the Thatcherite fury. Someone has to go there to see what is happening. On the ground. In Liverpool. In Toxteth.
Michael Hesseltine puts his had up and sets off north.
Did he sneak into the city, make a quick speech in a sealed of building and leave before people knew he was there?
No. He went. He stayed. He made a point of traveling everywhere on the bus. He stood his ground. Fought his corner. Showed bottle.
He won Scouse respect and still has it.
So no David.
You didn’t have to run.
And no matter how the tabloids try to spin it, running was actually rather pathetic.
Which brings me to the issue of my timing looking like being right for once.
A few weeks ago I did the First Base cash flow spreadsheets and they had something of an Athens look about them.
First Base is £15,000 short for the year.
Unless we fill the hole, the lights will be going out in January.
At which point I came up with a cunning plan which goes something like this. I am a man who wears two hats. There is the pulp fiction writer hat. And there is the Foodbank manager hat.
I decided to take the two hats and turn them into one.
And I decided to take some fact and turn it into some fiction.
Fact: David Mundell slags me in the Scottish Parliament, we invite him to come along to First Base, he doesn’t bother to reply, the Tories win and outright majority and he gets the Viceroy job.
Fiction. In a made up world, it is a made up MP called James Shillingford-Moore who slags me off in the Scottish Parliament and goes on to become Viceroy of Scotland.
But in the Wild West world of pulp fiction, circumstances force him to accept the invitation to come along and serve food parcels in First Base.
So he comes along.
And two disgruntled veterans come along armed with semi automatic weapons and take him hostage.
It doesn’t take all that very long for things to escalate and to get completely out of hand.
The book is called ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’ and it will be up, running and live on Amazon in a couple of weeks.
It will cost £2.99 and once Amazon have taken their share, £2 a copy will go to filling our First Base financial hole.
We will be looking for every bit of support we can get to help promote the book. I will write more when it is launched. Over the next week or so I will post a couple of recorded audio sneak peaks.
So you can maybe see why the timing is pretty good.
The Secretary of State for Scotland didn’t get taken hostage in a foodbank by armed men yesterday.
But he WAS seen running away with his tail between his legs all across the social media and the mainstream media.
That looks like pretty good pre-publicity to me!!!!