Council budget: ‘Punch and Judy’ debate fills up my political bingo card

“Ready for the Punch and Judy show” one councillor asked as everyone filed into the chamber at Fife House for the budget meeting.
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Some good old cut and thrust duly returned to council politics as the only thing they agreed on was to disagree over how much Council Tax should go up.

It didn’t take long for my bingo card to be ticked all the way to a full house with some sharp one liners, a couple of nippy digs and even a few personal attacks.

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The C word - coalition - was used liberally by the SNP, and tholed wearily by Labour as the old adversaries served out the equivalent of a long McEnroe-Borg tennis rally. It was hard to imagine how they once operated as a joint administration.

A Punch and Judy show at the former Jenners' department store in Edinburgh in February 1979.A Punch and Judy show at the former Jenners' department store in Edinburgh in February 1979.
A Punch and Judy show at the former Jenners' department store in Edinburgh in February 1979.

It was light years away from the clunky and dreadfully flat debate that is the hallmark of online meetings where the only sound or irritation is to tell yet another member they are on mute. Provost Jim Leishman may have wished for such a zapper in the chamber.

Heads were shaken, and tables chapped in support as one side celebrated a point at the expense of the other side of the room.

Councillor Derek Glen won the bet for most use of the word ‘Tory’ in his opening sentence - I counted four - but didn’t quite land the ‘One Liner Of The Day’ award with his neat “Vote Labour budget – never will so much be owed by so many to so few for so little.”

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Jan Wincott was also in the running for her dismissal of the SNP for no substance and “as much style as wearing socks with sandals.”

But it had to go to John Beare whose speech went down a treat with the SNP, but had Cllr James Leslie wagging his finger with a “we’ve had enough of this!” protest at a dig at his daughter Kathleen’s historic tweets about Nicola Sturgeon being dredged up once again.

That, noted Kathleen Leslie, was the third personal attack of the meeting, prompting the Provost to edge closer to a yellow card. I presume he missed the Tory who sent a howitzer of an insult across the chamber, branding the SNP “an insular cult like group.”

Clearly it was time for a lunch break and some fresh air.

Cllr Beare won the soundbite wars, branding Labour’s ‘GUBU Budget’ - that’s grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and un-necessary in case you were struggling to figure out each letter.

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He also gave us all a headline option with “a nightmare on North Street” leaving it to others to decide who was best placed for the role of Freddy Krueger.

The meeting veered deep into the old SNP/Labour divide which saw everything from missing ferries to Sturgeon’s resignation chucked into the mix; “The SNP government has done nothing for Scotland, but look on bright side -she is finally resigning” said Kathleen Leslie.

The gulf between the SNP and Tories was never more evident as Cllr Leslie suggested they be more constructive in their rhetoric, adding: “I don’t recall them coming to speak to other groups.”“And we wullnae” came a voice from the SNP back benches.

Punch and Judy politics are alive and well.

Out in the foyer sits bronze bust of Bert Gough. I suspect it was the same in his day too.

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