Contains: The Line of Duty drinking game for scots, who does Ivanka represent — not you, ladies, and come on Blink 182, light my Fyre

A version of this appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on May 2 2017

One for the kids

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the May bank holiday weekend: the unofficial start of summer and the official start of people thinking they look good in shorts.

Talking of feeling good, the global campaign to make Ivanka Trump feel good about herself screeched to a halt in Berlin last week, when the First Daughter was booed during a discussion about female entrepreneurs. 
Of course, nothing says “successful businesswoman” quite like selling a line of clothes that department stores don’t want to stock.

And let’s not forget that Ivanka Trump dresses and shoes are made in Asia and Africa, where workers, many of whom are women, are paid peanuts. On her all-female panel , Ivanka certainly stood out — and not just because her stylists have convinced her to adopt the look of a mannequin that has spent too much time in a hot car.

Things are even worse over in Westworld

The Trump family have no record of inspiring women, except to sue, join protest marches, or get the hell out of beauty pageants. So why on earth was Ivanka there?

Her co-panellists included the German chancellor, the Canadian foreign minister, and the director of the International Monetary Fund — all women who had to work hard for their positions, except Ivanka, who was there because people are scared of her dad.
Her main contribution to policymaking at the White House has been a dispiriting limited-edition version of maternity leave, where a new mother has to use her own unemployment insurance to cover costs. Other mothers won’t even get that: are you adopting a child? Then no leave for you! And how humiliating to beg your dad for any kind of female-friendly policy, like a teenager whinges to borrow the family car on a Saturday night.
Ivanka is the very worst example of entrepreneurship: a woman whose polished presence owes everything to the fact she’s the unsackable relative of a world leader. Perhaps the real reason she’s in Berlin is because her dad cannot bring himself to visit a city that got rid of a perfectly good wall.

Donald and Ivanka: the less acceptable face of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

Some consolation for the defunct T in the Park — it didn’t go down in flames like the great Fyre Island disaster, where inexperienced organisers promised a blue seas, yachts and the finest music available at an exclusive Caribbean island festival. In the end, they delivered the equivalent of Gruinard with a sound system, feral dogs, ripped tents and overpriced cheese sandwiches. Still it was a success in some senses: instead of entertaining thousands, it amused millions. And anyone who’s been to T in July was looking at Fyre thinking “Well, it’s not raining.”

And still better than Glastonbury

Like politicians, levels of literacy in Scotland and full-fat Irn Bru, leaving gifts just aren’t what they used to be.

These days, a card signed by everyone and a tepid glass of sauvignon by the printer is not enough — workers are expecting to be seen off in style.

Store vouchers, jewellery, champagne, flowers, books, and vouchers for days have replaced the watch and small plaque.

Even so, these are not always thoughtful gifts — one of my friends was quite upset to be given an umbrella, suggesting the purchaser had applied all the thought of a quick look out the window.

The writer Christopher Hitchens was sent out with £98 to buy a copy of Gibbons’ Decline and Fall for an eminent political journalist. Days later, Alan Watkins was surprised to unwrap a very cheap edition of the tome. Hitchens had bought the book and put the difference into his own savings account. At leaving dos, there’s always a headscratch over what to buy the man who apparently has everything; in the case of Nicholas Serota, departing director of the Tate, a notice went up asking staff, including cleaners, to contribute to buying Sir Nick (£165k pa) a “surprise gift” of a sailing boat. Of course, a real surprise would have been a pair of torpedoes.


Very disappointed to learn on BBC4 that Evel Knievel’s son is called Robbie, and not Reevel.

Bet Robbie got one of these. Bet his mum never said “oh they were sold out”

A long way from Hear My Song, fella

If you played the Line of Duty game, and took a drink every time Adrian Dunbar’s Superintendent Ted Hastings said “fella”, then you probably don’t remember much about the final episode of the corrupt cop drama on Sunday night.

For six weeks, Jed Mercurio, the show’s creator, has kept viewers gripped about the fate of Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton), the latest of a line of high ranking cops in the series who have turned out to be both hero and villain.

In the first series it was Officer of the Year Detective Gates (Lenny James), who ruined his career by having an affair. In the second and third Keeley Hawes DI Denton played a very good cop, prepared to do very bad things to uphold the law and expose DI Cottan.

Glaring successfully for four series now

Roz was a fine addition to Line of Duty’s criminal record; while nursing a nasty festering scratch on her hand, she has been trying to cover up the fact she’d accidentally killed the force’s creepy forensics expert, but eventually helping AC 12’s corruption investigators find two of the “Balaclava men”; assassins employed by criminals to intimidate the police.

If there was one kind of TV we could retire for a while, many of us would settle for a season or two without doctors or cop dramas — but Mercurio has found a way to make the genre seem distinctive, compelling and original again, whilst reminding us that Sir Robert Mark, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, once admitted that his ambition was to run a force which arrested more criminals that it employed.

Steve Arnott: inexplicably on rhododendron duty even though Kate Flemyng wanted to investigate giant hogweed

Line of Duty closed with some loose threads dangling. Not least — is top cop Ted Hastings really a diesel-sucking all-round good guy, or is there some other reason why he got the last close up before the credits? Viewers will have to wait until Spring 2019 to find out.

Meantime, we should ponder a bigger question — why wasn’t Line of Duty made in Scotland? One of its notable features is the disproportionate number of scots actors in the series polishing their English accents. They include Martin Compston as DI Steve Arnott, reasonably reminding Roz that if she’d stopped sooner “I’d be able to walk — and you’d still have a hand”.

(swearing)

And ooh look — there’s Paul Higgins, aka Jamie from The Thick of It, as crooked top cop and sexpest Hilton, while framed innocent man Michael Farmer was played Scott Reid, fresh off his stint as Still Game’s Methadone Mick.

What’s less well known is that Line of Duty’s showrunner Jed Mercurio started off working for BBC Scotland in the mid-nineties, where he wrote the hardbitten hospital drama Cardiac Arrest. The series was shot at Ruchill and Stobhill hospitals in Glasgow, and directed by Peter Mullan, Morag Fullarton, David Hayman and James Gillespie — all scots who went on to bigger and better things.

Line of Duty stole our thousand mile stares

So did Mercurio, of course — but he had to leave Scotland to do it. Line of Duty is shot in Northern Ireland, encouraged by grants, production facilities, but above all a government-sponsored screen agency that recognises talent and jumps at opportunities.

How many more of these stories do we have to watch play out elsewhere, before Scotland’s government works out that we need something more than dutiful lipservice if we’re going to have our own Line of Duty?


The United Nations has elected Saudi Arabia to the Women’s Rights Commission. In other news: Scotland has been elected to the UN Commission of Pineapple Farming and Suntans

Attempt to combine pineapples and sunshine in Scotland
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