By Ian Hamilton
We Scots dearly love a loser. That’s why we’re so fond of Alan Cochrane. He’s the Bonnie Prince Charlie of Scottish journalism. As Westminster meets its Culloden the pipes in Alan’s mind are playing the sad tunes of failure. At MaCrimmon No More he shakes his head. For Lament for the Children he squeezes out only the briefest of tears. The whole cannon of Jacobite songs scarcely reaches the depths of Alan’s misery. ‘Will ye no’ come back again?’ he sings hoarsely into his drink but there’s no one to join him. He needs a piper of his own. He needs someone to strut before him into Holyrood playing a single note in a minor key. But it will not help. All is forlorn! Forlorn! The very word is like a knell! All is lost. All is gone. Yet once it looked so great.
To paraphrase a line from a dead poet the theme of Alan’s columns in the Daily Telegraph may be summed up thus.
His hero worship for things long past,
Fighting for Westminster right to the last.
Mock not Alan Cochrane for doing his bit. He is a fighter. He will go on fighting. He follows in the great tradition of Scottish men at arms. There is no redoubt so hopeless, no position so utterly surrounded, but what the Alan Cochranes of Scotland will defend it to the last man, or in Alan’s case to the last word. I do Alan an injustice. He is not merely the Bonnie Prince Chairlie of Holyrood. He is its William Wallace. See his great, proud bearded head flung back in defiance of us all. Wallace himself never put on a better show. But don’t have Alan dragged away on a hurdle to be disembowelled. Be kind to him. Buy him a drink. He sadly needs one. Life may have passed him by but remember how it once was.
In his youth he wore the brave kilt of Tory Unionism, unassailable in all its splendour. Oh the brave tartan sheen of it! Oh the proud wonder of it! See the Tory banners swaying in the wind in all their majesty! Remember the Young Conservative Clubs where boy met girl and a proper sort of person was conceived. Oh the brave Highland balls they had! Tartan kilt and tartan sash and the heichs and the hochs of the eightsome reels! Hear, hear the pibroch cry! From John o’ Groats to Isle of Skye, we’ll bravely fight and bravely die. We’ll fight and die for London.
Now it’s all gone. Forgive Alan. He was so very young once. He was carried away by it all. He chose the path of valour. He chose the forefront of the battle to preserve the status quo. ‘Everything is perfect,’ he wrote in column after column. ‘Who could do better with our affairs than Westminster?’
‘Give that man a medal,’ shouted his general, but Alan modestly turned it down. He knew that serving the cause of the Union would bring its own reward. It has. Carve his name with pride. We Scots love a glorious failure.
Alas poor Alan! I knew him well.