Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

In the deep Brown stuff

On Monday, Mr Brown told journalists at a Westminster lunch: “I think it would be a good idea if David Cameron did debate Alex Salmond, but I’m not involved in the negotiations.”
BBC News Website 10 June 2014 : Scottish independence: MP ‘anger’ over Brown debate call

Cats pigeons and a lot of the deep brown stuff! I don’t think Cameron will fall for it (I hope not, it would be Salmond’s trump card).

I think Cameron has mishandled a lot of the Scottish Independence Debate – particularly not ensuring that the “Edinburgh Agreement” spelt out the implication of a “Yes” vote. It’s “yes” to independence, but not as laid out by the Scottish Government in Scotland’s Future (too many unconfirmed aspirations), so what exactly is it “yes” to with regard to an independent currency, independent borders, an independent membership agreement with the EU, etc.? It’s a mess, and I blame Cameron. This uncertainty suits Salmond because it opens up the whole issue of “English bullying and hectoring”. Only it’s Westminster bullying not English bullying.

He initially said he would keep out because it is a “Scottish Issue” and one for Scots (sorry, those in Scotland) to decide. But this “Scottish Issue” has deep British implications, not just in terms of whether England Wales and Northern Ireland underwrites Scotland’s currency, but numerous other issues from the deeply significant and expensive (such as where to base the UK’s nuclear deterrent) to the more mundane but locally critical (such as the impact of Scotland reducing Air Passenger Duty on Newcastle Airport). Cameron hoped that the Scottish based “Better Together” campaign would “get its act together” and rout those rebellious nats.

Only “Better together” is a coalition of Labour Liberal and Conservatives (plus a few others) and apart from their negative view of independence they disagree on almost everything! The “Yes” campaign is 90%+ Scots Nats – it was always going to be a more effective organisation.

So with less than 100 days before a decision that could have a seismic effect on the UK, people are getting nervous, particularly in the “No” camp where inertia, “fear uncertainty and doubt” and the undecideds seem to be the main props holding up the “No” polls. It would not take much to knock those props away and “Cameron debating Salmond” could just about do it.

“Cameron debating Salmond” even sounds like a member of the Bullingdon club doing something to an annoying little oik. But assuming we actually mean “Cameron debating the independence issue with Salmond” or “Cameron and Salmond debating the independence issue” (both of which sound more neutral!), is it now sensible for Cameron to completely break his original self-denying ordinance and intervene on behalf of “Great Britain”?

No! (Unless you want independence – just ask why is Salmond so keen on such a debate?)

Cameron (and his Westminster cronies) needs to get less involved and the Better Together Campaign needs to get its act together and realise that it can only be effective if clearly lead by Labour (possibly headed by Johann Lamont). At the moment Darling is a figurehead for a fractious coalition and is consequently limited in what he can do. Let’s acknowledge that only Labour can save the union, let them lead it and let the Liberals and Conservatives fall meekly in line behind – “for the sake of the union”.

That may stick in the throat for Cameron but currently he has little influence in Scotland and if he contributes to losing the referendum he will have none.

For those that fly may fight again,
Which he can never do that’s slain.
Butler—Hudibras. Pt. III. Canto III. L. 243.


Conservatives in Scotland

Conservatives Representative Type Total Notes
1 MEP (PR Assisted) out of 6 ref: bbc.co.uk (vote 2014)
1 MP out of  59 ref: scottishelections.org.uk
 15 MSP (PR Assisted) out of  129 ref: bbc.co.uk (vote 2011)
115 Councillors (PR Assisted) 1223 ref: scottishelections.org.uk

Results given as at the time of the election concerned – by-elections not taken into account

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