Stand-Out Stand-Up Guy

Jim Murphy doing the Hard Yards

One or two good reflective pieces appearing with this one, again from the excellent Alex Massie, of note and some analysis from Lord Ashcroft's post referendum poll in the Spectator coffee House here.

For me, the stand-out stand-up man of the campaign, on either side, was Labour MP Jim Murphy. His 100 Towns in 100 Days tour will be long remembered.

If David Cameron is serious about connecting with the huge swathes of disaffected citizens in the UK he could make a good start by getting the MP for East Renfrewshire, Jim Murphy, on board the Governments team in respect of Scottish affairs and the devolution of more promised responsibility to Edinburgh. He is a Labour politician so I probably don't agree with most of his political beliefs but frankly, that's unimportant at this time and it shouldn't be for David Cameron. Right now there's a pretty loud message coming through that even Westminster can't continue to ignore.......... start listening. Murphy strikes me as the man who can plug in to both sides and who is strident enough to cope with the sometime boisterous character of Scottish politics.

Jim Murphy

Throwing a New Year Honour his way would to my mind be a somewhat cheap. There's work to be done and I wouldn't mind betting he'd be up for it. In any event, I intend to write to him to offer my appreciation for his efforts that made the rest of the headless chickens look like.... well, headless chickens.


Jockageddon Averted - Now It's England's Turn

Commentary and analysis from referendum observers is being produced by the bucket load, not all of it has substance. Here though are some salient points to note from friend Marcus Ashworth, Head of Fixed Income over at Espirito Santo, and he writes really, with no particular axe to grind..

"It was Crumble's Ma wot did it........ the silent majority came out in droves to register their understated desire to retain the Union, whereas in Glasgow the turnout was one of the lowest and 53.5/46.5% was not enough of a Yes vote to give Salmond a chance.  Despite all the puff he didn't get his vote out, and in what was probably the largest % turnout in a modern democracy ever (Aus doesn't count as semi-forced voting).  Bully boy tactics clearly backfired.

A double digit majority was what was required to put this issue to bed for now - though of course Salmond doesn't have that in his nature - "at this stage" was a particularly telling phrase in his most ungracious acceptance of defeat speech.  Evidently his only tactic left is to try and grab as much of the "vows" as possible.  However, Number 10 apparently has some other ideas and talk of Devo Max is being downplayed.

The chat from Downing St seeems to a swift volte face to try and redress the growing clamour from the Tory backbenches about what Gordy was allowed to promise in the final days?  For all the sense of panic it is evident that Gordy had this worked out many months ago but was only sanctioned to unleash the dogs of war in the final nail-biting furlong.  His last speech was apparently his best, though equally Cameron did his bit under unrelenting abuse.  The Better Together campaign was pretty much totally Scottish Labour led and Tory free, it is not the winner though.  Labour party conf in Manchester - Ed needs an even better speech this time - pref without that Disraeli one-nation blather.

The West Lothian question is the key piece of egregiousness that will have to be finally knocked on the head - something that Labour has conspicuously failed to do.  Scottish MPs will soon no longer be allowed to vote on England only matters - whilst of course English MPs have never been allowed to vote on Scottish matters.  This will pose a knotty one for Miliband because it could very well permanently emasculate Labour Govts if on budgetary matters there is not enough of an English-only MP backing.  The Barnett formula (which even its eponymous creator thinks should be scrapped) will stick in the craw.  If affords a permanent upward only subsidy of circa £1500 per person to Scotland over rest of UK.  This has not gone down well south of the border.  At all.

Cameron may have been knifed by Clegg on the Boundary Commission changes (which is the most outrageous breach of code for the so-called Mother of Parliaments) - but this way he may partly get his own back.  If he fails then he will really face the chop from the 1922 cmte.  Bear in mind Clacton by-election shortly will see a big slap for Cameron - and his image is very much of the "essay crisis".  Tricky times if he drops this ball on Constitutional change - especially if Salmond gets traction on any perceived signs of backsliding on the vows.

Labour has acted appallingly throughout this campaign being utterly self-serving and using every opportunity to try and turn a battle to save the Union into a call for a Labour Govt next May.  If Miliband fails to engage in a William Hague (as Leader of the House) overseen all-party talks, then it will be Labour who will carry the can for failing to deliver on the myriad of promises offered up by their last Prime Minister.

If only for that fact Cameron should emerge from this as the biggest winner and it's a 2nd big win for him after seeing off the Lib Dems on proportional representation, is he on a roll for winning in Europe as well?   OK that might be a leap of faith too far - still the gamble has largely paid off and the Tories can get to shape constitutional change whilst still in power.  That is a major, major difference from the expected situation that the next Labour Govt (as the polls still point to) would carve it up as they see fit.

........... welcome back Scotland

I find it hard to see (bar Gordy, Darling to some extent and of course the redoubtable Jim Murphy who will clearly get a Knighthood) who in Labour comes out of this with any accolades.  Miliband is a dead man walking - and he knows it.  It is one thing for Cameron to find it difficult to campaign in Scotland but for a Labour leader not to either basically bother to get up there until the last few moments and then not to be capable of walking through Edinburgh is a travesty of not just how the Yes campaign has been conducted but of Miliband's validity.  Clegg has proved that the Lib Dem vote has vaporised.  Question now is whether Salmond can survive, let's hope not as he allowed a very dirty campaign to get quite seriously out of hand - he deserves to go just for that alone.  Only Farage had the temerity to call him out for that."


The Wee Blue Book

GBP; Smell the coffee time

GBP; Smell the coffee time

Fourteen days to go and with the latest poll reporting a difference between the two sides of just six points, a frission of nervousness is flowing through capital markets and excitement is gathering across the media in expectation that they may be on the verge of the biggest story of their careers. Alas, no sign of life from Westminster but then we’re used to that. The “don’t knows,” are swinging to “Yes,” at a two to one ratio. Most observers attribute the change to Darling’s poor showing in the last debate when he had no answer to Salmond’s aggressive debating tactic of painting Scottish Labour as quasi Tories, (although Guido squarely blames the Gordon Brown effect!).

This is serious

This is serious

There may be an another reason however that is driving the don’t knows, and many previous unionists, into the yes camp. 

The Wee Blue Book

The Wee Blue Book

Hardly anyone has heard of it in the South but in Scotland, “The Wee Blue Book,” has been dropping through letter boxes for weeks with many households receiving, and continuing to receive multiple copies. Written by Stuart Campbell of the Wings Over Scotland cybernat blog, (who oddly lives in Somerset), it is turning heads and changing minds. You may not yet be familiar with Wings Over Scotland but it is a very successful site and is read daily by most if not all political journalists and interested politico’s.

Up until very recently many individuals were genuinely undecided but friends tell me that since this book started dropping on the doormat many have changed from “No” to “Yes” and its self-evident where the “don’t know’s” are heading. It’s a slick, well written production and having read it, its easy to see how many find it convincing. The scary thing is, people across the political and social spectrum appear believe it verbatim. The “No,” team do not yet have an appropriate, equal or original response. All of which is fascinating to reflect on across multiple levels given the recent debate on indoctrination and radicalisation in English towns. 

The “Book,” as it has become known, obviously covers just about every argument raised in pub debates in the last ten years and predictably, an independent Scotland wins every time. It even mentions the World Cup! No one would expect anything else from mischievous, or malevolent, political operators who have produced this cleverly, or craftily, written piece of propaganda.

I wouldn’t underestimate the impact this thing is having. At the minimum, interested unionists should read it cover to cover. At some point the penny must drop, we’re within a whisker of losing the most important political campaign in 300 years and we didn’t really show up for the bout. 

After the divorce the family might continue to squabble

Another aspect of the campaign which is manifesting itself on a broader basis is the increasingly spiteful and sinister edge to the Nationalists campaign such as was endured last week by the Better Together campaigner, Labour MP Jim Murphy on his “100 Towns, 100 Days,” campaign. Mr Murphy is genuinely to be admired for his commitment and passion. Unfortunately, an underlying nastiness is emerging further afield in villages and towns with rumours and scaremongering becoming more apparent. Everyone would earnestly hope that the debate, voting and counting process will be conducted properly and that both the eventual winner and loser, and their supporters, will treat the decision with dignity and respect. Scots harbour long memories. You don’t have to go far in the Highlands to discover a residual resentment borne in the collective memory from the Clearances and that resentment is aimed at the central belt every much as it is the English. A more obvious chasm exists between the Orkney and Shetland islanders and the central belt and that is likely to be one of Salmond’s first thorny problems were he to win on the 18th. But that’s another story.

The “Yes “ camp are a nose in front but that’s all. Placing a higher news and political priority on an Essex by election than a debate of national historical and international importance is not helping the perception in Scotland of how much the rest of the nation care. It needs to change, we need to engage and bloody quickly.