What does the No campaign do now? It’s next move may well determine the outcome of the referendum and you can almost feel the competing tensions and sense the absolute paralysis and indecision at the highest levels of this the most bizarre and expedient of political alliances.
Its messaging has gone haywire and its long term strategy falling to pieces. The ‘uncertainty’ campaign is in danger of being totally washed away. Do they up the fear or look for a more ‘positive’ case? People are even starting to laugh at them as they descend into the language of ‘cataclysmic’ and warn us of alien invasions. The hectoring, threatening tone also just does not work with a Scottish people who won’t be told by London. They are in deep, deep trouble.
Can I be so brave as to offer them some advice, absolutely certain in the knowledge that they will never, for a minute, take it up? The biggest problem for the Nos is their leadership and it is this that they must (but won’t) address. Political campaigns can be re-calibrated and reinvented, and there are always clever young things with new ideas, but in politics it is leadership that matters most.
I don’t know the No campaign director, Blair McDougall. He seems a decent enough guy and In his few media appearances he comes across as competent, if uninspiring, but clearly way out of his depth. He has never led a political campaign or large organisation before, yet he has been tasked to lead a fractious cross party organisation with competing and converging interests. He is the engine room of a campaign that is singularly failing, squandering a huge lead that had them so far ahead only a few months ago. It also seems like he is on his own unlike the Yes team equipped with an army of Stephen Noons.
I also don’t even know Alistair Darling, the face of the No leadership. He and I have shared the same work place for the past 13 years but he has never spoken to me in all that time – I think I’m too much of an inconsequential oiky Nat for him to bother about. So all I have are my observations of him as a fellow politician and leader. To me he comes across as a diffident, aloof, even shy sort, and I have to say that there could be nobody more awkward and self conscious in this role. His media appearances have become increasingly argumentative and approaching disastrous. This was someone who regularly won the contest for the most boring politician of the year. To be reinvented as this angry and agitated campaign leader just does not work and he now looks almost frightening to most neutrals.
That is why they have to send for Dave. Yes. I know he’s a Tory, and I know we loathe the Tories to the bottom of our ballot boxes in Scotland, but this is not a Parliamentary election, and Dave is by far the best and most convincing advocate the Nos have. He also comes with the office and has authority that no other No has. He is one of the few Nos who can almost put a passionate case for the Union and because he is not Scottish Labour he is spared from that almost tribal hatred of the SNP that comes across in practically every Labour spokesperson. The, “How do we deploy Dave?” stuff is just nonsensical. He is the Prime Minister of the Union they’re hoping to save! No-one can argue for his right to do that better than the man that currently inhabits that role, and If this referendum is about anything it is about who should ultimately run Scotland – is it the UK Prime Minister or the Scottish First Minister? The fact that it is now clear that he would have to resign if the Union is lost would only further encourage him to put everything into these debates.
Yes, he should debate, but that’s only part of it. The Tories supply the ‘intellectual’ case for the Union with their analysis papers and they supply most of the funding. The Tories in Scotland are also the most engaged supporters of the Union and having their leader at the front would only further energise them. Bringing Cameron on board now would signal an escalation in the UK’s response and would suggest that the UK are taking the referendum seriously. It would also signal that they are properly addressing their many campaign difficulties with renewed leadership. Keeping him semi-engaged just looks they have something to fear and emphasises their clear leadership difficulties.
Now, I know that the Nos won’t listen to me or any other ‘Nat’ but surely the longer the Nos hold Dave back the worse it will be for them when they will forced to eventually unleash him?