“Mr. Darling, I’ve never heard you quite so fired up. Thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning”.
If there was one way to describe the emotions pouring from the former Chancellor of the Exchequer on this morning’s Andrew Marr Show one may use the word “fiery”…perhaps, as well, “dismissive”, “enraged”, even “snobbish”, and “distressed”.
Distressed? Yes, distressed.
Alistair Darling appeared on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show in the wake of the Sunday Times’ article entitled “Scotland Yes Vote Now Neck and Neck”. Now there’s a headline to make any Better Together head-honcho choke on their morning coffee.
The ST cites a Panelbase poll which shows the “Yes” vote closing the gap to just six points, with “No” at 53% and “Yes” at 47%. This most recent poll is just the latest in a series of publications by the likes of YouGov, Ipsos MORI and ICM.
YouGov recently showed the scale of the Yes side’s gradual climb, stating that the gap had narrowed from 61%-39% in favour of the union at Christmas down to 58%-42% as of the 26th March. It states that this is due, in part, to the number of “Don’t Knows” jumping the fence to the “Yes” side. In response to the publication of this particular poll, Professor John Curtice posted on his blog that these findings reflected the same as those shown in ten other polls conducted since the “currency intervention”.
So I suppose it is not without reason that Mr. Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign, seemed a little hot under the collar on this morning’s show. Why would he not be? The pro-unionists keep telling the Yes campaign that the rUK will not accede to a currency union; that we will not be re-admitted to the EU; that Scotland could not compete on the global financial market, etcetera, etcetera – yet the gap continues to close.
“If you look at the change from this month to last month”, Mr Darling said, “It hasn’t changed one bit. Our lead is exactly the same.”
From the outset of the interview, Alistair Darling was already refusing to accept the results from today’s poll.
“If you look at some of the polls since the beginning of this year, some of them show our lead increasing…I believe we can win this, if we get across the benefits of the UK to Scotland…we will win this argument”, he argued in a great outpouring of emotion.
The problem for the Better Together side is just that, though: getting across the “positive message”. We’ve all heard it since the start of this campaign. Willie Rennie last week was saying how the pro-union team need to take greater steps to promote the benefits of the UK. The Sunday Herald today quoted David Cameron as saying:
“This is what I love about the UK. The decency. The family. The solidarity. The health service we built together…the freedom we fought for together…let’s win this referendum for all our futures”.
Love, love will keep us together,
Think of me, babe, whenever,
Some sweet-talking’ guy comes along
Singin’ his song,
Don’t mess around, you gotta be strong
Was it not Neil Sedaka who sang those words in 1974? It should be the new theme tune for Better Together and Westminster’s politicians generally.
Nick Clegg was singing about love at the end of the second debate with Nigel Farage.
If you watch the video above, skip to around 57 minutes and you’ll see what I mean in full. For those who can’t be bothered here is an excerpt of some of the best bits:
“Then there are those of us who believe-…who believe., and love modern Britain as it is today”
“I am going to do everything I can to make sure that we remain part of the European Union because that is how we protect the Britain that we love.”
When I heard it I was sat groping for the sick bucket. I don’t blame you if you do the same.
So it seems that the UK is playing up the whole “family of nations” idea. That we are one united front. Problem is, what happens after the 18th September?
I’ve recently noticed more cars with “Yes” stickers in the rear windscreen; more posters advocating independence; even a big sticker splashed over the “Welcome to Alva” sign as you enter the town, which now reads “Welcome to YESva”.
The independence debate is a question of identities and passions. Who we are, what we believe, who we trust, and how we identify with ourselves are all factors being questioned in this debate. It’s crass for Alistair Darling to point blankly refuse to accept the narrowing of the gap between the two sides. Even if the union remains in tact after September’s vote, it is unlikely relations between Scotland and Westminster will go back to simple acceptance.
The other issue for Better Together is we know what we’ve got. We know what being in the UK means; we’ve had 300 years being part of it to know what we get out of it. For more and more people independence is a picture of something new and different.
And Better Together speaks of uncertainty, and blames the Yes camp of “monstering” and childish behaviour when they themselves cannot provide guarantees, or organise themselves enough to prevent anonymous ministers blurting out about the currency.
Trouble is, no matter what happens, uncertainty comes with it. What happens with the West Lothian Question? Who will be the promoters of new Scottish power; what if other UK parties disagree on the model of further devolution (which they will)? Will we get tax powers? What happens to Trident? All of these questions and more remain, regardless of a “Yes” or “No” vote.
Alistair Darling can claim that all the talk that the “Yes” side has the potential to win is nonsense, but the proof is there. Independence is an increasingly popular concept. Better Together may profess that they hear, see and speak no evil and the nationalists are all to blame for scaremongering, but they are dealing with people’s hearts, as well as minds in this one, and I think the “Yes” camp has got the former on its side.