Worries in Wongaland

Something interesting stirring in Wongaland over the referendum…someone down there is briefing not just against Better Together comedy stand-up Alistair Darling but also telling journalists that Downing Street thinks it may already be lost.

I have to say I think this is nonsense and completely against the evidence I see which only makes it all the more intriguing.

In Fraser Nelson’s Daily Telegraph piece he reports: “But unofficially, the mood is bleak. Some of the Prime Minister’s chief strategists now argue that the battle is lost and that a Yes vote is not only possible but probable.” This is predicated not on Darling’s failings  but on Scottish Labour’s (Alistair is deemed by Number 10 to be one of Them rather than one of the Caledonian artisans), the same Scottish Labour Salmond made mincemeat out of two years ago. Labour is no longer the unbeatable machine, he says, to general surprise, and cannot offer the kind of rock-like backing the Unionist leadership requires. Add to that the new Scottish Secretary Carmichael whose strengths have never been on the rarified intellectual plane and you get from a London perspective an unimpressive jumble sale of the slow-witted and the low-browed perfectly capable of missing the easiest of open goals.

The impression of Carmichael as – putting it mildly – less than the bruiser he claimed, was heavily reinforced by the STV head-to-head debate with Sturgeon in which she appeared to be the senior politician armed with the knowledge and the answers making demands of the Westminster stooge. I imagined Michael Moore smiling contentedly at home and pressing Record.

Here’s is Nelson’s upsum of the debate: “Carmichael was backed by the combined might of the British government machine – so it should have sent him into that debate armed to the teeth with examples of the White Paper’s most egregious defects. His dire performance was a symbol of another deeply alarming trend: it seems the UK Government is not really trying.”

When you add to this the words given to the Daily Mail about Darling having no fire in his belly and being comatose, it does suggest they have the feeling things aren’t moving their way. And yet surely they are. On the face of it, there’s nothing but anecdote to say Yes is moving forward let alone ahead. They will take comfort from the polls – the published ones – and rightly so, although my own view is that the polls wont move for months yet because the don’t Dnows still don’t know until the pressure is on and so all the polling up to now is largely a waste of money, each effort confirming the previous one.

Of course I’m assuming these are genuine sources truly reflecting opinion in the seat of power instead mischief making. I mean the source who attacked laugh-a-minute, up-and-at-em Alistair wanted Michael Gove or, so help me, Jeremy Hunt to take over. I’d be ordering my Free At Last tee-shirts if that happened. And the deer horn cufflinks. So that idea surely damages the credibility of the source but leaves us with the nagging feeling that something’s afoot. It occurred to me that this is an aspect of the debate I foreshadowed before when discussing the media. I maintain that if and when the polls begin to move north for Yes, the same Unionist media will turn on its own and the likes of Alistair and McDougall will find themselves challenged in print and even on Good Morning Scotland where Jim Naughtie will preface his question with an erudite essay on the vicissitudes of the political fates before asking Alistair: “Mr Darling, where did all go wrong?” And such is my blinding perspicacity that I also foresaw how that turncoat mode would produce resentment among journalists who would be proved wrong. That’s when they start digging and begin to question Alistair’s credentials, his actual credentials, for the job. Thus in the same edition of the Daily Mail which called Alistair useless we find Richard Kay writing about his outside interests. “In the past year he has raked in more than £170,000 for addressing a string of private events. Darling was paid a total of £172,550 in fees for just 15 speaking engagements between November last year and October. He received two payments of £15,300 each in a single day in May when he spoke at two conferences in London — a total of nine hours’ work. One had been organised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the other by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Darling picked up a further £8,500 from Merrill Lynch when he spoke at another of its bashes in July.”

Wouldn’t want the Undecideds of Wester Hailes and Gorgie to know that, now would he? With this type of stuff now in Google, other journalists will find it handy when writing skeptical pieces about the Member of Edinburgh South West and write it they will if the idea gets about that despite the opinion polls and in spite of their own uncritical support, journalists see the No campaign stumbling and Salmond starts doing what he does best, making a fool of the Establishment.

I see Downing Street phoned Alistair to reassure him that he is still treasured and that they’re hunting for the mole as we speak. That might be a wise move because I suspect that Alistair’s pride outweighs his belief in the Union and he’s quite capable of stepping back to allow someone else to front it.

That would bring Gordon Brown into shot, as one of the leaky sources said. Alistair doesn’t hate anyone more utterly than Gordon and if that did happen I think he’d become a sotto voce whisperer against Better Together. Another option of course would be to have it run by a woman – Johann is first in line. That would be a welcome addition to the debate, wouldn’t it, a Borgenesque classy political operator in charge?

Alistair moving aside would also remove Cameron’s cover for ducking out of his obligation as actual leader of the Union and debating live with Salmond…this is turning out to be fun. Perhaps that Downing Street source is a closet Nat.

28 thoughts on “Worries in Wongaland

  1. “I imagined Michael Moore smiling contentedly at home and pressing Record.”

    That is so, so cruel.

    Yet so very, very funny. 😀

  2. Great stuff Derek, a dagger decorated with little gems of humour.
    Darling a “little treasure”, Lamont (men an wummin” today on FMQs, practising her Scandi speak?) cutting a Borgenesque figure. A Carmichael sub on the bench?

  3. Cuff-links and tee-shirts? What kind of fashion icon are you? Seriously, seriously excellent blog, Derek, and keep up the good work. I always pray that Mr Darling on being interviewed will be asked the question “Why do they call you “flipper”?

  4. You’ve put a smile on my face for the rest of the day Derek!

  5. Very good Derek I do enjoy these thin strips you like cutting.
    I would love to see JoLa as BT front person. You’re chums at Pacific Quay would struggle to cover her more obvious defects although the thought that the BBC will ever be critical of BT is very hard to swallow.

  6. “Politicians are not going to win this debate alone. If it is left to politicians I fear the prospects are bleak.” So says Alistair Carmichael, according to The Scotsman, as he encourages business leaders to get behind him.
    The Scotsmoan continues, “Addressing politicians and business leaders in Dover House, Mr Carmichael warned that the No camp needed a vision.
    “He said: ‘We can claim the future as well as anybody else.'”
    A bleak future, then.
    What a guy.

  7. I agree that polls will change nearer the time in favour of a Yes vote. As usual, you provide interesting analysis. Thanks!

  8. Oh please can we have Jeremy Hunt? Please.

    • Jeremy Hunt would be a gift. His name would be great on twitter and comment sites for rhyming phrases for a great number of points of view.

  9. Naughtie should go after Jeremy Hunt … i wonder what is stopping him from grilling the Hunt over the sell-off of Hotcourses which for years has benefitted from a close relationship with British Council ….. When business rivals complained and John Horam MP called for an enquiry BC approached former BC Trustee (Trusty?) Sir Andrew Cubie who helped them hush the scandal up … Scooby Do’s thin summary report was then slipped past an inquorate British Council Trustees meeting in Dec 2009 without those Trusties who had bothered to show up being told that the complaint had gone to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and originated with a question by John (now Lord) Horam MP. It all stank to high heaven and the stench became even stronger when it transpired that Jeremy Hunt’s company had been engaged through a £100 shelf-company called Sheffield Data Services and a claimed tie-up with Yahoo was completely fictitious. Hunts cousin Viriginia Bottomley was on the Board of Trustees of British Council when the deal was struck. Hunt then inherited Ginny’s seat. He is now a millionaire … even though the Education UK website run by Hotcourses is seriously flawed: it was caught out, for example, trying to convince hapless overseas students that Wolverhampton was in Wales … and Bournemouth was in Scotland? Yet they hung on to their state-subsidised monopoly!

  10. See Item 3 for heavily redacted Minute at which an inquorate British Council Board of Trustees back in Dec 2009 nod through Sir Andrew Cubie’s cursory examination (whitewash) of a very well documented complaint. Cubie sat on the evidence for months and didn’t even bother to interview BC staff involved!

  11. Finally got home through miserable wind and snow and read your latest gem. What fun – especially poor Alistair being ” treasured” and J Lamont, classroom treasure, as “Borgenesque”. Neither the 90mph gusts nor the electricity on/off fits can stop me smiling now. Thanks, Again.

  12. Wings over Scotland has a nice article neatly underlining the Wongaland tag

  13. Another excellent offering full of useful insider information and laugh out loud funny in places e.g. a smiling Michael Moore reaching for the record button.

  14. Keep ’em comin’ Mr. Bateman.

  15. “I also foresaw how that turncoat mode would produce resentment among journalists who would be proved wrong.”
    Are ‘journalists’ really as shallow as that? That being proved wrong would be a source of resentment much more important to them than what happens to a country?

  16. @ James Coleman
    Tongue in cheek?
    It is rather mystifying. Do you think Mr Darling is just as likely to ask Mr Naughtie to eat his words?

  17. And the plot thickens.
    This surprisingly scurrilous whispering campaign resembles an episode of the wonderful TV show “House of Cards”.
    Could avaricious Alistair be hiding some financial shenanigans, ( Global Restructuring Group springs to mind) or has the “madness affliction” that struck down his erstwhile much vaunted leader Anthony finally taken hold.
    More importantly, who is Francis Urquhart?
    Oh, what fun to be had.

  18. Angry AND comatose. That’s quite a trick!

  19. If there is really to be a new leader of Better Together someone who can rally support and save the union at the mere mention of his name, then there is only one person for the job……………..step forward Grahamski , Alex and Nicola would tremble at the thought of debating with him!

  20. Wongaland?

    You’re calling England Wongaland?

    Beyond parody.

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