This goes against all my instincts but I can’t fight the feeling any longer. For probably the first time since I started blogging last September, I begin to think we can win this. Or more accurately that we really are going to do it. It’s an amalgamation of things. First the combination of Jim Murphy and Alistair Darling this week has mildly shocked me. Watching their performances – remember these are two of the Big Beasts of Labour Unionism – gabbling and scrambling to make questionable point after doubtful assertion, I suddenly had an Emperors’ Clothes moment. I thought: They are desperate. They sound like drowning men with so many pleas for help that it was pitiable. Neither could let the interviewer in, each of them repeating a string of claims which all ran into and over each other, neither of them displaying the gravitas and stature expected of their office, with so many caveats popping up in my mind as they spoke that I was left convinced they were in propaganda, not persuasive mode. They had nothing.
I heard Jim – eyes wide as if transmitting horror – on the STV sofa say that Scotland raised less income than it spent therefore how will it cope…the idea being we would be bankrupt. I nudged my aching head and thought: isn’t that called a deficit? Doesn’t every country have one…except rich little countries like Norway which invested its oil money rather than spending it? Doesn’t Britain – Jim’s real country, as opposed to Scotland – have a deficit? And doesn’t every other country borrow money to cover the gap? Does he mean Scotland will be outside the club of normal nations? And is it not also the case that the deficit is in fact caused by the apportioning by London to Scotland of a share of UK national debt, money that doesn’t actually get spent here anyway? He was equally domineering and unattractive on the Radio Scotland programme in the afternoon.
Alistair too sounded slightly manic like a man on laughing gas, unable to stop himself, talking over the interviewer and reading his list of questionable assertions like someone who had memorised the shopping list and had to hurry before he forgot. I remember Malcolm Chisholm doing this in interviews when he was a minister where he was wound up so tightly, through nerves and desperation to get his point over, that he talked twenty to the dozen and made no sense at all. They sound like some agricultural machine spraying slurry in an incessant stream of meaningless invective. Contrast with Nicola Sturgeon calmly but persistently making one or two key points in a moderate tone. She wins hands down, yet Darling and Murphy are the best Better Together have got. Where is the “proud Scotsman” Alistair Carmichael who campaigned behind Michael Moore’s back to replace him? What an abject failure he has been. What grim pleasure Moor must get watching his replacement flail from the sidelines.
But the real change is Labour’s rubic cube of proposals which lack the element of zing that can transport it beyond mere policy into a campaign theme. It is risible and must shake the faith of the hardened No brigade in suburbia let alone the real hard core Labour voters who would prefer a question of their own on the ballot paper. Not only is Labour’s offer weak, it is only Labour’s. After three years of working together – and the years of Calman before that – the Unionist front has failed to coordinate a response. They jeered and scoffed at the SNP for lack of detail, then got it and still tried to sneer and now, after months of teasing, when confronted with Johann’s own moment of revelation, drop the seventh veil to audience laughter. Truly and historically pathetic.
There is little sign Labour will win the next election and if they form a minority government what might fall by the wayside? Oh, extra powers for Scotland perhaps? There is a school of thought now that whatever the outcome, the impact of this tawdry affair will irreparably damage Labour. Some forecasts have the SNP winning Holyrood again and taking 20 seats in the General Election.
Then there is UKIP, loathed in Scotland yet poised to be the winner is this year’s Euro elections where again Labour’s vote may reduce them to a single MEP in Scotland. The English reaction to this success for a Little England anti Scottish anti immigrant party will repel many Scots and confirm our different political culture.
The daffodils are out in the garden with the snowdrops and spring is in the air. Maybe that’s what I’m smelling. Or maybe it’s the clean cool fresh air of an independent Scotland. I’m begining to think it’s the Scottish Spring.