Send for ‘effing Cameron rather than moribund Miliband

by David Talbot

The fightback, declared the Labour leader, would start in Scotland. The newly anointed leader was speaking at the Scottish Labour conference of 2010, five months after a crushing general election defeat, but eight months before the next set of Scottish elections. Miliband was clearly eyeing a return to hegemony for Labour in Scotland. The rot, of course, had set in four years before; Labour historically losing control of Holyrood by one seat, and thereby setting in motion the frantic scenes seen seven days before the vote.

The utter failure of the Labour leaders’ words were laid bare when the SNP duly crushed a ramshackle Scottish Labour in 2011. The Prime Minister, from across the Despatch Box, duly took great delight in taunting the Labour’s  failure, though neither would take much delight in the perilous position for either of their parties in Scotland today.

Both Miliband and Cameron have waxed lyrical about their love of Scotland their passionate desire for it to stay as part of the Union. The Labour leader told the Labour conference of 2012 that the referendum on Scottish independence was of more importance to him than the general election. Whilst Cameron signalled early in his leadership of the Conservative party just how sorry he was for Tory misdemeanours in Scotland, vowing to “never take Scotland for granted”.

But as the referendum has unfolded both have largely taken a secondary role in the Better Together campaign. This is true, in part, because the main antagonists in the debate over Scotland’s independence have to be, of course, the Scots themselves. Labour leadership was originally bequeathed to the admirable and worthy, but seemingly failing, Alistair Darling, with the forlorn figure of Gordon Brown now returning to stomp around frontline politics. Miliband, until very recently, has been remarkable mainly for his absence in the Labour effort.

The situation for Cameron was all the clearer. He wasn’t welcome. The SNP dearly want to turn the referendum into a Scotland versus the English Conservatives vote, and there is only one outcome. The Prime Minister acknowledged as such when he understatedly said earlier on this year that his electoral appeal did not reach into every corner of the Union.

But the heart of this debate is between power retained at Westminster, or power transferred to Holyrood. Alex Salmond represents Holyrood and its claim for independence, whilst Cameron represents Westminster. That Cameron has not further championed Westminster and Union is as astonishing as it is pathetic. If ever there was a need for a Prime Minister to be humble, not regal, and clear in his intentions that this is about his determination to secure the Union and not for electoral prospects, for his Conservative party has none, then it is now.

And for Miliband; a Labour leader that was truly on the cusp of power would, surely, be able to marshal the forces of a once uniformly Labour realm. But Miliband cannot make any more of an impression in Scotland than he has elsewhere. The biggest reason for the ‘blitzkrieg’ of the Yes vote is the increased number of Labour voters now supporting independence; a rise that Miliband seems simply unable to resist. Indeed, for all Miliband’s ill-advised Tory-bashing the Prime Minister enjoys a 15 per cent lead in Scotland over the Labour leader in personal popularity polls.

Salmond has long-taunted Cameron to come up to a hostile Scotland, a request the Tory leader should have taken up long ago – including participating in the televised debates. The SNP leader has been able to dictate the political debate north of the border with past and present leaders who were either unable or simply unwilling to take him on at his own game. His desperate desire to frame this as a vote on a crude caricature of a right-wing England has to be annulled at source, by the Conservatives themselves.

David Talbot is a political consultant


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4 Responses to “Send for ‘effing Cameron rather than moribund Miliband”

  1. Ex labour says:

    “David Talbot is a political consultant”…..he is also wrong.

    Your headline suggest criticism of Moribund, and yet focuses on Cameron.

    The ‘Better Together’ campaign was funded by the Tories on the premise, or rather promise from Moribund that Labour would deliver the necessary votes using their so called political strength in Scotland. How wrong that turned out to be?

    You can’t blame Cameron he was given the assurance by Moribund, who has done nothing except leave it to Darling to sort out. Then the swivel eyed loon intervened in the last few days making it worse. No doubt Moribund is still in his ‘Zen like state’ contemplating what to do.

    The BT campaign should have hit harder earlier and spelled it out to the fat economist. No more largesse from the English taxpayer, so the free prescriptions, elderly care, university fees etc, everything would go and they would have to accept their share of the national debt and England would require several billion paid back each year. They should have forced him onto the back foot, but have never even got him out of fast forward.

    Like Rotherham, Labour has tried to pacify the Scottish rather than spell out clearly what the consequences are. Offering them ‘Devo Max’ now is a complete copout and the fat economist has got what he wanted all along, English money without any responsibility.

    I’m Scottish and quite frankly at this point I wish they do vote for independence and face the consequences of their hubris. What will come back to haunt LibLaCon is the backlash from England when Scotland get yet more money and extended powers and quite rightly the English will ask why the Scots enjoy these financial benefits. Step forward UKIP to explain to English taxpayers why they are taxed so heavily and why the Scots enjoy the benefits of English taxation.

  2. Ex Labour

    Thanks for that. Duly noted I am wrong because of my job title..

    I did blame Miliband though, in my seventh paragraph, that he simply has not been able to marshal the Labour vote. Which doesn’t bode well either for this referendum or indeed for the next general election.

    A bit apocalyptic the rest of your analysis but agree that Better Together should have woken up to this scenario a long time ago, and not just when the polls indicated as such.

    Cameron needs to show that this isn’t some stupid vote on whether the Scots like the Tories; they don’t, I think we can all agree on that. It’s something far more important than that. And Salmond is a bully and the best way of defeating a bully is by standing up to him and his claims; Cameron started to do that yesterday.

  3. Tafia says:

    And Salmond is a bully

    No he isn’t. What he is is an effective leader. If you cannot dominate your opponents and impose your will on them (and your own inner circle) you aren’t actually very good (or much use).

    Politics of consensus and committee is pointless, achieves very little and is the realm of silly irrelevant.

    Major political shifts are imposed by domineering leaders such as Blair, Thatcher, Wilson, Churchill etc. Single-minded, aloof, visionary, forceful, manipulative and above all cold-bloodedly ruthless.

  4. Ex Labour says:

    @ David Talbot

    David, my comment on “wrong” was related to the title of your piece indicating it was a critique of Moribund, and yet much of the criticism was aimed at Cameron. Those sub-editors eh ? In my view Moribund has been as useless as one radio caller said “a boil on a scrotum”.

    I agree neither have performed well, but central to comment was the agreement that the Tories fund the BT campaign and Labour deliver votes. That is why Cameron and the Tories have stayed out of the fray thus far.

    As for my “apocalyptic” scenario, well I’ve been discussing this with my family members back in Scotaland for many months, and also with Tory and Labour voting friends here, and what comes out is that the Scots want a “fair settlement” either way and I can tell you what the Scots mean by that would not go down well with English voters.

    I would also point out that Farage and his UKIP bandwagon are currently en route to the North to spell out to the people what independence means within a European Union (assuming the Scots are allowed to join). Now it will get apocalyptic.

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