It’s like trying to herd cats! With the likes of David Cameron, Danny Alexander, George Reid, Alastair Darling, Gordon Brown, George Robertson, George Osborne, JK Rowling, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and apparently even the Pope in your stable, it’s understandably hard to keep everyone ‘on message‘.
Let’s take a closer look at Gordon Brown…
Gordon has gone off the reservation. He’s said that David Cameron should debate Alex Salmond and even called a televised debate between the two “a good idea”.
This is not the approved script.
The Prime Minister of the UK has been ducking this debate for months. He has Darling lined up as the whipping boy for this one, but Salmond repeatedly says he wants to talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey. Surveys have suggested 67% of Scots voters think Cameron should debate with Salmond. Cameron is left looking weak and afraid, stuck on repeat, saying that Independence is ‘a matter for the Scots’. And then he keeps butting in with speeches on the topic. It’s not a credible position.
Beaten like an egg-sucking dog
Cameron has avoided the question of debating Salmond. Rightly so, because he knows that in a debate, he’ll be eviscerated and beaten to a pulp like an egg-sucking dog by Salmond, whose debating skills are formidable. Salmond is a real bruiser when it comes to one on one debate, and his tone and style have become noticeably more polished in the past few years. And now Gordon has unhelpfully stated that the Prime Minister “has got to be part of this debate”. Cameron will be seething.
Gordon also accused Mr Cameron’s Government of using “patronising” tactics to argue against independence by warning Scots that leaving the UK could cost them hundreds of pounds a year. He has made unsettling noises, between book signings, about the fact that this debate is not Britain versus Scotland, but
“…presenting a Scottish vision of Scotland’s future as a patriotic alternative to that of the SNP.”
The important thing here is that I believe Gordon is right on these issues. Cameron will be the Prime Minister who ‘lost‘ Scotland without a debate. And there is no vision of a revived, strong, reinvigorated Scotland from the No campaign – just a barrage of threats and warnings about how terrible everything will be if we leave. Gordon knows that Scots don’t really care about some concept of history or ‘Britishness’, or being part of the UK, but they do care about what happens in Scotland’s future – and that’s the debate. It’s about Scotland and a vision of its future, because that is what has been placed into every Scot’s imagination by the simple fact of this referendum.
The clock is ticking… what will Gordon do?
Unfortunately, nobody in the No camp seems to be listening to Gordon’s advice. They wanted him in because they know Cameron is a poisonous liability north of Hadrian’s Wall, and because it’s absolutely clear that Scottish voters don’t like Tories. These voters are known previously to have trusted Gordon, one of Jock Tamson’s bairns, and the undecided amongst them, where the referendum will be lost or won, are those voters that Brown is more likely to woo.
The problem is – the No campaign naively expected Gordon to toe the line, and likely provided nice writers and sound bites for him to regurgitate. They forgot that he’s a maverick, thinks of himself as an intellectual, and does not take instruction well. Brown is nobody’s fool, and is no lightweight. However, due to his straying so far off message, the ‘No’ campaign may now decide to keep him away from the spotlight, and stick to Dave’s original plan, until the polls get desperate enough to merit another change of tack.
Meantime, they are treading water, and diligently diverting everyone’s attention away from the real issues by concentrating on allegations of orchestrated online abuse in social media, a favoured topic for mainstream media. Don’t go online, you’ll find trolls and bullies there! Get your facts safely from the BBC and read the newspapers for your enlightenment! Just like the good old days.
Knowing Gordon’s track record, being sidelined this quickly is not going to make him happy, especially as he was flattered into the campaign with ‘top dog’ status over Darling. If his ire gets up, he could start to run amok through this campaign like an enraged rogue male elephant, trumpeting ferociously and crushing all in his path. That spectacle is very much more likely now than a week ago – and it will be something truly awesome to behold.
The prize is a better country for the people of Scotland. And that’s only 94 days away.