Thursday, 18 September 2014

Scottish Referendum

What strikes me is the way the three main parties have been out manoeuvred again and again. It was the Lib Dems who blocked a referendum and instead installed an minority SNP administration – which unsurprisingly showed the SNP could govern and strengthened support for the SNP, while the Lib Dems became an irrelevance in the Scottish Parliament. Holding a referendum years ago when support for independence was lower and the referendum not controlled by the SNP – does it really need hindsight to say that was the wrong decision.

David Cameron agreed a deal with the SNP and gave in on timing of the referendum, the franchise and the wording – he won only on excluding the option of Devo-Max, something that would have changed the whole nature of the debate.

There are clearly two debates going on – the one reported in the English Media and the one going on in Scotland – time and again the party leaders speak out on a issue – but the majority of people are engaged in their own grass roots debate and aren’t listening to the political establishment. The parties aren’t connecting with the voters.

The party leaderships nod and agree they need a more positive No campaign only to launch the next negative scare story and while they argue that independence has so many unknowns, so does devo max and they have no answer as to why they haven’t already introduced devo max.
Labour signs up to better together but then has to have its own Labour campaign – Labour tribalism and hostility to pluralism is as strong as ever. They ought to have decided either they should be part of better together or not.

The yes campaign is headed by Alistair Darling – except when it isn’t. Tellingly it’s never the leaders of the opposition MSP’s and I bet that even now most people couldn’t tell who leads for example the Conservatives in Holyrood. As with the more positive No campaign, everyone nods and says its a matter for the Scottish people and then they are cancelling PMQ’s to tell people how to vote.
I believe the SNP didn’t expect to win a referendum and the plan was always Devo Max followed by Independence in 10 or 20 years – looks like they have got exactly what they want.

I expect the SNP are set to do very well at the next general election – the sheer volume of campaign data, contacts, activists they have generated is enormous , more than that they have changed views. I’d go further and say the Lib Dems are most at risk of losing votes – people who are already looking for an alternative to Labour and Tory are easier to shift.
Lastly aesop’s fables – although negative campaigning does work, if you want someone to take their jacket off, sunshine is better than wind. The interventions of Danny Alexander et al – you can’t have a currency union, there is no going back, etc doesn’t make people feel like loved and valued.
People talk about head and heart – but people are both and the shopping list approach to politics with no narrative is not cutting the mustard.

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