Yet again David Cameron has ruled out appearing in a debate with Alex Salmond about Scotland’s future, after he was asked by Andrew Marr on thon politics programme that no one gets out of bed early enough on a Sunday to watch. Cameron is desperate to avoid the independence debate becoming a debate on whether or not we want the Tories to continue to govern us. It’s too late, it’s already a debate about the Tories and has been since the days of Thatcher.
But Cameron is insisting that the debate is one for Scottish people to have between themselves, so he won’t be getting involved at all. Fresh from a meeting with his PR strategists, he uttered the noble sentiment:
“This is not a debate between me and [Alex Salmond]. It’s not a debate between the prime minister of the United Kingdom and the first minister of Scotland … The debate should be between people in Scotland who want to stay and people in Scotland who want to go.”
And all this is exactly how things should be. Except that they’re not, and Cameron is the one responsible for them not being that way.
Cameron won’t be getting involved in the debate at all, except when he makes a keynote New Year speech pleading with Scotland to remain in the UK, or sends cabinet ministers north of the Border to warn us that cyberterrorists will take over our Facebook profiles and post really embarrassing pics, or plans Union flag waving fiestas in the centre of Glasgow a few weeks before the indy vote, or instructs assorted UK government departments to produce reports showing that independence means all baby kittens in Scotland would be drowned, or offers helpful soundbites to Unionist press outlets, or sends representatives to meet with the Partido Popular to discuss common strategies for screwing independence movements … but apart from that, he won’t be getting involved.
David Cameron is the Prime Minister of Scotland. He heads the government which determines the Scottish budget, which decides our benefits and taxation policies, which represents Scotland internationally, which has the power to take us into war, the power to decide what laws Holyrood can make. He heads the government which is directing the campaign to save the Union. Despite this, he’s somehow not involved, like Don Corleone isn’t involved with the mob.
But there’s another message Cameron wants Scotland to hear. Scotland’s not really that important. Hardly worth bothering about. This is consistent with the Unionist tactic of diminishing and trivialising the independence debate. They don’t want people to start questioning the issues seriously or engaging with the idea of independence. So the very last thing that Better Together needs is for its real leader, as opposed to the figurehead, to be slaughtered live on national telly in a high profile debate. Voters might see.
Besides, voters in England might also be watching, and that won’t look good at all, especially not if it comes just after UKIP scares the bejeezus out of Tory backbenchers in May’s European elections. The only election Cameron is interested in is the Westminster election in 2015, being humiliated in a debate about Scottish independence won’t help his chances.
But ye’d think that if this is, as Cameron says, Scotland’s debate to be conducted by Scottish people in Scotland, then that can only mean that people in Scotland decide what the terms of the debate are, and decide who or what is relevant to it. According to a recent poll a substantial majority of voters in Scotland want Cameron to debate with Salmond, even if for no other reason than there’s really not enough comedy in this independence campaign and we’d all enjoy a good laugh watching seven shades of shite being beaten out of him.
So if Scottish people say that Cameron must put himself up for debate or shut up and cease his backstage meddling, then that’s what should happen. He’s determined to do neither.
Davie boy says that because he has no vote in the referendum it’s not right for him to debate Alex Salmond. He doesn’t have a vote in the referendum, this is true, but he’s got a vote in the House of Commons, he’s got a vote in Cabinet meetings, and moreover in these places he’s got the most influential vote. He uses that vote to decide what happens in Scotland. Cameron’s vote in Scotland outweighs yours and mine combined, it outweighs the combined vote of the entire population.
Our Tory Prime Minister has the only vote that counts in the normal run of Scottish politics, yet it’s not a vote that he uses with the interests of Scotland uppermost in mind. He’s got no intention of telling us what he plans to do with his vote, no desire to explain to us why we think we should let him keep his job as Prime Minister of Scotland. When it’s us who vote, not him, he doesn’t want to know. Equal partners in the Union? Aye, right.
We all know why Cameron won’t debate with Salmond. There’s the obvious reason, he’d get his arse handed to him on a plate. He’d be seen for what he is as far as Scotland is concerned – a lost tourist who’s confused by the strange ways of the natives, as out of his depth as the programme makers who thought Tom Daley’s Splash would make great telly. He would come to the debate with the rare disadvantage of making Alistair Carmichael appear well-prepared. And he’d be up against a man who, whatever your opinion of Salmond, is regarded as one of the UK’s best political operators, on his home turf on a topic he’s spent his life preparing for. It would be a blood sport the entire family could watch with guilt free pleasure, we’d be self-sufficient in schadenfreude for decades to come.
Avoiding a debate which is going to leave him looking like roadkill is not cowardice, despite what many say. Cameron doesn’t want the role of the guy in the red shirt in Star Trek who gets devoured by the alien tartan monster on planet Scotland. He’s a star, not a bit player. It’s not cowardice, it’s the arrogance of a burned out film star from the silent era.
He’s not a coward, he’s just confused between the Scottish independence debate and the plot line of Sunset Boulevard starring himself as Norma Desmond. Its main protagonist also spends her time fantasising about glory days long gone, and lures the unwary into an unhealthy dependency, so it’s an easy mistake to make.
He won’t consider a close up with Scotland, because we’re not big stars like him. The question we need to ask ourselves on 18 September this year is whether we want to stay with the loopy auld bat, and end up face down in a swimming pool.