Ed Miliband and the Labour shadow cabinet have tried a new variant on the drive-by unionist technique. Not for them the Tory trick of sending up a cabinet meenister to Scotland, spraying a few dud bullets then running away again before anyone noticed they’re there and ridiculed them. Oh no. Labour is different from the Tories. Their entire shadow cabinet came up to Scotland and ran away again without even bothering with the dud bullets. They just went straight to being ridiculed.
Fortunately for Labour’s self destructive visit, the ongoing self destruction of the CBI took most of the headlines. Just today the Sunday Herald reported that CBI’s Scotlandshire director Ian McMillan is to get his jotters. Or rather, he’s taking early retirement, it was planned months ago, no really, and announcing it this weekend so everyone assumes he’s carrying the can is just more poor timing and honest mistaking on the part of the CBI’s bosses.
But back to Ed. According to the ever loyal Severin Carrell writing in the Guardian, Ed made an important speech at a meeting at an undisclosed location in darkest Lanarkshire – which was later identified as a community hall in Muirhouse in Motherwell where Ed was heckled on the way in and on the way out again.
Sevvie Bull-As-Stories lived up to his reputation as the Guardian’s guff correspondent, vailantly pretending that Ed and the Labour party haven’t lost their balls in the long Scottish grass. Although if they lost Ed Balls that might be a good start to finding their way back. Sevvie was keen to show Ed was engaging with the great unwashed, that would be us, and told us that the audience at the meeting was made up of no voters, yes voters and don’t knows. But the only bogie Labour scored was the one dangling from their nose, the one that makes the rest of us feel a bit nauseus to look at them.
Sevvie described the event as a public meeting, which is true and not remotely misleading – but only if you think public means “by private invitation only” and that the Royal Troon is a cooncil golf course which allows everyone to join even if they don’t have a dick. Labour’s leadership would have no problem with membership, seeing as how it’s full of them.
But of course Labour is the peepul’s party and is open to everyone, even those without a penis. Or indeed those without any apparent sense of shame. So any Labour event is public by definition, including the shadowy shadow cabinet meeting later held behind locked doors at a secret secret venue in Glasgow. Shadow cabinet meetings are pretty pointless at the best of times, but making a big deal about taking the shadow cabinet to Scotland – see they’re so in touch with our concerns – then not telling anyone where you’re holding the meeting, not even the tame media, not allowing anyone to ask any questions, and not telling anyone what was discussed piles up enough pointlessness to keep Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman in trading witty banter for at least an entire 45 minute programme.
What wasn’t so clear from Sevvie’s not at all misleading report was that the audience consisted entirely of Labour loyalists, of people who haven’t ripped up their club membership cards after 13 years of Blair, Brown, illegal wars, and the party being intensely relaxed about a tiny minority getting extremely rich and blagging subsidised drinkies at the 19th hole. Yet Ed failed to convince even these long suffering sowels. His performance was distinctly below par. And that’s the last of the golfing references. I hate the bloody game anyway. I also hate the games Labour plays, but you’ve probably worked that out for yourselves by now.
The people in the audience weren’t just any auld punters. They’re the front line troops that Better Together is relying on to go round chapping on doors, handing out leaflets in the streets, and trying to persuade the rest of us of the case for the Union. Reliance upon Labour’s footsoldiers was a core part of their top down strategy. Many of them will be taking an active role in the campaign, handing out leaflets and chapping on doors. Unfortunately for Ed they’ll be campaigning for a yes vote.
So you can understand why Sevvie wanted to stress the publicky public overtly open nature of an internal Labour gathering. Because if a meeting of Labour loyalists is producing an audience of yes voters and don’t knows, Better Together is totally screwed. But that’s what happens when you try to build a national campaign from the top down, the roof falls in on you.
Meanwhile, Better Together’s resident space hopper, Blair McDougall, was tweeting excitedly that there was “big news” in the indy ref campaign. He wasn’t talking about Ed, no one was. He wasn’t talking about the CBI, hoping that particular story would go into early retirement with Ian McMillan. Blair’s big news was that Frank Roy, the Labour MP for Motherwell, was going to be the new campaign manager, and he was responsible for Labour winning the General Election in 2010, at least in Scotland. At least if you believe Blair.
Frankie’s opposed to gay marriage, and even though the matter is devolved to Holyrood, he voted against allowing gay people in England and Wales to get married. He has managed to absent himself from a long series of votes on issues concerning lesbian and gay equality. Including the vote to abolish the infamous Section 28, a piece of Thatcherite hate legislation that criminalised the “promotion” of homosexuality by public bodies. Frankie has had multiple chances to consign hate laws to the bin, but didn’t avail himself of the opportunity. I’m sure I recently heard someone severely criticising the Yes campaign for accepting a donation from Brian Souter who campaigned to retain that homophobic legislation. Perhaps Blair will remind us who it was.
Frankie has truly fearsome powers of persuasion. In February he debated independence with the other other Blair, the Jenkins one, in front of his home crowd in Motherwell. In its report on the event, which members of the public without Labour party membership cards were actually allowed entry to, the Record sniffed that the no campaign really was in trouble if all those apathetic unionists out there couldn’t be bothered to show up. But it’s possibly just as well that they didn’t, as the paper also reported that towards the end of the debate an English member of the audience stood up and announced that Frankie’s woeful arguments had convinced him to switch from nailed on no to supporting yes.
All the pillars of Better Together’s campaign strategy are crumbling one by one. The CBI will not provide firing cover under a camouflage net of neutrality, Labour’s foot soldiers have deserted or mutinied, and the man just appointed to persuade us to switch from yes to no can’t even persuade no voters to support him. Ed’s mini band gets smaller and smaller every day.
The truth is, if it wasn’t for the likes of Severin and his media pals desperately trying to breathe life into the corpse, Better Together would have been cremated months ago.