Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sturgeon v the Lib Dems' third choice

I wonder just how much of a realist Alistair Carmichael is. It won't have been a surprise to any of the viewers of tonight's referendum debate that the closing verdict of the STV pundits was that Nicola Sturgeon had won by a country mile, but the oddly satisfied expression on Carmichael's face a few minutes earlier gave me the distinct impression that he was genuinely oblivious to how badly he was faring. Maybe he's just good at bluffing - in which case he should probably be in the poker game rather than the politics game.

In a way Carmichael's meltdown was a touch unexpected, because it's generally assumed that one major reason that he is now in harness as Scottish Secretary is the poor showing of his predecessor in a debate with Sturgeon on the same programme a few months back. (Although as we all know, John Rentoul's assessment of Scottish matters is infallible, and it's therefore highly likely that Michael "007" Moore is merely pretending to be politically dead, à la Skyfall, and will terrifyingly re-emerge to annihilate the Yes campaign at some unspecified date before the referendum.) Carmichael performed creditably in the 2010 Scottish "leaders' debates", when Nick Clegg perpetrated one of his many con-tricks on the electorate by putting forward someone who we now know was only his third choice as Scottish Secretary to represent the Lib Dems. So if nothing else, replacing Moore with Carmichael ought to have shored things up for the No campaign on the TV debating front. Why, then, did Carmichael under-perform so poorly tonight in comparison with his efforts in 2010? I think perhaps the four-way format flattered him in the general election debates, and in an intense one-on-one duel his weaknesses as a debater were more cruelly exposed. But more fundamentally, I also think he was able to debate with more passion in 2010 because he was actually (at least to some extent) arguing for policies he believed in. I'm not suggesting that he's a closet supporter of independence, but so many of the arguments he put forward against independence tonight were obviously contrived and synthetic, and his heart just didn't seem to be in them. By contrast, there can't have been a doubt in anyone's mind that Nicola Sturgeon was speaking from true conviction.

As ever on these occasions, there were one or two jaw-dropping moments from the No campaign's champion. From memory, he said something along the lines of "I can tell you with absolute certainty that what Scotland wants, Scotland will get". Wow. I Judging from his response to Nicola Sturgeon's follow-up questions it seems clear enough that he wasn't suggesting that Scotland will get the government it actually votes for in future (how ridiculous would that be!), which only leaves the possibility that he was 'guaranteeing' that Scotland will get precisely the devolved powers it wants - which we know from polling evidence means that pretty much every governmental power would be transferred from London to Edinburgh, with the possible exceptions of foreign affairs and defence. How on Earth can he square that 'certainty' with repeated statements from the UK government and other parts of the No campaign that, while independence may be a matter for the Scottish electorate alone to decide, Devo Max is subject to an absolute veto from the rest of the UK, not just in terms of the details but in terms of the whole principle?

Oh yes, and let's backtrack for a moment to when Sturgeon challenged him to say that Scotland would never again end up with a Tory government it hadn't voted for. His risible retort was : "What's your problem with democracy?" Well, leaving aside the whole question of the democratic deficit caused by unwanted Tory rule, let's just take a look at the two campaigns' respective positions on democracy, shall we?

Pro-independence campaign:
Written constitution limiting the powers of the executive.
Proportional representation for national elections.
A fully elected national parliament.

Anti-independence campaign:
Unwritten constitution allowing for sweeping 'elective dictatorship' powers for the executive in the guise of the royal prerogative.
First-past-the-post for national elections.
A national parliament comprised of one elected chamber, and one wholly unelected chamber (including guaranteed seats for clerics of just one religious denomination).

I know which side of this debate looks liberal and democratic to me. For reasons only known to himself, the so-called 'Liberal Democrat' is on the other side.

Anyway, here's how I scored the debate -

Nicola Sturgeon (pro-independence campaign) 9/10
Alistair Carmichael (anti-independence campaign) 5/10


  1. Has the news reach Bedford? The Next Leader of the LD's? Sorry to smirk MS if you are reading this.

  2. Wee Nicola kept bullying Big Al with calls for him "to keep up" and pouring scorn on his demands for protection; giggling that he should be "able to hold his own".
    Another puddin dispatched. Next up to be eviscerated - Willie Rennie perhaps?


  3. Gosh 5/10, you're too generous!

  4. I'm surprised you scored him so highly. Nicola was joy to watch. Thank God she's on our side.

    If Big Al is the Liberals' idea of a bruiser, perhaps we could have a whip round for a dictionary for them.

    I wonder if Muddle would like to step up to the plate and be despatched next.

    It's time the Tories took some responsibility for what's happening here instead of hiding behind a failed Labour chancellor and a series of Liberals who never expected to and aren't really fit to hold any position in government.

  5. Self delusion abounds in the nationalists psyche for sure. Sturgeon is an impudent little bitch who rules the roost in the SNP along with FatSalm. Rona Dougal stated at the outset she would intervene if anyone continually interrupted and that was why Carmichael asked for clarity.
    Where we expected a serious debate on issues of serious concern we were treated to a hectoring nationalist being totally disrespectful to a bemused federalist. Shouting down the opposition reflects a fear of the answers being given and any objective judge recognised that fact.

    1. Politicians being politicians really but while your branding people as deluded and bitches I don't really think you should be preaching about this kind of thing.

  6. There's a wonderfully revealing comment by a unionist that seems to have been caught by the spam trap. I'm on my mobile at the moment, but I'll release it when I get a chance.

  7. just you wait til Nicola Sturgeon comes up against johann 'debater of the year' Lamont she'll have met her match then pmsl ok maybe not

  8. Anon at 7.56pm (newly released from the spam trap) : I think with Carmichael it's not so much a case of 'bemused federalist' as it is 'confused federalist'. He is, after all, quite contentedly taking a hefty salary as a minister in an anti-federalist government. Once again, that's something only he can explain.

    And Ms Sturgeon as an "impudent little bitch"? "Fat Salm"? Thankyou for yet another stirring example of the legendarily constructive, courteous and non-abusive nature of the anti-independence keyboard warriors.