I've just caught up with David Cameron's interview on Scotland Tonight. Although John MacKay is plainly nothing like as forensic an interrogator as a Ponsonby or a Brewer, I think he did a reasonably good job of pressing the Prime Minister on some uncomfortable questions. At the outset, it was pointed out to Cameron that he and his policies are the embodiment of what Scotland is getting as a result of not being independent right now, and is also the embodiment of what we will continue to get if we vote No in September. Essentially he was being invited to actually defend his record and his future plans to the Scottish electorate just for a change, rather than relying on a God-given right to govern us due to a political system that was devised 300 years ago. His response was extraordinary. It amounted to -
"I'm not interested in defending my policies to the Scottish electorate, and I'm not going to. For now I just want you to decide to permanently contract out your choice of governments to the UK electorate at large. Only once you've done that will I defend myself to that electorate, who I will invite to choose on your behalf that I should be your Prime Minister. And in all honesty it's best not to think about that too much when you step into the polling booth. Just think about the cute kittens of Britain! And don't partition the Middleland! The sheep are too identical!"
We're told that we can just take Dave's word for it that he will deliver new powers for the Scottish Parliament if we vote No, because, hey, he's a pretty straight kinda guy, and he's also got this fabulous track record of delivering on devolution already. But does he? The delivery of the Calman proposals can be entirely explained by the presence of the Lib Dems in the coalition - all the mood music before the 2010 election was that a majority Tory government would kick Calman into the longest of long grass. The devolution of policing powers to Northern Ireland is an irrelevance, because Prime Ministers of all colours have always seen Northern Ireland devolution through the prism of the peace process, which in turn is seen as a precious opportunity for a legacy. And the delivery of extra powers to Wales was probably down to a combination of pressure from the Lib Dems and the entirely spontaneous (bordering on miraculous) emergence of a relatively progressive and forward-thinking Tory leadership in the Welsh Assembly, who it would have been embarrassing to knock back publicly. So this track record is largely one of wearily going along with other people's ideas due to the necessity of circumstance.
We also learned that, incredibly, Cameron does not think John Smith's opposition to everything the Tories stand for has any relevance whatever when the late Labour leader's memory is invoked in this campaign. Apparently the one and only fact about Smith that matters is that he was opposed to Scottish independence. Well, he undoubtedly was a unionist, and he was as scathing about the SNP as any present-day Labour figure is (although he was also a much more authentic devolutionist than most of the current crop). But when working-class Labour voters think back to John Smith wistfully, does anyone really imagine that they're thinking of his attitude to the constitution? The likelihood is that they're actually wondering how they can ever get a Smith-like politician installed as the Prime Minister of their country - and in the context of this campaign the only logical conclusion that can be reached is that a Yes vote is the way of making that possible. "Think of John Smith when you're voting for me to remain your Prime Minister" does not strike me as being the most promising message from Cameron.
Oh, and apparently the reason Cameron's government isn't going to publish the Top Secret Ipsos-Mori Mega-Poll (which it's now pretty obvious showed a Yes surge of some description) is because they don't publish internal polls. And why don't they publish internal polls? Because they don't. Well, that's all totally clear. A friendly hint, Prime Minister - when you repeatedly tried to get off the hook by saying "there is no shortage of polls in this campaign", a lot of viewers will have been thinking : "So what's the harm in one more, then? What's so special about this one that it needs to be kept hidden at all costs?" And when you cited your "passion for the United Kingdom" and your government's "engagement with the campaign" as reasons for commissioning the poll in the first place, viewers will have been thinking : "You can be as passionate and as engaged as you like, chum, just so long as you don't do it at our expense and then keep the results secret."
As we know, Cameron is fighting for the Union with every fibre of his being, but, alas, his being simply doesn't contain enough fibres for him to contemplate the TV debate with Alex Salmond that opinion polls show the voters want by an overwhelming margin. His alternative excuse is that this is a debate between the Yes campaign and the No campaign, and that since Alistair Darling is the leader of the No campaign it's only sensible and logical that Darling should debate with Salmond who, er...isn't the leader of the Yes campaign.
Dennis Canavan is Darling's direct counterpart. Salmond's role in this campaign is as the head of the government that is supporting a Yes vote. His only possible counterpart is the head of the government that is supporting a No vote, namely David Cameron Esquire.
But by all means let's have a ninety-minute, prime-time, head-to-head debate between Salmond and Darling anyway. Come to think of it, can we have five?
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