Here comes the Boo Radley of Scottish politics again. If Gordon Brown did a tour like Gorgeous George it would be called ‘Stepping Out of the Shadows’.
Last night GB stood on the Better Together platform for the first time. This was (maybe) the first of Gordon’s much promised ‘big interventions’ as the faith in Alistair Darling leadership of Better Together drains away like drain water down a sump.
Now, with Tories calling Darling: “a middlingly competent accountant with zero charisma” – surely an insult to moderately dull bean counters everywhere – the No campaign is perhaps experiencing it’s own Davie Moyes moment.
‘Who?’ the plaintive plea goes out, ‘Who?’ can step up in the face of confusion and faltering polls? “You never see him. Where is the big figure to lead the campaign and take the fight to Salmond? It’s just dismal’ the brave anonymous Tory says, according to the Herald.
Who’s the who? It’s big Gordon. And, to his credit he tried to articulate 5 ideas about what the Union benefit is to Scotland. It’s rarely done and often called for, so good for him.
What were they?
Lower interest rates
“Social and Cultural Connections”
Now pensions is a firm favourite of the No brigade (older people feel vulnerable and turn out to vote – so they are ideal to frighten). But it has some real problems. Firstly the idea that your state pension would be under threat isn’t true. At all. Says who? Well the problem for Boo and buddies is that the body stating this is that we known centre for Cyber Nats the UK Department for Work & Pensions (download their redacted letter and share from here).
Now this is a shame that putting pensions up front and centre also coincided with the biggest share of a single image on social media in a long time as the Daily Express pensions propaganda got found-out big time. The trouble with the new fresh air of social media is that the old efforts to manipulate and distort get rumbled pretty quickly.
That well known Cyber Nat Billy Bragg said:
“These two front pages are from the Daily Express – one from the English edition, the other from the Scottish. Whatever your views on Scottish independence, you have to ask yourself if the people of Scotland are really getting the facts about what would happen if they vote Yes. Coming on the back of the Daily Mail’s shameful behaviour, I’m seeing a positive role for social media in challenging the press. In the old days they would have got away with their distortions – now their are thousands of people holding them to account.”
Next came NHS funding – which Mr Brown claims keeps healthcare free at the point of use. The problem here is that of all the things that Labour have failed at, and that the whole Westminster political class are culpable for, failure to protect the NHS is probably the top. In fact 85,000 public sector jobs have been lost in Health & Social Care in just two years, and £15,997, 200,000.00 – that is the amount of your NHS Cameron has offered to Private Health.
That doesn’t make me feel very Better Together.
So it’s odd ground to pick, but it fits the mould. Look backwards, draw on peoples sense of what Britain meant, not the reality of what Britain means. Better Yesterday.
Next up Mr Brown pointed to the 600,000 Scottish jobs dependent on companies that are British or linked to Scottish exports to Britain as proof of the importance of the Union.
This is just scatter-gun scare tactics, quite indiscriminate. There is no reason in the world why the centre of political decision-making should affect trade and the commercial opportunities of these companies. In fact, there’s every reason to imagine they’d benefit.
A vague but 100% good thing called “social and cultural connections” was last of Brown’s positives, with, he claimed ’50 per cent of Scots now having close relatives in the rest of the UK’ according to the former prime minister.
But what’s to happen to these connections? What’s to happen to these relatives? Will they be rounded up? Will the phone lines go down? It’s such a dire message and such a flogged horse and Better Together has failed and failed again with this stuff.
Is this the best they can do? Is Gordon the Great White Hope?
The problem for Gordon isn’t so much his 5 Great Things About the Union speech being based on some very unsound ground, it is, sadly, him. The man who’s main virtue was for years that he Wasn’t Tony Blair stepped into No 10 and was an unmitigated disaster for this country. People remember this. The Better Together’s patronising idea that he’s a ‘big gun’ and ‘a Scot’ doesn’t really cut it any more. They are, as in so much, behind the curve.
Who else have they got on the bench? I hear John Reid’s limbering up. Now then, talk about warmth and charisma. If you think Darling’s a politician with a charisma bypass and Gordon’s a communication disaste-zone, just wait for Lord Reid.