Now that is embarrassing. After weeks of carefully contrived coordination between Tories red, blue and yellow, the Great Currency Union Bluff seems to have fallen apart with an inadvisable briefing to the Guardian’s chief political correspondent Nick Watt:
A currency union will eventually be agreed between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK to ensure fiscal and economic stability on both sides of the border, according to a government minister at the heart of the pro-union campaign.
The private admission comes amid increasing jitters at Westminster, after opinion polls showed an increase in support for independence despite the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all arguing that Scotland could not keep the pound after a yes vote.
“Of course there would be a currency union,” the minister told the Guardian in remarks that will serve as a major boost to the Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, who accused the UK’s three main political parties of “bluff, bluster and bullying” after they all rejected a currency union.
The minister, who would play a central role in the negotiations over the break-up of the UK if there were a yes vote, added: “There would be a highly complex set of negotiations after a yes vote with many moving pieces. The UK wants to keep Trident nuclear weapons at Faslane and the Scottish government wants a currency union – you can see the outlines of a deal.”
The frank statement, contrasting sharply with the public position of ministers, comes amid soul-searching on the pro-union side after a series of opinion polls showed Scottish voters do not believe the UK would refuse a currency union with an independent Scotland.
Not only does that just shatter the remaining scraps of credibility of this position, it also will send the various No campaigns into bitter recriminations. The campaign, led variously by Gordon Brown, Blair McDougall, Alistair Darling, then occasionally fronted by the Prime Minister and the Exchequer is suffering from a weird and wild strategy being pulled in all directions. It is both incoherent and ineffective.
Nicholas Watt for the Guardian points out that:
“The emphatic rejection of a currency union by the three main parties was taken on the specific advice of the former chancellor and Better Together chief Alistair Darling and the main Downing Street Scottish adviser Andrew Dunlop.”
As speculation sways between Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and Michael Moore, someone’s in a lot of trouble. But it may be the last straw for Darling’s role in the campaign which Tories described as ‘comatose’ a few months ago.
Liberals are difficult to sack. They’re the Tories human shields. But Darling may take the hit for this. Not for the leak, but for the utter failure of this political strategy.
Abuse of power comes as no surprise but being found out like this is humiliating even for professional politicians.
New strategies may emerge but Better Together’s problem is much more fundamental: people don’t believe them any more.
The image above is by the artist Jenny Holzer. Here’s another one…