Flipper Flopped Flapped and Failed


A decisive moment and crucial timing last night as Alistair Darling crumbled under the onslaught of Salmond’s analysis. If the body language was anything to go by one was calm and confident the other looked like he might burst into tears.

A rattled Darling jabbed his fingers, stuttered, stammered and pleaded ‘I’m a Labour politician, I’m a Labour politician!’ as if that particular Get Out of Jail Card still worked in this constitutional Monopoly. Salmond appeared assured – even to the extent that he had the cheek to offer his opponent a job in Team Scotland, (an offer Bella hereby rescinds on behalf of the rest of us).

But it wasn’t just in matters of style that this was a walkover. On Trident, poverty, oil and new powers key and substantial arguments were won.

On Trident Darling will get caught out because he was simply lying. This matter was conclusively dealt with in 2012 by the Nuclear Information Service, an independent think-tank. They wrote:

Claims that Scotland would lose thousands of jobs if the Trident nuclear weapons system is taken out of service or moved elsewhere have been thrown into question following an admission by the Ministry of Defence that only 520 civilian jobs at HM Naval Base Clyde are dependent on Trident.

The figure was released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in response to a freedom of information request from Scottish CND, who asked the Ministry to provide a definitive up-to-date number of jobs at the Clyde base, which includes the Faslane submarine port and the Coulport nuclear weapons store, which directly rely on the Trident strategic weapons system.

MoD replied that “there are 520 civilian jobs at Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde, including Coulport and Faslane, that directly rely upon the Trident programme”. MoD employs 159 personnel at the Clyde base, with private contractors Babcock Marine and Lockheed Martin UK Strategic Systems employing 254 and 107 people respectively. The majority of the jobs are for engineering and science specialists.

An earlier report in 2007 by STUC and CND ‘Cancelling Trident: the Economic and Employment Consequences’  – pairs the same picture, of a golden opportunity to diversify and create real jobs for real defence needs.

On Oil the Better Together/No Thanks/United Together/Team UK campaigns have a real problem to convince people that oil will make you poor. The stark fact that there’s been £13 billion investment by the industry in the last just underlines what everyone knows, that this is huge resource.  This was an area for Darling to lose and lose it he did, going back to an area with little prospect, probably because they are running of ideas. The lack of creative thinking in the No camp may lose them Britain, as they rush round in ever diminishing circles repeating the same tired arguments: Oil will make you poor, Trident is good, the NHS is safe in our hands. It’s patently failing as Don’t Knows and No voters turn off in droves.

It was perhaps on Child Poverty that Darling floundered worst of all. It was a classic trap-question: “How many children are estimated to enter child poverty.” If Darling knew the figure he wouldn’t say, because out of his mouth would have come a terrible truth about the austerity union. ‘But I’m a Labour politician’ was all he could muster.

On New Powers incredibly, Darling couldn’t answer. He was completely thrown by the specific nature of Salmond’s question: Can you name three new job-creating powers that you will deliver? He couldn’t and it was a tortuous moment for the ex-Chancellor as he panicked and shouted about ‘staying in the union’. His credibility was in shred by the end of that section. A more astute or well prepared politician could have responded with something constructive. Better Together’s ingrained sense of entitlement and over-confidence is now killing it.

Finally let’s hope that Better Together continue on their obsession with the currency, which drew groans and derisive laughter from the audience. The issue has shifted from being a liability for Yes to being an asset and the more the No campaign focus on it the more they are digging their own grave. As Darling said: “Of course we can use the pound”.

The central myth that will kill the No campaign is the idea repeated often by the commentators and politicians. It goes like this: the Tories are political ebola in Scotland so we need the ‘big guns’ of Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Douglas Alexander to ‘front’ the campaign as they have such respect here. The reality is that that respect has been evaporating since 1997. After the generation of Dewar and Smith passed, after the shambles of Iraq, the scandal of PFI and the failure of the Brown leadership, these people don’t have the influence they think they do. The woman from the audience last night knew this well. She floored Darling who could only plea: “But I’m a Labour politician”. Yes, we know you are.



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  1. If some seldom-accessed part of Alistair Darling’s brain occasionally remembers he is (or once was) a Labour politician, then I can only hope it also questions why he is on a platform defending Conservative policies in Scotland.

  2. macart763 says:

    Waving about the term Labour politician simply doesn’t mean what it used to. For that matter fill in party of choice. People are only too aware of the track record of their representatives. Its kinda why we’re having this debate in the first place Alistair. A judgement on our system of governance and on those who have used and abused that system for generations at our expense. Alistair Darling is himself a prime example and product of this system. A living, breathing reason to bin it and construct our own. I honestly don’t think he understood the reaction to his plea/statement.

    We know exactly who and what Mr Darling is and represents, we simply happen to believe that its nothing to be ‘proud’ of.

  3. Laura Vivanco says:

    I was shocked (though perhaps I shouldn’t have been, given what had gone before) when Alistair Darling’s concluding statement included the words “any country’s starting point is currency, money.” That’s clearly the No campaign’s starting point but I think most of us would argue that it’s the people of a country who’re the starting point, the communities we form and and the environment we live in. Darling was passionate about money: Salmond was passionate about protecting the welfare state, reducing inequality and rejecting weapons of mass destruction.

    1. Aye, I thought that too. Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Sad for one who presumably entered politics with good intentions to fall so far from grace

  4. macnakamura says:

    Darling seemed to be saying that Trident or replacement should remain forever in order to protect jobs.
    He seemed to be saying that we were always going to need WMD for our own security.
    Labour? Not even multi lateral disarmament being promoted now.

    1. Scott Borthwick says:

      Yes, I noticed that Glenn Campbell cut the audience participation very short when a member of the audience suggested that getting rid of Trident might allow exploration for oil and gas off the West Coast, and that might lead to even more investment and jobs for the region.

  5. Clootie says:

    I note Darling claimed “…I am a Labour politician” and not I am a socialist. I find that very telling as most consider their values first. This is one of the key issues emerging from the referendum debate. In working with Greens,SSP,Labour for Independence, RIC etc we have left behind the tribal barriers and celebrate those values we share.

    I hold values important, more important than any party, I select a party that best represents them at elections. I want to be governed by a parliament that works to deliver them.

    I’ll stick with principles and leave Darling to his career politics.
    The sad fact is that Scottish Labour are no longer socialist.

    Follow the money, look at the backers of BT and decide who you align with and forget party politics – that can come later.

    African proverb: “if you think you are too small to make a difference then you have never spent the night with a mosquito”

    Your vote counts now more than ever before.

    1. macart763 says:

      Well said Clootie, couldn’t agree more.

      1. yesguy says:

        Ditto Clootie.

        Labour stand for bullying and abuse of power. They have failed the people they were voted to represent. Labour means austerity, cuts to services, food banks and the failing of generations of Scots whose loyalty was taken for granted. NO MORE.

        Snp have governed this country well considering how little power they really have. They will get my vote in 2016 . They have proven themselves to the people of Scotland. Labour are deader than the tory’s.

  6. Scott Borthwick says:

    Alasdair Darling’s performance overall was woeful, but his comments in summing up were a wonder to behold. I thought he had been an advocate in his former life? Based on this, he must have been extraordinarily bad at it. He read out a statement which had been pre-prepared and did not in any way reflect matters which had come up in the debate. A key skill of advocates in summing up is to be able to think on your feet and weave developments in the argument into your closing statements.
    The ‘Scotland invented the world’ tea towel was a poor start, but he then went on to say that the basic defining component of a country is its currency (‘any county’s starting point is currency’). Really? I thought it was its people, its land, its flora and fauna, its geographic location. But no, not according to oor Ally.
    Finally, the fantastic Freudian slip of almost calling for Scotland to vote Yes: ‘We do need… we do not need to divide these islands into separate states.’
    Oops. I hope he’s having a nice quiet lie down in a darkened room after that.

  7. iki says:

    Darling seemed to be saying that WMD are desirable because they provide jobs.
    He seemed to be saying that national security demands that we have WMD forever.
    Not even a half hearted nod towards multilateralism.

    Yes, he is a Labour politician.

  8. ‘I’m a Labour politician’ (get me out of here!). The Stevie Smith poem ‘Not waving but drowning’, that we used to get at school appropriately sprung to mind.

  9. Scott Borthwick says:

    Very slcightly off-topic, but ha anyone else noticed the online poll on MSN today? It asks Which side has presented the strongest case ahead of the Scottish referendum?
    To date, the results are
    3945 responses

    No, led by Alastair Darling


    Yes, led by Alex Salmond


    It’s a draw


    Interestingly, about an hour ago, the options were Yes, led by Alastair Darling or No, led by Alex Salmond. Are they flustered or did they genuinely not know?

    1. I left a message on MSN pointing out their error – no doubt some others did too –

  10. ‘The central myth that will kill the No campaign is the idea repeated often by the commentators and politicians. It goes like this: the Tories are political ebola in Scotland so we need the ‘big guns’ of Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Douglas Alexander to ‘front’ the campaign as they have such respect here. The reality is that that respect has been evaporating since 1997.’

    Two has-beens and a never-was are all they have to offer. GB appears to have been totally sidelined, I’m sure a deus ex machina from him now would just provoke derision. Flipper has, as you wonderfully describe it, flapped flopped and failed. That leaves wee Dougie, who will probably produce vast streams of incomprehensible verbiage whilst looking very pleased with himself, if past form is any guide. No-one will bother to take the time to work out what his gnostic patter actually means, we’ll just all assume it’s rubbish, and we’ll be correct.

  11. Les Wilson says:

    Ref to Salmond’s question about how many children will be put into poverty?
    Darling had no clue, but, Salmond already gave him that number earlier in the session. Yet it did not even register with Darling, he could not have been listening after all it is what all of BT do, SLAB being the worst.

    The wee woman who stunned him was just great. Straight to the point, Darling looked way out of his depth and could give no serious reply, just a mumble. Noticed that our women are taking an ever greater part on behalf of YES, and that is to be applauded.

    1. macart763 says:

      If memory serves so had Nicola in her mauling of Carmichael. Its not as if they didn’t have a heads up on child poverty and the effects of Westminster welfare as hot topics with the SG in a debating arena. They were simply ill prepared and over confident. Darling expected to keep on the currency bone and when the FM tackled the issue head on early doors Darling was left with no other card to play.

      At the end you were looking at a tired man.

      1. Hi Macart763, I don’t agree with your last sentence. He wasn’t tired. He was beaten and he knew it! Otherwise you’re spot on.

    2. macart763 says:


      Oh hell yes he was beaten and deflated. The weary face betrayed all of the above. When you’re confident, winning, then you’re full of life and literally buzzing. I specifically chose the description tired as the catch all for someone who’d just seen his world implode on live telly. Probably shell shocked would have been even more accurate. Hell if he hadn’t been holding on to that lectern I reckon he’d have keeled over.

  12. Has anybody seen a Lib Dem doing anything to help to No cause? I’m guessing that they are just seen as a total embarrassment.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      The Lib Dems are a complete embarrassment here in England, so why should it be any different in Scotland?

    2. dirth says:

      They started a poll yesterday to encourage the saving the union…
      .As can be seen by that reply I paid not a lot of attention to that kind of dribble, You’d need to google it if at all interested ,
      But I wouldn’t encourage them

  13. Derek Coghill says:

    I have; went to a couple of things set up by Mike Crockart, one with Ming Campbell and one with Willie Rennie. The Ming one in particular was interesting; he spoke well about his preferred federalism, and was then very politely dismantled by questioning. Over half of the audience were either voting yes or veering towards it. I was surprised and quite heartened by this.

    1. Ming is my MP. We all voted for him for decades to keep the Tories out. Boy, are we embarrassed now.

  14. Bryan Weir says:

    Let me start by confirming that I will be voting YES but we need to be straight about the Trident thing. It is true that only 520 jobs depend on Trident but many more depend on the rest of the submarine fleet and the other services based at Faslane. These currently belong to the UK. It would be wrong to suggest that there would be no impact on the other jobs after a vote for independence.

    I am happy to accept that any job losses would ultimately be covered through the development of the Scottish forces to be based there but it is misleading to imply that only 520 jobs would be affected.

    1. Sarissa says:

      The indy white paper proposes that a Scottish navy of 2 frigates, 4 mine countermeasures ships, 2 offshore protection vessels and 1 command and control ship, plus many other smaller patrol boats and the like would be headquartered there – plus their central land-based command. That should easily support the same number or more of civilian jobs.

      1. Sarissa says:

        For comparison, the Royal Navy website for Faslane (HMS Clyde) lists two Astute class subs, the 7 minecountermeasures vessels and two patrol boats and a diving group in addition to the 3 trident subs (one is on extended patrol at an undisclosed location). On balance that looks like a larger fleet based there after independence.

    2. Clootie says:

      How many is it then?
      What figure are you suggesting.

      1. yesguy says:

        So jobs be fore getting rid of Nukes.

        That’s morally wrong. Scotland is changing and a wee bit of Helensburgh can change too. The WMD ‘s are going , make no mistake, keeping them just to keep a few in jobs is a disgraceful reason.

        I come from a mining village and we had to change when the pits closed. Thousands of folk re-trained or took up other jobs. We are going to change the whole country , not just a wee corner of Faslane.

        Helensburgh like Scotland will change and the fact that a Scottish Defence Force will HQ at faslane means Scots living and working in the area , rather than the now where almost all the workers go back south each weekend.

        We’ve got food banks and welfare to sort out. Jobs for our young , training for the changes about to come. pensioners helped to keep warm and the disabled protected. That’s just the tip of the iceberg and we can and will do much more.

        Sorry for the rant. i know jobs are scarce in the Falsane area, but it’s hardly a bed of roses everywhere else.

        At least by the 19th we can make a start. A no vote means no change, more cuts , more austerity regardless of who is in power at WM

        YES . We can build a new country.

        Bloody exciting eh.

      2. Gordon says:

        Isn’t it the case that most of the jobs at Faslane and Coulport are taken up by incomers who go home to their addresses outwith Scotland on Thursdays and return on Mondays? If Trident is removed, there will be jobs for them in its removal and then again at its future destination.

      3. Bryan Weir says:

        I am not suggesting any figure. All I am doing is stating the facts.

  15. The fate of the Labour Party in Scotland is, I believe, a typical example of rags to rags in three (or maybe four) generations.

    In 1955 the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party had the majority share of both the popular vote and the number of Scottish seats at Westminster. Then there arose the first generation of Scottish Labour politicians such as Willie Ross.

    This generation was succeeded by the likes of John Smith and Donald Dewar, guys who gave Scotland real political clout. They in turn were succeeded by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, not forgetting the Scots-born and educated Tony Blair.

    They managed to bugger things up big style for Labour, while, back here in Holyrood, in a rare display of pygmyisation, Dewar begat, McLeish, who begat McConnell, who begat Gray, who begat Lamont; whilst, at Westminster, Brown and Darling begat Douglas Alexander and Murphy.

    If Scottish Labour doesn’t have a clean-out at the top, I can see the independent Holyrood parliament post the 2021 election, being a slug-out between the SNP and whatever a resurgent Scottish Conservative party calls itself post-independence, with Scottish Labour as a side-show.

    But, first things first – we have to win the vote on 18 September. Let’s get that out of the way before we turn to longer-term issues. This is no time to take our eyes off the ball, and that ball is marked Independence.

    1. Lawrence Anderson Burley says:

      Good comment but I suggest the Greens are an up and rising force. Post independence slug-outs will result in surprising strength for the Greens, imo.

    2. Illy says:

      Agreed on getting the result on the 18th before we start worrying about the larger issues.

      I’m thinking that the political makup of Scotlands first election will be SNP in the middle-right, whatever the rich-man’s club ends up being called on the far-right, and the Greens and SSP on the left. New Labour hopefully won’t even get a look-in.

      Assuming that the SSP can stop giving the impression of being a monty python sketch, of course. Which I’m hoping that they will.

  16. Dan Huil says:

    “I’m a Labour politician!” “Where’s the nearest Subway?!”

  17. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Heard from an impecable source that we will have to use India’s Rupee as our currency and Henry McLeish is joining the Conservative party.

    1. I suspect Henry will come out in favour for Scottish independence on Monday 22nd September 2014. Along with a cohort of a certain political party that will suddenly be claiming that they are the people to unite an independent Scotland and deliver a fairer society.

      1. dirth says:

        About a year too late and lacks any creditability……… IMHO

  18. Clootie says:

    McLeish just cannot accept that his party has lost it’s way. He will stay a public NO supporter due to misplaced loyalty. However I think he will vote YES in the booth. Sad that he cannot bring himself to say in public that which he is convinced of in private.

  19. dmw42 says:

    “I’m a Labour politician”. Yes Alistair, but you’re here as chairman of BT/UKOK/NT.

  20. Salmond definitely appeared more in charge this time round, even slipping from behind his podium on a few occasions to appear less-lecturing; a trick which Darling then couldn’t do for fear of being seen to copy the FM. But seriously, both men’s refusal to answer the questions they knew might be turned against them was infuriating. Still, I feel that about most politicians.

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      I think poor chairing in both debates is getting off Scot free here and elsewhere. In the first debate Darling was given far too much latitude to interrupt and generally engage in ad hominem attacks. In the second debate he started to do this again at the beginning; again with no intervention from the chair. So Salmond took things into his own hands, and I think he was justified given how atrocious Darling’s behaviour had been in the first debate and was shaping up to be in the second. Walking in front of the lectern also stopped Darling from trying to sabotage him through interruption, which he had started to do at the beginning. If anything, I think it was these counter-measures against what the no camp had planned as his strategy which unnerved Darling. I think his inability to answer questions during the cross examination was what led to the worst shouting as instead he resorted to bluster which then brought a predicable reaction from Salmond. His inability to answer looked more due to anxiety to me rather than anything else; Darling really did look like he had stopped being able to think straight. I suspect it was because he had gone on the program with certain tactics which Salmond pre-empted. In the end Darling was off script that he lost his nerve and Glen Campbell wasn’t willing or able to come to his rescue.

    2. rabthecab says:


      Salmond did the exact same thing in the first debate; it shows that you are not only listening to your audience, but replying to them directly. The nice flourish last night was addressing the questioners by name.

  21. barakabe says:

    The Unionists have laid out a massive set of traps for themselves by being so complacent: the media never rigorously question the rants, bigoted assertions & plain lies of their guys like Darling- this has led to Darling himself becoming increasingly subjective ( to the point of telling unsubstantiated porkies); Darling also shows a total contempt of the Scottish electorate by so ill-prepared & spoonfeeding us hollow platitudes & meaningless soundbites like “pooling & sharing” or “better together”, “bigger is better” or whatever the slogan is he whips to an inch of its life. Last night Darling had become a personification of the Union, an embodiment of its negative ideology of existential contraction, its ‘can’t do’ attitude made body- & then we finally witnessed him slam dunked by the man in the audience who said “if we’re better together then why aren’t we better together already?” Salmond was on song last night but we shouldn’t underestimate the equalizing factor of the BBC’s audience ( in stark contrast to the STV’s cherry picked audience a fortnight ago).

  22. bringiton says:

    The man who thought that currency union would kill independence stone dead.
    Now,where have we heard something very similar before?
    Labour have only ever offered token devolution when faced with the threat to their careers and financial interests.
    I think we should start our new country by making it illegal for our representatives to have connections to lobbying interests and should pay them a wage comparable to other senior public servants.
    Also,as happens in most private companies, no flipping houses but verifiable hotel expenses during the time spent away from home.
    Scotland (apart from the remoter island communities) allows for Scottish representatives to go home at the weekend so no need for permament accommodation in the capital.
    We must have a more transparent system of government where our representatives are there to serve our interests and not theirs.
    Darling epitomises much that is wrong with our system of governance and he is not alone or the worst offender.
    Smugness,arrogance and a complete disregard for working people’s interests is not going to work for him in Scotland should he wish to continue a political career north of London.
    However,now being a global figure like Broon,(The UK banking crash,my part in it’s downfall) he has no further interest in a country which is too wee,too poor and most mportantly,too stupid.
    Arrogance will stop the UK union stone dead…I hope.

  23. Alex Buchan says:

    “Better Together’s ingrained sense of entitlement and over-confidence is now killing it.”

    I don’t think we should underestimate this sense of entitlement. I’ve no way of knowing what the result on Sept 18th will be, but I’m now convinced that the unionist side will not accept a yes vote. I expect lots of wrecking tactics, not so much from London as from Scottish unionists, which London will be happy to exploit. There is so much visceral hatred of the SNP and of all those who support independence, and they are so convinced that they are going to win, that the idea that they will just say fair enough you’ve won just doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny.

    This is what was so glaringly on display last night from Darling. If anyone from the unionist camp comes out after the vote and publically says that they accept the result and will work to make a success of an independent Scotland then I think they should be considered for inclusion in any negotiating team. Darling will never do that and therefore he will therefore rule himself out, as will most labour politicians. As I say they will take a wrecking stance, at least initially, and we may see a very rapid breaking up of the Labour Party in Scotland as a result.

    I think Alex Salmond was absolutely right to offer Darling a place on any negotiation team, not because I particularly want Darling, but because how Alex Salmond positions himself now will be crucial for the post result situation, whichever way it goes. The SNP need to be seen to be blameless for the bitterness which is going to emerge in the inevitable fall out after the vote because the unionists will project their bitterness on to others and claim all sorts of dirty tricks by cybernats.

    If it’s a no vote then there will be a concerted all out assault on Alex Salmond by Scottish and London politicians and by the press. The percentage gap in any no vote will be crucial. On a narrow gap Salmond could arguably withstand any such assault, but if the margin is wider than 10%, then I can’t see Salmond surviving as First Minister.

  24. Paddy S Hogg says:

    Class Mike. Total class piece. By the way, Lord Jack McConnell is a labour politician too………gravy train sell outs every one of them, squirming to keep their waver-thin aura of respect; their bubble of unreality benighted in the their ermined cloaks of self-importance. We saw through these charlatans lang syne!

  25. Adam Neilson says:

    8,000 jobs at Faslane/Coulport ?
    Yes – but 7,000 are service personnel, and most don’t ‘live’ in the area.
    Ever since ‘ordinary ranks’ were given the right to buy a house, more and more have done so. They now live on the Base (free of charge) when they’re at work, and return to their actual homes in Portsmouth, Plymouth – or anywhere else they intend to move to when they leave the armed forces when they’re not working.
    Ask the locals – every Friday afternoon there’s a mass exodus from Faslane as thousands head south to their homes.
    They provide little or nothing to the local economy or community.
    In my time at Faslane (late 70’s), there were three large MoD housing estates (only commissioned officers could buy a house, remember ?).
    Now most of those houses have been handed back to the local authority or even demolished

    Remember too that each boomer has two crews, and you will find very few of the off duty crew anywhere near Helensburgh when they’re not on duty or at sea !

    With the proposed SDF HQ and possibly the Training Wing, along with the SDF Naval (and Marine ?) component based at Faslane, we’ll have 4 – 5,000 SDF personnel living in the Helensburgh area. These men and women AND their families will become a part of the community.
    There will be home-based engineers and technicians, support staff, cleaners, manual workers, and other trades and occupations – again all living in the area – contributing to the local economy.

    Perhaps the number-crunchers should do some quick calculations and end the Baillie-bluff once and for all.

  26. Gordon says:

    I hate the persistent assertion that Alec Salmond was not answering the question. I presume the unanswered question was ‘What currency will an independent Scotland use?’ He answered it clearly in my eyes – the pound sterling. No one can stop Scotland from using this currency, since it is a tradable currency on the world markets. He more or less indicated with or without BoE as lender of last resort Darling failed to answer several questions..

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