Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Mum’s the word as leaders duck webchat questions in final debate

No campaigners will hope that “TeaLady17” is part of a trend

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Indy Politics

“WildThong” (where do Mumsnet members dream up their chat handles?) was one of the lucky ones. At least she got a response from Alex Salmond, having asked for the SNP’s position on the Royal Family “after the current Queen”. The First Minister dwelt on the monarch’s neutrality and the “resounding majority” backing her as “Queen of the Scots”.

Which, as “WildThong” was quick to spot, was not actually an answer. “Thank-you,” she posted politely. “But... I did want to know specifically if there was any plan to ‘do away’ with having a Royal Family in the future.” Salmond did not reply again.

Watching someone else’s cyber-dialogue in real time needn’t be tedious. Take the pivotal sex chatroom scene in Patrick Marber’s play Closer in which the audience is riveted by the steamy, quick-fire exchanges projected onto a cyclorama at the back of the stage. The final Scottish referendum “debate” between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, staged as a webchat by Mumsnet yesterday, was not quite in the same league. On the excitement spectrum it was probably closer to watching paint dry.

Or rather the answers were, not least because they inevitably emerged more slowly than the forest of pointed questions – and comments – posted by Mumsnet members, doing full justice to the political ferment gripping Scotland and increasingly the rest of what we may no longer be calling Britain after next week.


Still, Darling had two advantages compared with the previous debate. One, as he lost little time in pointing out, was that Standard Life said yesterday it was planning companies in England to which it could transfer business after independence. The other was that the chat format ensured that Salmond could not talk over him as he did in the second TV debate.

Darling didn’t respond to a complaint about the “patronising” No advertisement featuring, as “Gussiegrips” put it, “the tea-drinking woman who thought she’d better just vote the way her cereal-munching husband... thought was best”. Accused of “scaremongering”, Darling crisply replied: “If I saw you step out in front of a bus and I shouted a warning, would that be scaremongering?”

“Daisyfraser” accused Yes campaigners of “patrolling the streets of Scotland bullying and intimidating No campaigners… [and] frightening people into voting Yes.” While deploring “bad behaviour”, Salmond rejected claims that this was “typical” of an “enlightening and joyous political campaign”.

“TeaLady 17” posted that though “sometimes” disappointed with the No campaign, she would definitely vote No and was “disgusted” by Salmond’s “insinuation” that No voters were “less Scottish” but “fearful of outwardly showing my No status in public”. Faced with the narrowed polls, No campaigners will be fervently hoping that “TeaLady17” is part of a trend.