Andy McSmith: Reid was so conservative he made Cameron look like Robespierre

Sketch: Lord Reid's new best friend heard all of this with a frown of polite attention

Related Topics

"This time he's bringing his Dad" was the tagline for one of those Indiana Jones movies in which Dad was a grumpy old Scot played by Sean Connery. When David Cameron presented the case against reforming the voting system, he brought along a curmudgeonly Scot old enough to be his father. It was the former Labour home secretary, John Reid.

The Prime Minister read his speech briskly, like a man who needed to be somewhere else urgently. Lord Reid of Cardowan took a perambulating stroll in and around his text, savouring the pleasure of appearing alongside a Prime Minister for the first time in four years.

And how the audience loved him. Appreciative laughter and applause followed him through a discourse on constitutional reform that was so conservative that it made Cameron sound like Robespierre.

To change the electoral system to suit the Liberal Democrats would be "an outrage", Lord Reid declared. AV is "not fair, it's not equal, and it's not British!"

Lord Reid's new best friend heard all this with a fixed frown of polite attention. Mr Cameron was not making patriotic noises. He preferred a reasoned warning of the evils, as he saw them, of hung parliaments and coalitions that will become more likely under AV.

If politicians knew that a coalition was the likeliest outcome of every election, "they may start to put things in their manifestos that sound good but they can't deliver, because they know in a coalition they will not be made to answer for them," he said. How poor Nick Clegg's ears must have burned.

That name cropped up when a journalist asked Mr Cameron what he thought of the way the No campaign has used the Deputy Prime Minister as their bogey man. "I don't run the No campaign," he replied. "I certainly don't condone any personal attacks on anyone."

At which point Lord Reid raised another laugh by adding: "We're prepared to share platforms. I don't think the Yes campaign are" – which was not precisely a personal attack on Ed Miliband, who won't share a platform with Nick Clegg, but it was a dig.

It is fine to aspire to keep personalities out of a serious campaign, but they are what makes the contest interesting to the great majority who are not constitutional wonks. As David Cameron acknowledged, there are millions out there who are "not engaged" with the argument. Lord Reid added that he is worried about "a derisory turn out" on 5 May.

Meanwhile, the Tory MP Eleanor Laing was saying: "If hardly anybody votes in London and a very large number vote in Scotland and Wales... [the] result will be called into question." Cunning that. Even if the "Yes" campaign wins, some MPs will say that the turn-out was too patchy to make the result valid. It's the kind of escape against the odds that was Indiana Jones's speciality.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas