Sending the least popular Englishmen to plead with the Scots: that was a good move

Begging and threatening is no way for the Better Together campaign to succeed

Mark Steel
Thursday 11 September 2014 22:43 BST
British Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he speaks during a visit to Scottish Widows offices in Edinburgh
British Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he speaks during a visit to Scottish Widows offices in Edinburgh

That was a strange tactic of the English party leaders, to try and convince Scotland not to vote for independence from England, by sending up all the English people they dislike the most, who have made them consider independence in the first place. If that doesn’t work maybe Cameron will dig up Thatcher and send her to the middle of Glasgow as well.

Then they all made speeches along the lines of, “I appreciate you think English politicians patronise you, which is why we’ve come to tell you to think about this tricky matter properly because it’s more complicated than you hunky but dim Scots are used to.”

David Cameron went further, adding “Come along Scotland, if you vote for independence I’ll get upset, and you working-class Glaswegians wouldn’t want to make an Etonian Conservative Prime Minister cry, would you?”

With such an understanding, his next move will be to tour the country dressed as Edward II, and unveil billboards that say, “Tearing Britain in half, All of a sudden, Is less of a laugh, Than we had at Culloden.” He does at least have experience of Scotland, as his mother-in-law owns 19,000 acres of land on the Isle of Jura on which he visits to stalk deer. So there’s plenty of common experiences for him to chat about with the unemployed of Motherwell.

Then John Major went on the radio to warn about the perils of independence. At this point you had to suspect the Yes campaign must have influence in the BBC. Because getting Major, who lost every single seat when he last campaigned in Scotland, to order Scotland to vote NO is genius.

At one point he said of the Yes campaign’s attitude to the currency issue, “I have never known such incompetence.” And that’s a fair point, because when John Major was in charge of currency, it collapsed so much he put up interest rates to 5,000 per cent while spending all day on the television making statements such as, “I don’t know what to do” while clutching a blanket and wetting himself before being kicked out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and you can’t BUY that level of competence.

There does however seem to be a darker side to the sudden intense efforts to persuade Scotland to vote No. Because along with the begging come the threats. Every day the party leaders inform us about businesses that will move to England, that RBS and most of the economy will leave, and BP will suck their oilfields to Norwich, and Edinburgh will move to Berkshire, and Dundee will be towed to a swamp in Kent that’s overrun with crocodiles and Ben Nevis will be taken over by North Korea and there’ll be nothing anyone can do because Scotland won’t be allowed in Nato, and in fact won’t even be covered by International Regulations on Cheetahs so they’ll sprint across Cumbernauld eating the lot of you and see if WE care.

It turned out that even the threat from the Royal Bank Scotland was that they’d move their official address to England, with no one losing their job. So the argument of the No campaign is, “You know that bank that led the world in buying useless debts across America, playing a major part in destroying the global economy and awardeding its executives with millions of pounds each as a prize? Well if you vote for independence they might change their PO Box address. THEN let’s see how you cope”.

Tomorrow they’ll announce, “Now we’ve heard that Crazy wee Jimmy, the Butter Knife from Fife, who threatens to take out your internal organs with a butter knife unless you give him a fiver, has said if there’s a Yes vote he’s relocating to Cambridge, causing even more economic chaos for an independent Scotland.”

Maybe Alex Salmond’s best response, next time it’s claimed RBS are threatening to leave, would be to say they’re not going to be allowed to stay even if they want to, as they’re nothing but a bloody nuisance and from now on Scotland’s money will be looked after by a couple of retired ladies who run a charity shop in Morningside who have no desire to bundle up any debt packages of sub-prime mortgages at all.

The No campaign is also quoting executives of John Lewis, who say they’ll put up prices if there’s a Yes vote. But these aren’t arguments, they’re threats. They might as well say “And the CEO of Walkers Crisps has said that if Scotland goes independent he’ll kick everyone right up the crutch”.

The biggest threat is over the currency. The Government says it won’t let Scotland use the pound, then spends all day asking, “What you going to do without a pound?” And this is where the Yes campaign could be much more forceful. Instead of talking about currency unions it should say if it isn’t allowed to use the pound, everything it buys from England it will pay for with pennies. So if Scotland buys a fleet of aeroplanes from British Aerospace, they’ll go to the office with a jar the size of a skip and tip 50 million quid in pennies over the floor, saying, “We’re not allowed a pound, pal, so ye’ll have to pick them up yeself big man”.

Because what we’ve learned from this referendum, is it’s fun to watch the establishment when they panic.

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