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Is Cameron Alex Salmond’s Trojan Horse?

Posted on 15 September 2009 | 10:09am

Before I get onto politics, well done to Eddie Izzard as he finishes his incredible run around the UK. For most runners, one marathon is a big enough challenge. By the end of today, Eddie will have done 43 in 52 days, all the way raising money for Sport Relief.

I first heard of his plan when he and I appeared at a Euro elections rally for students in the Midlands. I honestly thought it was a gag, and he was going to make ultramarathon runners a new seam for material. Over dinner afterwards, I realised he was serious. Even then, the scale of the challenge he had set himself seemed so vast, it was hard to imagine that he would complete the course.

Well, barring a last day disaster, he has, for which he deserves enormous respect.

If I was in London, I would head down to Trafalgar Square to cheer him in – he reckons he will get there about half past four – but I am up in Scotland.

I did a Labour Party fundraiser for Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy last night, who is defending a 6000 majority in East Renfrewshire. Back in the days when I was a political journalist, the seat was called Eastwood, and it was one of the safest Tory seats in the country.

On election night 1997, as I record in my diaries, the moment we realised we were on course for a landslide was at TB’s count in Sedgefield, when we watched the results programme on TV, and seats were falling that we had never expected to win. This was one of them. As Jim recalled last night, he had started the campaign thinking it would get him good experience, but without leading to a radical change of lifestyle. ‘I thought you said you had no chance of winning?’ his wife said to him on election night.

Twelve years on, he is still MP, and in the Cabinet. But both of us hammered home the message that this election will be tougher than the previous three. That much is obvious from the polls.

Yet if David Cameron has not sealed the deal with the electorate in England, he is even further away from doing so in Scotland. But of course the political scene is much more complicated up here, with the SNP in power at the Scottish Parliament, and still pursuing its independence agenda.

Jim made the point that there are two ways of getting a Cameron government in Scotland – voting Tory, or voting SNP. The independence fight also becomes easier for Salmond up against a Tory government than a Labour government.

One year on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the global financial crisis it provoked, it is worth remembering just how badly Scotland’s banks came out of what followed, and just how much they relied on GB’s leadership, and the UK government’s support, to ensure the relative stability that has followed. At a time when people seem so loathe to give Gordon credit for anything, his actions this time last year should not be overlooked. And nor should Salmond’s prior claims that Scotland would have been stronger had it been more like Iceland.

The signs are that he is trimming a little on what independence actually means, and what form it might take. But it remains the driving purpose of his party, and he knows a Tory government in Westminster is a step in the right direction for him. Another good reason to try to stop it from happening.

  • @jlocke13

    One has to admire the unbridled optimism of the socialists..Do they really think they have any chance of winning the next election? Even a bloodless coup to rid themselves of the hapless Gordon Brown and install Mandelson as leader will not save this disreputable government. As it is I think Jim Murphy is probably one of the few assets the labour party has left, but a

  • olli issakainen

    Thatcher years showed that Tories are out of touch with Scotland. A Tory government next summer would certainly increase the support for SNP and make Scottish indepedence a real possibility.

  • James

    The global financial crisis was caused by a debt-fuelled boom. Lehman’s Brothers collapse was a symptom of the crisis not the cause of it.

    Poor regulation of the financial services and an interest policy that was set too narrowly (eg only targeting inflation) were the true culprits. Northern Rock collapsed before Lehman Brothers – this was a crisis that had it’s roots as much in the UK as it did in the US.

    Gordon dithered over Northern Rock, but was certainly more decisive as more banks collapsed. Any credit he wishes to take must be set against his role in the debt-fuelled boom that preceded the crisis. His policies since those eventful days appear to serve his leadership and his party before the General Public – for this I doubt he will be forgiven.

  • Salmondnet

    The fact that a Tory government might help Salmond’s push for independence is hardly a reason for not voting Conservative. Scotland is already semi-detached and that is a situation that England is better of without. Let the Scots have their referendum with two options: independence, or a return to one UK parliament. Any other arrangements against the interests the 85% of UK citizens who live in England

  • Brian Hughes

    Irony is one of life’s many joys. It would indeed be mildly peculiar if the start of the break up of the UK were to occur by Scotland being ejected (or, depending on one’s view, breaking free of the yoke) whilst the mob formerly known as the Conservative and Unionist Party were running Westminster.

    But perhaps no more curious than them taking us into Europe which has, arguably, helped the UK to adopt more socially progressive policies than it might otherwise have done.

    I think I might try a little flutter on the Tories one day taking us into the Euro…

    PS those who blame our GB (either the bloke or the country) for the lack of proper bank regulation have failed to learn the lessons of Suez. It is the country formally run by another GB that determines such matters these days…

  • Alex

    Brian Hughes – not sure the Governor of the Bank of England, those that work inside the Treasury, the German Finance Minister, the IMF, and indeed our friends in the states would share your view with regard to GB and the financial mess we are in. Teflon Brown (or Macavity as he is known at the Treasury) and Balls’s (and by default, Blair’s) profligacy and hubris during the boom years played a significant part in contributing to the financial mess we are now in. The light touch regime, the creation of that paper tiger, the FSA, have their fingerprints all over them. The facts speak for themselves, despite the spin, diktats and denials coming from the Prime Mentalist’s bunker.

    I am not sure what planet you’re on but it cartainly ain’t earth.

    ps – if Brown was such a financial whizz in the late nineties why did he sell off a substantial portion of our gold reserves when advised not too? Oh thats right, because he doesn’t listen to anyone else as he thinks (as he has always done, despite never having had a proper job outside of political game playing) that he knows best.

  • Brian Hughes

    Alex, pretty well every influential politician on the planet, and even the sainted Vincent Cable (see this week’s New Statesman), was in favour of “light touch” bank regulation until a year or so ago. The Tories were always on at Labour to lighten the touch still further.

    I expect Gordon Brown sold gold for reasons similar to the sainted Margaret Thatcher’s when she let our oil be extracted at full pelt even though the price was at an historical low and against the advice of many in the oil industry. Both of them probably thought they could use the cash better than by leaving it as reserves lying under the ground…

  • Colin

    As much as i don’t agree with your politics, i enjoy your blog and really admire the achievements over the last decade.

    Im disappointed. The same lazy unionist points being trotted out.

    The fact remains that if the people of Scotland choose independence then they will get it. That choice should be respected. Not turned into a pathetic excuse not to vote Tory.Lex Salmond has used Iceland in his discussions. He is also keen on talking about Norway. No one in the Unionist ranks seems keen on talking about Norway and what has been achieved there with similar resources and population. I wonder why?

    You missed trick. All that was missing from your blog post was reference to Passport Control at Gretna Green.

    People in Scotland are tired of the same old rhetoric.

    As for Jim Murphy. A young Brian Wilson. The same dated arguments.

  • Colin

    i forgot to add on the dated argument side.Can we have our oil back? It’s in Scottish International waters.Then again thats another argument unionists don’t want to have. As has been proven by the release of government papers over the last few years.

  • Jim Green

    I was at the Eastwood fundraiser on monday night and it was a great night and well attended however I think the elephant in the room was the fact that the levels of attrition within the party have left us a bit thin on the ground with troops to fight the campaign.

    We will give the Tories and the SNP another thrashing in Eastwood as the constituents know that Jim Murphy is an outstanding MP. With more troops on the ground we can still improve our margin.

    I would be interested if there was any well proven way you can advise on raising an Army for election battle against the colourful background we have at present.

  • Patricia Hess

    I was at the conference in Edinburgh today where Alastair was the keynote speaker – and we could have listened to him for a lot longer than his allotted time.

    He came across as a really nice guy – as long as you share his politics. I can see how he would annoy the hell out of the other side.

    Then I get back to the office to find out that one of the supporters of the new pyjamas campaign, for which I work, had managed to persuade Alastair to do a podcast about new media.

    The new pyjamas campaign is raising £15million for Scotland’s new Sick Kids hospital to be built in Edinburgh. We are the only charity to have our own social networking site – – to get the message across to new audiences.