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Here goes with the smoked Salmond

Posted on 20 September 2009 | 10:09am

The editor of the Sunday Mail (no, not the Mail on Scumday, for which I would never write, but the Glasgow-based paper) was taken by my blog the other day suggesting David Cameron was Alex Salmond’s Trojan Horse in his drive for independence. He asked me to elaborate for today’s paper. Here’s what I said. And if you think this is just a way of avoiding doing a blog on the morning of the Great North Run, you could have a point. Feel free to sponsor me by the way at www.justgiving.com/alastaircampbell

Here goes with the smoked Salmond

There are two party leaders hoping David Cameron becomes Prime Minister at the next general election. One is David Cameron. The other is Alex Salmond. 

And for Scots, there are at least two ways of helping bring it about, and deliver as leader of the UK the most untried, untested, under-scrutinised Prime Minister in history. The most obvious is by voting Tory. Another is by voting SNP. 

Because for all that devolution may have made politics more complex, in the choice of Prime Minister there are only two possibilities – Gordon Brown or David Cameron. 

So why would Salmond prefer Cameron? Because when it comes to the argument for independence, it will be easier made against a very English, very right-wing, very elitist leader of a very English, very right-wing, very elitist government which has shown precious little interest in Scotland. Indeed, so far as Scotland’s relations with the Tories are concerned they are still defined as much by Thatcher as by Cameron. 

It should not be forgotten that Cameron is leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Yet he fails to make the strategic case for the Union. He prefers to make short-term tactical points about Gordon Brown being a Scottish Prime Minister who along with fellow Scottish MPs at Westminster should not have a say in issues which only affect England. It is an anti-Union point which plays into Salmond’s hands. It helps explains why the SNP refuse to say whether they want a Labour or Tory government. The truth – a Tory one – does not sit well with much else they say and do. 

Former Cabiner minister Michael Portillo, these days more pundit than politician, said a while back that for Tories the Union was no longer ‘sacrosanct’. Quite a statement. He explained: ‘The Convervatives have a better chance of being in government if Scotland is no longer part of the affair.’

If your leadership has been defined by little more than a desire to get back into power, why would anyone think Cameron might not be tempted to follow the logic of what Portillo is saying?

As for Salmond, Labour already knows not to underestimate him as a campaigner. He is a good communicator, and he likes a good fight. He clearly loves the job, and the status and attention it brings. But one year on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the global economic crisis it provoked, as recovery begins you would have to say it had more to do with Brown’s leadership and understanding of the issues than Salmond’s. As with Cameron, Salmond does the style stuff better than the substance stuff. 

On substance, Scotland cannot easily walk away from the fact that two of the five banks most affected last year had the country’s name in their titles. Salmond’s pre-crisis vision of Scotland as an Ireland or an Iceland looks pretty lame now. The SNP record on economic assistance for Scots is not as good as Labour’s for the UK. Could that be because his efforts are more focussed on the politics of separation than the economic fallout of a global disaster?

Independence remains the SNP’s USP. The signs are that Salmond is trimming a little on what independence means, and what form it might take. But it remains the driving purpose of his party. And he knows a Tory government in Westminster will provide an easier target for his style of campaigning. He knows too that the games Cameron plays today can help the SNP tomorrow.

  • Charlie

    @AC: “If your leadership has been defined by little more than a desire to get back into power,…….”

    TBs Leadership seemed mostly to involve the hijacking of the moribund old Labour beast by you and the “New” gang.

    Yes there were one or two good points, but none of us had any idea that it would all end in this complete catastrophe.

  • Tom Robinson

    I note that you cunningly omit the country that most resembles Scotland because of oil-namely Norway. That country is surviving the recession much better than any other simply because it did not allow another country to waste its resources on pretending to be a major military power and other post-imperial delusions.

    I also note that you cunningly say “two of the five banks most affected last year had the country’s name in their titles”. You fail to point out that one of them, HBOS
    (the H stands for Halifax) was run by English management
    who turned Bank of Scotland from a conservative bank into an irrational risk taking bunch of lunatics.

    You also deliberately fail to point out that the operations of both banks were greater in England that in Scotland so that even if Scotland had been independent England would have had to help out in its own interest as has happened elsewhere in Europe.

  • Wyrdtimes

    I’m not sure I should bother seeing as you thought policed my last message. Is this the only media you can manipulate these days? I hope so.

    Two choices for PM then an untried, untested, under-scrutinised David Cameron or a tried, tested, scrutinised incapable, incompetent and left wanting in every department; Gordon Brown – responsible for leading us into this recession by believing his own BS that he’d “abolished boom and bust.”

    I can’t stand the Tories but you could pick virtually anyone off any street and they would make a better PM than Gordon Brown.

    As for Cameron being very English that’s rot – he’s on record as being proud of his Scottish roots (sound familiar?), he’s on record calling those in England who want the Barnett Formula scrapped “sour little Englanders”, he’s on record saying “better an imperfect Union than a broken Union” and that he wants to be “PM of the UK and not just England”.

    He’s not committed to English votes on English matters. He is against representation and recognition of the English people via an English Parliament. He’s said something about cutting the number of MPs but not Scottish MPs despite the fact they have nothing to do but vote on English issues. He’s not committed to sorting out the massive differences in constituency sizes Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Scotland) 22,200 voters, The Isle of Wight (England) 110,000 voters.

    He looks set to do absolutely nothing to address the massive funding discrepancy that is the Barnett Formula which values a Scottish life at >£1500 more per person per year than an English life. And its consequences: Scots getting better access to life saving drugs, cheaper prescriptions, better care for the elderly, free hospital parking, higher education without course fees etc etc etc.

    The idea that a Cameron led government is going to be very English is just a bare faced lie. It may be voted in by mainly English voters but it will not say the E word any more than Brown’s Labour government does. Cameron will be a big Britisher PM continuing to put England last.

    You say he fails to make “the strategic case for the Union” maybe that’s because there is no longer is a strategic case for the Union. The Union was formed in an age of empires – despite the EU that age is gone. From England’s perspective – just what is the case for the Union? I sure as hell can’t see one.

    Plus you can’t talk about the Union without talking about England and it seems that apart from Frank Field and a couple of others no-one in parliament wants to mention England – least of all the man currently in charge – who spends 90% of his time making England only law.

    As I said in my previous unpublished comment it should be the people of England clamouring for independence. If the British government doesn’t start treating the English people fairly that day will come. And soon.

  • Ross

    AC

    why do you try to mislead people?

    “It helps explains why the SNP refuse to say whether they want a Labour or Tory government”

    The SNP have consistently said that they want a hung parliament where a decent-sized block of SNP MP’s can try to extract concessions for Scotland.

    Again why do you deliberately try to mislead your readers?

  • gary Enefer

    Dear Alastair

    So many people , including me yesterday , having a go at you! I feel this shows that really we are disappointed with the choices on offer with the next election.

    It is going to be an interesting few months but can your ‘ readers’ please leave you alone to get on with your excellent blogs?Unless of course you want help no 10.

    How can someone say you were ‘cunning’ leaving Norway out – how cunning can you get!!!!????

    best wishes
    gary

  • Mark H

    Alistair,

    As a local councillor working in a local authority run by the SNP. Can I say the SNP are tories. They are cutting homecare for the elderly while at the same time increasing the charges by around 300%. We now have waitting lists for disabled people who need support. While at the same time they have cut the council tax by freezing it.

    The SNP are building up alot of ill will. I predict thay will have get a slap in the face next year.

    The SNP are quickley

  • Alan Quinn

    I cannot understand why Labour dosen’t call for a referendum. Get it out of the way once and for all, if the Scots want to stay within the UK then there is no reason for the SNP to exist. If the Scots want to go alone then so be it.
    For me an interesting point would be this. Salmond’s bunch are anti war, they see the Scottish navy as a few converted trawlers protecting the fishing grounds. Therefore there would be no complaints if a British government ordered the rest of the Type 45 destroyers and the two new carriers to be manufactured in yards other than in Scotland.
    The RAF would relocate from Kinloss, Leuchers etc and the nuclear fleet to Devonport. There would ne no problems financially as the “arc of prosperity” would compensate for any loss.

  • Iain Cathro

    Well who was it that let the genie out of the bottle in the first place, and now us Scots are stuck with this lunatic administration that calls itself a government.