Sunday, 10 August 2014

Two changes of tactic

It may have passed you by this week but in the aftermath of the debate both sides have changed tactics.

It has been one of the assertions of the Yessers to maintain that a Yes vote is not just (in some cases not even) a vote against the United Kingdom, it is rather a vote against "austerity". Even in his opening remarks on Tuesday, Salmond spoke more about the evils of current government policy than about the case for Independence. Not only did this ignore the fact that his Party had advocated separation just as strongly when Clement Attlee was Prime Minister, when, as I have previously pointed out they objected to the formation of the NHS because they didn't believe in the "N" bit, it also effectively ignored reality.

Almost all independent commentators suggest that the current account position of an Independent Scotland (dictating "affordable" public spending) would be worse than that faced if we continued in the UK. I appreciate however that Eck doesn't normally proceed on the weight of opinion but on the few exceptions who support his side. So I will as well.

The Scottish Government's own hand picked Council of economic advisers admit that an Independent Scotland would face a choice between cuts in public spending and higher taxes. To be honest that is hardly rocket science since it is the choice that faces pretty much every country in the world. But since SNP policy favours lower taxes we know where Salmond stands on that choice.

So even on his own premise the idea that a Yes vote means an end to austerity is a dishonest proposition.

But it is one that to date has gone largely unchallenged by my own Party.

There is a reason for this.

Both campaigns focus group. The objective is not to identify what best fires up the respective faithful but rather to find out what influences the undecided or persuadable.

And here our side found out something really interesting about this group. There is a potential message from Yes that we struggle to counter and it is essentially this.

"Independence might be hard economically, at least initially, but Scotland is a Country and most Countries have their own Government. Nobody is suggesting we would starve, so surely it is worth a bit of hardship for us to be a normal Country? Is it not a bit unpatriotic to think otherwise?"

Except, as we all know, that hasn't been the message.

And the alternative line from the Yessers, the one they have gone with, that  "There is no downside at all" is met from the same key audience with the response it would get if advanced for any other proposition. "If something sounds too good to be true that is probably because it is too good to be true."

From there it is not difficult to lead them to the conclusion that "If they are lying about this, what else are they lying about?"

So, to date, we've largely let this "milk AND honey" stuff go unchallenged for fear that the Nats might change tack. But with five weeks to go it is too late for that now on their part and like Zhukov at Stalingrad we have concluded we can close the trap.

So from Ed on Friday, Douglas Alexander in today's Scotland and Sunday and Johann's speech this afternoon you will have noticed a distinct change of tone. The Nats might be suggesting to those on the bottom rung of society that "those with nothing to lose have nothing to lose from independence".

We however will from now till 18th September be countering that, thanks to the Welfare State built by (British) Labour, very, very few have literally nothing to lose. But if they take the chance on Independence they risk losing even that. For a flag. And you can't eat a flag,

One day, the Nats will wonder how their supply line got so extended and to reflect how, to continue my Stalingrad analogy, the various Trots on their extended flanks suddenly proved as reliable as the Romanians proved to Von Paulus' 6th Army. But that day will be after 18th September.

So that is the first change of tactic. But there has been a change too on the other side. Eck and the disciplined centre around him have been badly wounded by Tuesday's debate and as a result the bonkers brigade never far from Scottish Nationalism have felt free to slip their leash.

This group have discovered that there is apparently a "secret oil field" that would transform the economic prospects of an independent Scotland but which is to be kept a secret until 19th September. Don't take my word for that. ask Newsnet, Jim Sillars or any number of cybernats. They know this because, back in July, David Cameron paid a secret visit to it. It is west of Shetland (or maybe not, I'll come back to that) and it is "the biggest oilfield in the world".

They know that Mr Cameron paid this secret visit since it was discovered by them through....................................................Twitter, where Mr Cameron foolishly revealed to them his secret mission by tweeting a picture of himself alongside a message saying "Here I am in Shetland". And just in case you thought he might be trying to throw them off the scent and was actually somewhere else (like Ayrshire, I'll come back to that) he followed this up by another tweet saying "Here is a picture of me with a Shetland Pony on Shetland."

Now, as you know, any Prime Minister on being told there was a secret oilfield would not just be prepared to take that on trust. He would demand to view it with his own eyes. Just like the discovery of, for example, the biggest sunflower field in the world , he would want to see it himself and observe, "Gosh, that's a lot of sunflowers" So, the cybernats have discovered, Cameron wanted to go to Shetland and look out to sea and go "Gosh, that's a lot of oil." Before of course observing that they had best keep this a secret from the Scottish Nationalists. And then tweeting his whereabouts.

But that is not the only secret oilfield! There is another one! In Ayrshire! Really. Well really according to Jim Sillars. It is in the Firth of Clyde and everybody has known about it for years. Well, Mr Sillars has. Since he's from Ayrshire originally and one can only assume no-one else has been let out since.  But apparently this oilfield has been kept a secret because if you built any rigs to extract the oil it would prevent Trident submarines sailing up and down the Clyde (I'm not making this up).

Now, anybody familiar with the relative size of submarines, oil rigs and the Firth of Clyde might think that peaceful coexistence was possible but apparently not! The submarines might collide with the oil rigs! Whether this is because the Royal Navy is not very good at steering or whether it is because the oil rigs might move about when nobody is looking hasn't yet been fully explained. I have no doubt however that this will be exclusively revealed in Newsnet next week. And then shamefully not reported in the Main Stream Media.

Now, you might say, this is a strange change of tactic by Yes Scotland. It might just lead some people to conclude that a significant element among the nationalists' support is made up of wide eyed conspiracy theorists. It might also lead others to doubt the competence of the SNP Government at Holyrood if, after seven years in power, they haven't noticed any of these secret oilfields apparently dotted about left, right and centre off our coastline.

But no. This is apparently a gamechanger. Even as we speak 20,000 secret oil field leaflets have been produced by Yes and, if twitter is anything to go by, demand will way exceed supply.

And so, I finish with this observation. Eck will debate again with Alistair on 25th August. The last time the killer question was "What currency will we use"? This time I think it might be "Are there any secret oil fields"? Difficult choice for him between "No" (i.e. "many of my supporters are lunatics") and....................och, I don't want to add to the man's troubles.

Off to wait for tonight's poll. I look forward to Blair Jenkins observing that the polling was conducted before the discovery of the secret oil fields. And possibly to disclosing that there's another one now been found in Strathclyde Park.

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