An impassioned plea from the prime minister:
Has he been on the hustings in Scotland, taking his case to the people? Not exactly:
Sadly, only a small number of Scots got to hear his appeal [last week] directly. That’s because the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wasn’t actually able to walk the streets of the United Kingdom to deliver his message. He had to stay safely within the confines of a small building for his own security. Yesterday, Ed Miliband, the man who would be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, also tried to take his case for the Union out onto the streets. And he was chased from those same streets by an angry mob.
You can see the chaos when Miliband tried to walk the streets of Edinburgh here. And, yes, they yelled at him, calling him a “fucking liar” and “serial murderer” (!) to his face. Some of that is from the usual thuggish suspects – but the atmosphere in the campaign has gotten ugly in the past week or so. The one thing that my friends in Britain tell me about politics right now is that there’s enormous discontent with all the major party figures. They seem like a distant metropolitan clique, cushioned in super-safe districts – not real representatives of actual people. That’s why UKIP has had such success. Here’s a UKIP candidate explaining why he quit the Tories:
Lawmakers become lawmakers mostly by working in the offices of other lawmakers. It’s a club. Recent research found that over half of Labour candidates in seats where the party stood a good chance of winning in the next election had already worked in Westminster. Instead of using primaries to select candidates for parliamentary seats, party hierarchies parachute in those whom they favor. Politics has become an exclusive game played by insiders, little more than a competition between two cliques, at the top of the Labour and Conservative Parties, to decide who sits on the Downing Street sofa.
Sound familiar – as we contemplate a chance of another Bush-Clinton match-up? And as a deeply unpopular party nonetheless has a structural lock on the House? This is not just about independence for Scotland. It’s about democratic accountability. And Westminster has clearly failed to represent that for large swathes of Scots.
Daniel Berman dismisses the idea that, should Yes prevail, Cameron will lose his job because “he would be the Prime Minister who oversaw the end of the Union.” Cameron’s problems go much deeper than that:
Cameron’s greatest error was in his decision to pass the enabling legislation for the referendum. Much as he showed little to no interest in Scottish affairs in any other aspect of government, he outsourced the management of the referendum process to an interested party in the form of the Scottish government in exchange for cosmetic concessions regarding language. Predictably then, Salmond government proceeded to do everything in its power to rig the system in their favor, moving to disenfranchise nearly 800,000 Scots currently resident outside of Scotland, nearly 20% of the electorate in a nation of five million, nearly all of them likely NO voters. If YES were to win narrowly, or in in all honesty by anything less than 55-45 or so, it will be able to be ascribed to this decision. It is one thing to hold rallies in Trafalgar Square, as happened this Sunday, and at which the government was also MIA; it is entirely another to actually do something about this disenfranchisement which never could have taken place if the administration was conducted jointly with Westminster.
As a consequence there is a real case for treating the referendum as a test of Cameron’s leadership. Of course this would not matter if he were popular within his party, which he is not, or if the same complaints could not be applied across a range of issues, which they easily can. The main reason Cameron will be in trouble then is not solely to do with Scotland, but because in a context in which his entire modernization line has been fully discredited as a path forward for the Tories, the political circumstances will have changed.
A spell has been broken. No one knows what comes next.