“You’re so vain… you really think this debate is about you…”
Ach, Ed. So, you’re in Scotland today to “save the Union” and apparently to talk about social justice and er, that all amounts to telling us Scots not to vote Yes but to vote No because you’re going to win the UK election.
Sorry for rewriting Carly Simon’s classic song (badly) but it just popped into my head while I was listening to you on BBC Radio Scotland this morning.
Your pitch – at this critical juncture in the referendum campaign – is that this is the perfect time for you to persuade us to vote you into Number 10 Downing Street.
If ever anything showed how out of touch Ed Miliband and UK and Scottish Labour are in this campaign, it is this tactical error.
Because this debate isn’t about Ed Miliband, or even Alex Salmond. It’s not about the SNP, Labour or even the Tories.
It’s about us. All of the people who live and work here in Scotland. It’s about us and our families and friends and neighbours. It’s about our communities and our country and our relationship with ourselves and everyone else on these islands.
And most importantly of all, it’s about our future. And that of our children. And our grandchildren. And the generations to come.
It’s most definitely not about the ambition of one man to lead his party into Westminster government.
Looking back over this long, hot summer, I think I can recall a handful of folk asking me what happens about the UK election in 2015 if we vote yes. The honest answer? I don’t know. Whether or not we’d participate is something to be sorted out post-Yes.
But I cannot recall a single person telling me they were voting No because they wanted to take a chance on voting in a UK Labour government in 2015.
Or that they were voting No because they wanted Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister. Or that they’d like that man increasingly on the telly (Jim Murphy) to keep his job.
In fact, folk are actually quite attracted by the fact that a Yes vote would release £50 million extra for Scotland to spend on its priorities rather than on its share of Westminster costs. 59 MPs or over 3000 childcare workers? Hmmm.
This is what happens when we let politicians into our debate and onto our airwaves: they make it all about them and their parties. How typically arrogant of politicians to waltz in and make it all about them.
I’m not sure Miliband making it all about him and his party will work. In the last week, the debate has moved on considerably. Scotland is now focused on this decision being about us, which is as it should be. Clearly, for some the issue of always getting the governments we vote for is an attractive one, but it’s one of many multi-layered issues for voters in this referendum.
In any event, Ed Miliband is mistaking formerly Labour heartlands for er, Labour heartlands. These constituencies have turned their backs on the Labour party in successive Scottish elections. They might have voted for Labour in 2010 but they are no longer Labour voters. They’re floating voters who will do what they think is in their family’s and community’s best interests in any future election.
And they get that the referendum is an altogether different premise.
Moreover, they’re no daft, these voters. They’re not overly impressed with the pale pink version of the once red rose which passes for Labour these days. They know that a UK Labour government won’t be that much different from the Tory lot – especially on tax and spend issues, committed as they already are to the Conservatives’ spending plans and austerity cuts.
Apparently, though, we’re to choose our future based on same vague promise of change. “A no vote is not a vote for no change” must be one of the most torturous sentences Ed Miliband has ever uttered. Why can’t he just say that “a No vote is a vote for change”? Because he would have to spell out what that change might be and beyond the paltry offering of the Work Programme, housing benefit and some income tax powers being devolved, he has nothing else to offer.
His cupboard is bare.
So his speech on social justice today will focus on saying a lot about nothing very much at all.
But with this key ask. Don’t vote in the referendum in two weeks’ time based on what is best for you, your family, your community or your country. Vote to enable me to move into Number 10. Vote to keep me and my Labour pals in jobs. Make it about us and not about you.
There’s a great West coast saying that many folk will be muttering to themselves. And in case anyone says it to your face, Ed, you might want to get one of your Scottish Labour colleagues to explain it to you:
Do you think we came up the Clyde in a banana boat?