What a different two (or three actually) polls make.
First, the Panelbase poll conducted by the Yes campaign shows a record high of 47% support for independence among women with the gender gap virtually closed. Hurrah for us! And especially Women for Independence who right from the onset – even before Yes Scotland was formed actually – realised that women would take longer to make their minds up, that women needed to be listened to rather than talked at in this campaign and be offered space beyond traditional political hierarchies in which to engage. Our instincts have proven to be spot on.
Second, the sensational YouGov poll for the Sunday Times putting Yes ahead for the first time in the campaign. It’s a slender 2 points but the momentum is all ours. A wiser owl than me told me of recent Irish referenda experience. In each and every one, the vote started shifting in the last few weeks. Once it does, it doesn’t stop: all the other side can hope to do is slow down the shift enough to prevent it reaching the finish line. It looks like the efforts the No campaign have made in the last week to achieve this have failed.
But hard hats on and heads down (though our tails are clearly up). To coin a phrase, there is no room for complacency. There’s a lot to do and everyone who wants to see Yes win the day on 18th September must redouble their efforts, continuing to target the key voter groups of Labour supporters, working class voters, women and people aged under 40. According to Peter Kellner at YouGov, these are the voters who have shifted the most in the last few weeks. Everyone in local Yes and grassroots groups must focus on reaching more of them, each and every day between now and the 18th.
As for the No campaign? Well, you can promise jam today, jam tomorrow and jam the next day but it won’t wash. Like dodgy market traders with a palette of shop-soiled goods to offload before they perish, they are frantically trying to cobble a “more devo” offer together.
Like the offer they should have allowed to go on the ballot paper from the start. Or even the offer they should have made months ago.
But then, they promised us more devo at the start of this campaign. And Messrs Naw, Nay and Never managed to come up with competing claims that amounted to a begrudged attempt to hold on to as much as they can and give away as little as they thought they could get away with. Who’ll believe them now? The Scottish people are not buying I’m afraid.
The hard hats are needed because we are also going to be assaulted with an aerial bombardment of fear and smear like no other. The British establishment is fighting for its continued grasp on power and control. The Labour party is fighting for its very political existence in Scotland, if not elsewhere. David Cameron is possibly fighting for his job. What is about to rain down on us will be unprecedented in its severity, weight and virulence. So this is a time for cool heads, calm hearts and onwards, forever onwards. One doorstep at a time.
That’s presuming of course that they can stop fighting like ferrets in a sack. It’s already started.
Unnamed backbench Conservative MPs have started calling for Cameron’s head on a plate: “If Lord North went in 1782 for losing the American colonies, I can’t see how Cameron can stay, frankly.” Note the language there: it betrays how they really view Scotland.
Cameron is being blamed for allowing Alex Salmond to out-strategise him by one former Minister, especially on the timing of the referendum. Again, betraying that they understand nothing of what is going on in Scotland right now.
And also, that it is still all about them. Secret talks are apparently being held to force a leadership contest by parachuting Boris in through a parliamentary by-election. The calculations on what happens if Scotland votes yes are all about shoring up their rump and being in a position to hold onto their seats at the UK election in 2015.
But the Tories are not just fighting among themselves – they’re turning their fire on their erstwhile Naw partners, Labour. Apparently, it’s all also Labour’s fault for failing to deliver its vote. Which again mistakes that this is about parties and even, as I opined here, that Labour has a core vote these days in Scotland. The Scottish Tories are rock solid – but then that was to be expected. It’s Labour whose support is haemorraghing.
Poor Douglas Alexander is the one coming under fire with particularly nasty personalised attacks. Why him? He isn’t the leader of Better Together – Alistair Darling is. Many other Labour figures, including Scottish ones, have played much more senior roles. The attacks on him whiff of jealousy, of score settling and of seeing off his credentials as a Labour leadership contender. Yet, if any senior Labour figure has tried to create a positive narrative for the Naw lot, it’s him. At various points, he’s been pushed out of the picture by others jostling to lead the front line. With very few following his messaging. Why? Because they all thought this would be a skoosh and it was a platform for them to see out their twilight years basking in shared glory or from which to jettison them into the limelight and potential leadership roles. It seems to me that he and Brown are the two working their hardest to retrieve the situation.
But therein lies part of the problem. For all that Gordon Brown is still a respected political figure in Scotland – and revered by the media to embarrassingly gauche levels – he is still yesterday’s man. He may understand UK politics but having served his entire career on that stage, he is out of touch with the dynamic of Scottish politics. He – and others – do not get us anymore. That is at the heart of their problem.
As it is for the whole Naw movement, as Rory Stewart – he of the failed attempt to create hands across the border and build symbolic cairns and other irrelevant nonsense – attests. “A Yes vote would represent a failure of the entire political class. I think it’s the greatest constitutional issue we have faced for 300 years and it has not been treated like that. In the 19th century, this would have been like the great reform act. It would have engaged the whole nation and its politicians for years.”
Yet, the debate that Scotland has been having has been like our own great reform act, our own democratic renewal, with people of all ages enthused, engaged, debating and deliberating. It has captured our imaginations and our attention. The whole nation has been enthralled. If the rest of the UK (but primarily England, for this is what they mean when they say “we”) failed to notice, or care, or contribute positively, that’s its problem.
But “we” as Scotland, as a nation, have awoken and to tar us with the brush of indifference is inaccurate and unfair.
Our political class – on the Yes side at least – have not been found wanting. There is no failure of leadership here.
But it’s not actually about them. What has happened in Scotland isn’t about them, but about us. All of us.
There’s no failure, simply success. To get to where we are today, with Yes leading by two points twelve days before the vote, having had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us from on high by the British establishment, big business, world leaders, the UK Government, the British media, rich people with deep pockets, and all those with their hands currently on the levers of power, is little short of astonishing.
It’s not a failure but a triumph. Of the will of the Scottish people to stand up and say no more. No more waiting. No more empty promises. We want this one opportunity to create a better life for everyone who lives here. And most especially of all, we want the chance to create a better future for our children, our grandchildren and the generations yet to come.