Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Cameron to Salmond: “Right, now I’ve got you right where you want me…”

Tue 10 January 2012, 2:22pm

As noted here a few months back, the Conservatives are struggling to maintain relevance outside England (and to a lesser degree, Wales). It’s tough job when you barely have any elected representatives to bring some political capital to the literal party. It’s not even an English thing.

For reasons not entirely within their control (aka the virtual collapse of English regional as a meaningful conduit for the expression and understanding of English regional politics), large chunks for northern England are also slipping way beyond their ken.

And Westminster politics is fast becoming a parlour game played at some distance from the local interests of the electorate.

On the issue of Scotland, Alex Massie is damning of a political move (to force the issue of a referendum sooner rather than later) which is calculated, he believes, at playing a game that’s no longer tenable:

Cameron’s ploy is too clever by half and thus, actually, not very clever at all.  Again: the time for a Yes/No referendum was 2007 but the Tories, like Labour, missed that opportunity. That ship sailed, however, and, typically, the Tories are answering yesterday’s question unaware that today’s teaser is actually rather different.

The SNP’s current strategy appears to be: “hold fire, until you see the whites of their Tory blue eyes”…

 

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Comments (41)

  1. Though Fraser Nelson, also of the Spectator has a different perspective. This is a discussion on tactics rather than substance. While SNP have a majority in Holyrood, that does not automatically translate into a majority for independence. It is convenient for Salmond to keep the vote on a long finger and play at being the downtrodden and misunderstood. No doubt that has some political traction, but Cameron has laid down a put-up/shut-up kinda proposition and taken the initiative away from Salmond. Squeal as the Scots Nats might, they will have their day at the polls perhaps sooner than they would have liked….

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  2. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    I fail to understand the Salmond hero worship, he’s not infallible; if Scotland had followed his policies since 2002 it would be in even deeper trouble than RoI. just about all his ideas go pear shaped after about 3 years. Salmond’s like an old firm team he can beat all the local opposition but has yet to meet international opposition. The real losers in the devolution fiasco are Labour. With welsh seats set to be butchered and fortress Scotland possibly lost their ill-prepared consitutional settlements have come back to bite them in the butt. The conservatives have a 65 majority in England which is more seats that Wales and NI combined. They are also matching Labour mid term despite a bleak economic situation. So who’s to stop them ? If the Scots go – which I doubt – the other 92% of the UK will be blue for quite some time. The bigger issue then will be how long will it stay in the EU ?

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  3. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Alanbrooke

    You say that 92% of the UK will remain blue. That is only in terms of who runs Westminster. But it does not reflect the voting patterns in the North of England, nor the remaining Celtic Fringe. The UK is a dead entity, and clinging on by a tether. If Scotland votes for separation, how long will the English people continue with the newly constituted Union? And what will it mean for the new UK, when it comes to the UN and the EU in terms of nation status within both?

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  4. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Alanbrooke’s quite correct, if Scotland does opt for independence and I don’t believe they will – they have the most wishy-washy independence movement of anywhere outside Quebec – Labour is finished.

    The Tories might indeed have no relevance outside England but as England just happens to be the powerhouse and most important part of the country that is not as terrible as it seems. The Tories have had no relevance in Northern Ireland for generations but it hardly crippled them did it?

    With boundary changes and Scotland gone and Wales to follow (N. Ireland?) what hope would Labour have of ever forming a government in England?

    Salmond in a post independent Scotland would be as relevant as the bloke who led post-independence Slovakia, whoever he was.

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  5. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    I’d have thought running Westminster was sufficient for most of the Blues. There is the issue that England doesn’t have a parliament and that is something which will need to be addressed. Voting patterns in England have been reasonably consistent for about a century with conservatives winning the South and Midlands and Lib\Lab the cities and Southwest. The current electoral boundaries are actually unfavourable to the Conservatives. I would be less inclined to announce the death of the UK immediately, the country does have a habit of adapting and re-inventing itself. As things currently stand it is forecast to have the largest population of any EU state – and that’s without Scotland. Wales and NI dropping out would only hold this back a few years. More likely they’d actually accelerate growth since both places will face a massive drop in living standards if stood on their own two feet and emigration would increase.

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  6. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Harry

    Labour could form a coalition with the LibDems in the future. The Cons won’t get in for another term, as they will damage their reputation among the Working class (or the out of work class) by the time the Cons are finished. Never say never in politics!

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  7. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    galloglaigh

    which working class would this be ? The one labour off-shored their jobs and opened the immigration gates to drive down wages on any work left?

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  8. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Alan

    You’re correct, but did the boys in blue not start the trend with service industries?

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  9. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    galloglaigh

    well they certainly let manufacturing go too far too fast imo, but then they’ve paid the price in 13 years in opposition, remains to be seen whether they’ve learnt from it. However Blair maintains the record for butchering the manufacturing base.

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  10. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    And a few hundred thousand innocent Arabs into the bargain. What an arsehole he is!

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  11. David Cameron’s gambit is the right one, from a Unionist perspective, and also from a party one.

    I agree that taking the agenda away from the SNP does not do Cameron any harm, no matter how Mr. Salmond tries to spin it. The Conservatives are in a “no lose” position. If the referendum is in favour of independence, the Conservatives become electorally stronger in the residual UK parliament. If the referendum is in favour of retaining the union, Cameron gets the credit for defeating Salmond and boosts the Conservative position North of the border.

    It is very difficult for Labour. They have to throw the kitchen sink at defending the union but they wont be able to make political capital out of a successful defence.

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  12. sectarianheadcount (profile) says:

    Presumably even if Cameron and the Unionists lose the overall Scottish vote they’ll hang onto six counties against the will of the majority regardless. It’s a tradition.

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  13. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    Galloglaigh, the Tories, unfortunately, lost the working class vote decades ago but then the Labour Party’s grasp of that vote is tenuous at best.

    Just as in Scotland that vote is not guaranteed to go to Labour. The Scot Nats showed how Labour can have its electorate swiped out from under it, if the Brit Nats ever got a toehold in the working class constituencies, God forbid, the Labour party would be reduced to its core support of students, government workers, academics, Guardian readers and immigrants, hardly a constituency on which to build a governing consensus.

    As to the Tories, they did not become the most effective vote-winning organization in Europe for no reason. Like Fianna Fail you should never rule them out, they have a tradition of winning elections.

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  14. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    sectarianheadcount.

    you should get out more; read a few more blogs. Your average Tory these days lives in SE England and is more likely to vote to ditch the celtic fringe than keep it. He will moan all the time how his taxes pay for everything, he’s supporting others in a lifestyle he can’t get himself and that all the celts vote Labour and on vote english matters. As for keeping NI against the wishes of its people he would see it more he’s got stuck with a problem no-one wants to take off his hands. And to be fair there isn’t exactly a queue of nations out there wanting to spend their time paying to listento with the DUP and SF griping about everything. I mean would you ?

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  15. Reader (profile) says:

    sectarianheadcount: Presumably even if Cameron and the Unionists lose the overall Scottish vote they’ll hang onto six counties against the will of the majority regardless. It’s a tradition.
    Counties are mostly a Tudor structure, and therefore didn’t really make it into Scotland. In any case Scottish nationalism doesn’t really display the poisonous tribalism and sectarianism that was associated with Irish nationalism, so it’s not really likely to provoke a split.

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  16. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Reader,

    Ireland’s history is completely different to Scotland so comparing the nationalist struggle in Ireland and Scotland is futile.

    If the Catholics in west Scotland numbered nearly a million and were violently planted there by the English in the 17th century and remained staunchly loyal to the English into the 21st century rather than show common cause wth the Scots they have lived among for 400 years then I assure you tribalism and sectarianism would have poisoned the Scottish nationalist debate, too.

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  17. sliabhluachra (profile) black spot says:

    I spoke to a friend who stood for the Tories in Scotland, garnering some 10,000 votes in the process. His explanation of how whole safe Tory areas went down the plug hole and how the SNP is a masonic maze was interesting to say the least.
    George Galloway is interesting on the subject of sectarianism in Scotland. Putting that to my Tory mate, he spoke of the RC Healthcare mafia.
    The independence the SNP want is nothing like that Hugh McDiarmuid et al wanted.
    Will Scotland have a modern defence force? Will the Scottish units “turn”? Many of those same Scottish units eg the KOSBs and Black Watch were set up to guard against the genuine nationalism of the Highlanders who alas are all but history.

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  18. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    RoC

    nice, but the english aren’t the issue. Just about all the english plantations in Ireland failed. NI is different because it had a voluntary mass emigration from Scotland in the 18th Century it’s why the bulk of prods are presbyterian not anglican. The english left with a choice didn’t want calvinists in Ireland, they were too much hassle hence why they ended up fighting them in 1798. The NI isssue is more a Scots Irish fight with both sides agreeing to blame the english for everything and then asking for money.

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  19. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Alan,

    It isn’t a Scots Irish fight in the north of Ireland. Whatever northern Unionists like to believe about their historical roots, no one in Scotland outside of Ibrox Park really cares whether Ireland is united or not. Scotland makes no claim on the north of Ireland and never will.

    If Scotland becomes independent, it will be England who still holds jurisdiction over the north of Ireland and it will be England who has to eventually admit it is time to leave Ireland for the people on this island sort out our future among ourselves.

    Scotland will wish us well but they won’t interfere any more than we will interfere in their affairs.

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  20. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    RoC

    so people with names like Paisley ( a place in Scotland ), Irvine ( a place in Scotland ) or Craig ( a place in Scotland ) are english ? I’m afraid you’re still living in the 19th Century most english see NI as a potential tax reduction. Now if the Irish could only talk to those awkward Scots it might be different but most of the “Irish” in NI have adopted a calvinist culture anyhow – have you ever heard a Northerner admit he’s wrong ?

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  21. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Alan,

    Whatever about names and “roots” from hundreds of years ago, the Northern Protestants aren’t going to immediately want to break from England just because Scotland leaves the UK.

    Indeed the Northern Ireland flag chosen and flown by northern Unionists doesn’t have the Scottish St Andrew’s cross on it, does it? It has the St George’s cross, of England.

    So much for roots.

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  22. Mike the First (profile) says:

    It’s a (modified) de Burgh cross, derived from Anglo-Norman earls of Ulster, centuries before the Plantation.

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  23. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Mike,

    I’ll take your word for it. That it looks identical to a St George’s cross and was created at a time when Ulster Unionists were relying on England to prevent them being part of an independent Ireland is probably just coincidental.

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  24. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Mike’s right. It’s an Ulster flag reconfigured.

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  25. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Galloglaigh,

    Indeed, technically it is. But it doesn’t change the patent reality that of all the flags and colours the northern Unionists of the time could have chosen they picked one which looked identical to the St George’s Cross of England.

    If you think that was accidental, good luck to you.

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  26. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    RoC

    I suggest you try speaking to some english people, few of them are that worried about NI. Maybe you should also speak to the “english” in the North most of whom don’t trust the real english. All your basically saying is you don’t know how to talk to your fellow islanders.

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  27. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Alan,

    I regard the Protestants in the north as Irish Protestants. Not Scottish and not English. Which is why calling it a Scots Irish conflict is false in my eyes. It’s an Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant conflict.

    Although I fully accept that northern Protestants have strong historical links to Scotland. But that doesn’t mean they can be called Scots in 2012, because the aren’t.

    As for England, I’m well aware the English will be celebrating the day NI is off its back. But it is still the heart and soul of the UK. Without England to pay for it all then there is no UK and there is no partition of Ireland. So Unionists in Ulster give their allegiance to England out of pragmatism, not admiration.

    So while emotionally northern Protestants might feel closer to Scotland, politically they look to England.

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  28. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    RoC

    have you ever tried arguing with a presbyterian – believe me I know a Scot when I meet one. The calvinist mentality underpines the whole North whether you’re catholic, anglican, presbyterian or atheist. The english enslavement meme is about 100 years out of date and bears little reality to what english people think. And before you go all Irish on me many Southerners don’t have that much time for Nordies and no more wish to subsidise NI that SE Tories. In any case these days Berlin wouldn’t let them it would wreck their Euro claculations. So there you are NI citizens get a subsidised lifestyle by staying in the UK which is better than that on offer elsewhere and that applies to all communities. If the RoI is offering a better deal then it should make it. The previous offer of marry me or I’ll kick your head in would need to be improved on I suspect.

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  29. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Alan,

    I agree Ulstermen can be thick fvkers who are always right. I’ll never forget a night in a Paris pub arguing with a Derryman who one minute told me Southerners are a disgrace for abandoning the north and a while later told me Southerners will never understand the north and are clueless! So when we take interest in the north we’re clueless and when we don’t we’re a disgrace, was his Ulster wisdom! But Dubliners are just as thick and think Dublin is Ireland. So I don’t think it’s a Scottish thing.

    As for the South subsidising the north, the point of full independence is that Ulster, as Ireland’s second biggest and most populous province, would stand on her own two feet and prosper. Knowing the English will always foot the bill has created a malaise in Ulster which will disappear if people are forced to make the province a success or become Moldova.

    Often people only get the best out of themselves when they’re forced to.

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  30. Reader (profile) says:

    Republic of Connaught: Knowing the English will always foot the bill has created a malaise in Ulster which will disappear if people are forced to make the province a success or become Moldova.
    What? After 10 years of sweet-talking, bribery and bluster, it turns out that the Celtic Tiger isn’t going to subsidise our lifestyle after all? The wedding’s off.

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  31. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    RoC

    well I’m having a similar debate with ScotNat bloggers on another blog same issue as your Derryman :-).

    However how Ulster is going to stand on its own two feet when its economy is 70+% funded by the UK govt. I just don’t see. You’re offering a chance to live like a Moldovan or emigrate. I believe Olli Rehn has offered the RoI a similar choice, to date there hasn’t been much enthusiasm.

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  32. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Reader,

    Why the obsession with who’ll pay subsidies? Is Ulster a mistress who’ll lift her skirt to the highest bidder or a man who wants to earn his own living in the world?

    Alan,

    Like a druggie who can be weaned of his fix, with time and patience Ulster can be cured of its state dependency. I believe the UK government themselves are desperate to get the therapy started.

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  33. Turgon (profile) says:

    RoC,
    “I regard the Protestants in the north as Irish Protestants.”

    You are of course entitled to your view. It is, however, irrelevant. They (the Protestants) may disagree with you and they have the right to form their own view on their identity. That has been enshrined in law in both the UK and RoI. It is interesting that you as someone who is neither a “Northern Protestant” nor even from Northern Ireland feels equipped to decide on what unionists are and are not.

    This debate has become side tracked yet again into one on Northern Ireland.

    Trying to get back to the topic, it is interesting that yesterday this was considered a mistake by Cameron. Today several people have suggested that it may have been a cleverer move than it at first appears. Salmond has been forced to commit to a date albeit one of his choosing. Had this not happened he might have tried to wriggle out of a referendum if the polls remained unfavourable. He now has a couple of years to turn around what is currently a losing position. He may manage it and I am inclined to agree that only a fool would confidently predict the outcome. He effectively must now have a referendum and if he loses it the independence project is dead for some time.

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  34. Reader (profile) says:

    Republic of Connaught: Why the obsession with who’ll pay subsidies? Is Ulster a mistress who’ll lift her skirt to the highest bidder or a man who wants to earn his own living in the world?
    Ha, you lot weren’t talking like that while your pockets were stuffed with Euros. As it happens though, I remained a unionist throughout that decade. I assume there were those who were influenced in the past – certainly bribery closely followed anglophobia as the tools of choice for persuaders for a United Ireland in recent years, and they must have thought they were using the right tactics. I am curious though – what percentage of the vote will go to the highest offer? 5% maybe? Easily enough to swing a tight referendum.
    Remember, we’re not actually talking about trivial stuff like a bit of spare cash. This is jobs for our children.

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  35. Alanbrooke (profile) says:

    RoC

    “Is Ulster a mistress who’ll lift her skirt to the highest bidder”

    well a real life example. Some fairly typical prods I know – one ex B Specials – who you could never force to be Irish citizens if you held a gun to their heads had no qualms when they hit 65 claiming an Irish passport because it was free and saved them £70 for a UK one.

    You know I’m going to tell you it’s the Scottish mentality :-)

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  36. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Turgon,

    Yes, “I regard” is stating a personal opinion. It isn’t stating an irrefutable point of fact. So what you personally think of that opinion is quite irrelevant to me

    Reader,

    Bribery brought the UK into being so you shouldn’t knock it. As for anglophobia, I’m afraid you’re behind the times. Dublin and London have never been closer. I applaud you though for sticking to your principles. All this talk of subsidies is rather sad.

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  37. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Alan,

    That does make me smile. Though no wonder the South is bust losing out on £70 passports :)

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  38. Turgon (profile) says:

    RoC,
    True though unlike you I am one of those people whom you call “Northern Protestants.” The fact that you call irrelevant my opinion of a view on my own identity is interesting.

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  39. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Turgon,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re a northern Protestant with sympathies towards the TUV. Considering how poorly that party do among the wider northern Protestant electorate, I wouldn’t judge you to be someone whose opinions are reflective of the wider Unionist community.

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  40. Turgon (profile) says:

    RoC,
    Indeed and you on the other hand are an Irishman from Connaught: making you much better placed to assess the views of unionists?

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  41. Republic of Connaught (profile) says:

    Turgon,

    Indeed not. But again, I merely stated a personal opinion of how I see Protestants in Ulster.

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