Olympics fever shows that a soft sell is best for the Union cause

Now here’s a great campaigner for the Union, no?  With his keen nose for an impending win as sharp as ever Gorgeous George brazens out an embarrassing prediction of Olympic failure and turns to his advantage.  You can almost hear that stingingly precise articulation cutting through the print.

I underestimated just how much we would all enjoy the London Olympics and how, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, we would all feel together again.

As I say, a good time for a referendum on Scotland’s future, no?

Historian Simon Schama passes a similar verdict in the Financial Times (£)

Tough luck Alex Salmond. Britain right now seems like a real nation, not a garden of toffs endlessly recycling Downton Abbey. Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and the rest are not toffs. Charlotte Dujardin started as a groom. All colours and classes turn out to belong to the same family. What do you know? Britain is, after all, a community

David Cameron’s support is not necessarily an advantage – although what else can he say?

Trouble is, 2012 is not 2014 and London is not Glasgow. The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are a different kettle of fish and could play into Alex Salmond’s hands.

Unlike the Olympics, where Team GB rallied all parts of the UK in support of its athletes, Scots, Welsh, English and Northern Irish alike, all these nations will field competing teams at the Commonwealth Games. Hoy and Murray, the Scots stars who both draped themselves in the union flag in London, will compete against Ennis’s England.

Pro-UK politicians, including Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, saw the surge in support for Team GB during the London Olympics as proof of the strength and resilience of the United Kingdom. They will search for ways to underpin that collective identity at the Glasgow Games.

The Olympics are a rare example of Salmond getting it tactically wrong, says  Kevin McKenna ex Herald, writing in the Guardian. Equally rarely the Olympics were a rare case of the Union asserting itself withour really trying.

Even if you discount mad Boris Johnson‘s claim on Thursday that the sense of UK national pride springing from the Olympics has “retarded” Alex Salmond’s campaign for separation, it’s clear that Scotland’s first minister is having a bad Games. … Instead of confining himself to a dignified “good luck and God speed” message to the Scots representing Great Britain, the first minister simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to indulge in grandstanding. Thus the Scots were “Scolympians”; London’s Army & Navy Club became “a little bit of Scotland” and in Rio 2016 Scotland will compete separately after independence has been gained. It was wretched stuff and simply made our normally surefooted senior statesman look tawdry and unkempt.

The past fortnight may show that for the Union a soft sell is best.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London