John McTernan is among the shrewdest of political strategists. As quoted by David McCann, he offers “don’t panic” advice to fellow strategists. What’s missing here are reasons for Scots to vote No.
The McTernan view isn’t cutting it with leading commentators on the centre left and right.
The psychological impact in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of Scotland’s rejection of the union, meanwhile, could be very unpredictable, and possibly nastily so.
I do not want any of these things to happen. But the possibility that some of them may happen has moved a bit closer with the shift in the Scottish polls this spring. We can no longer simply assume that Scots are certain to vote no and that the UK will survive. Once things change they can change very fast, and in ways for which few of us are in any way prepared.
Tory indifference and Labour infighting have made heavy work of the pro-Union campaign
David Cameron will resign if he loses Scotland. A Prime Minister who allows the break-up of the United Kingdom cannot suffer such a statement of no confidence and continue in office.
That much is understood in Downing Street, where a gnawing doubt about the referendum gets worse by the day. The vote takes place in five months this Friday. Angst rather than panic describes the feeling apparent among those involved – but is it just a momentary loss of nerve, or a dawning realisation that something is seriously wrong?
John Curtice, the wise man of polling said yesterday:
The poll from TNS BMRB released today has been widely reported as further evidence that the No lead is narrowing. In truth, it would appear to be further evidence that the No lead has stabilized around the narrower level it has now been at for some weeks
Concentration will be fixed laser- like on the shifting don’t knows
In any event it is clearly a mistake to think of an undifferentiated group of undecided voters who are clearly set apart from their fellow citizens who have all made up their minds. Rather voters lie at various points on a spectrum of indecision. Just over half (52%) have definitely made up their minds. The rest lie somewhere between having no idea at all what they will do and having a fairly firm inclination but might just be willing to change their minds. What remains to be seen is whether either side can secure any further success in persuading them to do so.
This suggests there’s all to play for and a bigger risk for the status quo than change. As for the Westminster village, they seem incapable of translating their fears into anything like political action – even after registering that Cameron would resign in the unhappy event. Amazing.
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