22 Apr 2014

Gordon Brown, the union, and spirals of silence

Gordon Brown had been intending to give the all-party Better Together campaign a wide berth, doing his speeches through the Labour party’s no campaign, United with Labour. He didn’t want anything to do with a campaign that ran on Tory money and he wasn’t really on “speakies” with its head, Alistair Darling, after the latter’s memoirs painted him as a less than easy colleague.

But then the narrowing of the polls happened. Four weeks ago the former PM was asked to lend his weight to the all-party campaign – tonight he’s doing just that with a speech at a converted church/lecture theatre at Glasgow University… and more is to follow.  And in Scotland the former PM has quite a lot of weight still. He even managed a small but perceptible swing towards Labour in Scotland in the 2010 general election.
The no camp hopes he connects with the very swing voters who’ve lost some faith in Labour and the union. Today his target is the pensioner vote – he’s quoting figures that suggest that Scots OAPs do very well out of the union, all from a leaked DWP document (happy memories came flooding back of him forever refusing to comment on leaks).

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In his speech, delivered without notes pacing up and down, the brooding bear tried to reclaim the NHS and the welfare state for the union, after months of watching the yes campaign claim the only way to save them is to quit the UK.

Glasgow University is a slightly awkward venue. The chancellor of the University who introduced him (the same Sir Kenneth Calman whose proposed reforms Gordon Brown and others are vaulting over to promise still more devolution) today withdrew Glasgow University from the Scottish CBI because it didn’t approve of the employers’ organisation signing up to the no camp. It’s another David Moyes-style unforced error for the team. They say it’s more a sign of the SNP pressurising pubic bodies to toe the “Yes” camp line – see this piece by the Telegraph’s Alan Cochrane. But you do wonder if this was “gamed” by anyone. It’s hard to see how bodies like universities would want to be allied in any way to one camp.

Gordon Brown will soon appear at another event side by side with Alistair Darling. Neither that nor tonight’s talk was part of a grid, but then “grid” isn’t something the Better Together campaign has, strictly speaking, got.

There are plans to sharpen up and tighten up the Better Together campaign which should come into view soon. Danny Alexander and Douglas Alexander could become part of a streamlined executive that takes tactical and strategic decisions; the PM’s Scotland adviser Andrew Dunlop would be representing the PM’s views.

Meanwhile there’s one bit of good news for the no camp amid the narrowing polls: ICM’s Martin Boon told me he has worries there’s a “spiral of silence” at work in the polls, that it’s seen as uncool and unpatriotic to say you might vote no, and that could be depressing their showing in the polls. Better Together, with bigger samples than the newspapers’ polls, say they think their lead has narrowed but by no more than 2 to 3 per cent over six months. But they’re the ones re-jigging the campaign so you know who’s under pressure right now.

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7 reader comments

  1. Gavin Woods says:

    the man that raided 5 billion a year from pension funds and the man that sold 60% of the UK gold reserve at a bottom price gives out advice the MP who has an attendance record at Westminster of 13% and a voting record of even less than 13% tells us all about the doom and gloom of independent Scotland the man has no credibility

  2. Ron Wilson says:

    If the Union is so beneficial to Scotland then why are Brown and his Tory allies being utterly duplicitous, indeed knowingly lying, to the Scottish people on pensions and much else. Excellent wee article here sheds some light http: //www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/9085-twisting-the-truth-on-pensions

  3. alex robertson says:

    Who in the UK would be gullible enough to believe a failed Pm who could not protect his own county of Fife, from MOD pollution ie Dalgety Bay , and then has the audacity to warn us about pensions after he destroyed the best pension system in the world

  4. Andrew Dundas says:

    You’re wrong about Glasgow Uni. The University is a contractor to the monopsony funder of its massive teaching revenues that are controlled by the SNP government. Glasgow Uni wants to be apolitical but cannot avoid the necessity of cosying up to its major funder – the SNP.

    Turning now to Scottish Pensions, of course we can’t afford to fund them ourselves. Our only growth in population is amongst the oldies (like me), and because age expectancies here are closing in on the longer lives of the rest of the UK. So that our dependency ratio of NI payees to pensioners is adverse and getting worse and worse all the time. Same is true of the NHS, our 80+ population will double in 20 years and put huge strain on our NHS.

    One way around the pension block Gordon talked about, is for pensioners here to insist on remaining British AND keeping Scotland in the EU. That way, the rUK would have to pay our pensions as we’d be nationals living in another EU State. Like Scots in Spain, we’d still get our pensions paid by the UK !! Which would save Scotland’s money for them.

    1. bob mccracken says:

      obviously we should follow the man who caused pensions to be where they are.
      if your scottish then you better bow your head, if its a no we will all regret it,scotland will never get this chance again its exciting,motivating and has awoken the scots pride

  5. Martin Tierney says:

    One way to lose any reader is to use pretentious words like ‘monopsony’ to show what a little clever clogs you are. Another is getting your facts wrong (SNP being Uni’s Major funder). You managed all this in two sentences Andrew Dundas. Wow. don’t know what you wrote after that and don’t much care….

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Good of you to respond Martin,
      The Scottish Government IS the monopoly buyer of University courses here. That’s what being a monopsony means: being a monopoly buyer.

      The Scottish Government is controlled by the advocate of our country being made into a new State. So it’s like any monopoly buyer, its suppliers are wary of it. And they try not to create any disfavour.

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