25 Jun 2012

Normal folk and a sick musical joke

“Thank you. I’m not used to that.” Alistair Darling’s opening words of the “no” campaign as he entered the hall to loud applause. Imagine Alex Salmond saying that! And that’s a contrast this campaign hopes will work to their advantage.

Mr Darling went on to develop the theme that in dangerous times you shouldn’t embark on a one-way journey to an unknown destination. The “yes” campaigners are portrayed as “the committed few” (translation: fanatics).

We can have “the best of both worlds,” Mr Darling said. That’s also the slogan on some leaflets, the first time I’ve seen “cake and eat it” so boldly stated as a political slogan.

To contrast with the celebs at the “yes” launch (Alan Cumming, Brian Cox etc), “Better Together” has brought in a lot of “normal folk” – a former Miss Inverness, a retired brigadier, shipyard workers and much more besides. The former Scots Tory leader, Annabel Goldie, is doing heavily ┬ápre-scripted chats with these folk.

As some kind of sick joke the campaign played on a loop One Great Thing by Big Country as we waited for the start – sick because we were subjected to 90 mins of it on a loop at last month’s “yes” campaign launch and some of us were only just in recovery.┬áThen it turns out this is also the soundtrack to the campaign video as well – the identical music to the Yes campaign. Has that been done before?

Alistair Darling said now was “make your mind up time.” But that’s not strictly true. The referendum is due in autumn 2014. Perhaps by then one of the co-frontmen of the “no” campaign, former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, will put in an appearance. Scots journalists were told only yesterday that he’d be here, but he’s a “no show”.

Like the “yes” campaign launch, this was fairly slick (if protracted). We have a pretty good idea where the first donations to the “yes” campaign have come from – lottery winners, a bequest from a poet. Where have the first donations to the “no” campaign come from? Looking around the hall at familiar Labour apparatchiks, this is a Labour-dominated and Labour-fronted campaign. But is the engine going to be full of Tory fuel? I expect this to be a theme the “yes” team will make much of.

The backdrop behind the launch speakers is a vast picture window dominated by two images: the university car park and a substantial red brick home until recently owned by a former Labour cabinet minister. The union appears to have worked for him!

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