Back to Cameron and Salmond at Downing Street. Alec Salmond has made it clear that he expects to head a negotiating team composed of more than just members of the SNP. He, for example, did offer Alistair Darling a place on that team at the end of the televised debate on 25th August. Quite sensibly, Salmond wants to achieve a long lasting agreement that will have more than an even chance of surviving changes in government in both Scotland and at Westminster.
However, although Cameron has surely been advised by now of the need to field a similar team, will he both want to do so and will he be able to do so. More and more of late Nice Dave has given way to David Flashman. Cameron’s performance during the appointment of Juncker is a clear sign that he cannot negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag. Would he be capable of forming an inclusive team and agreeing on a set of negotiating positions to which they could all sign up?
Were Cameron to go it alone and field only a team of Tories to face Salmond then, quite reasonably, would Alec and his team get up and leave? The Scottish team will be seeking agreements that will last beyond May 8th 2015. But what of the Tory Democrats, you say? Well I am sure Cameron will let Clegg pour the tea, pass around the biscuits and take the minutes.
In addition, if Cameron went it alone, he would have to head the negotiating team or look as though he is scared of Salmond. Moreover, as he personally is incapable of conducting negotiations then who else would he include in his Tory negotiating team? Public schools may inculcate over confidence and overweening arrogance, but as for developing empathy, insight, good manners and the ability to listen as well as speak then the fees are a waste of money. I cannot seriously think of anyone now on the Tory Party’s frontbench who could effectively negotiate with Alec Salmond and his team.
Cameron will have no option, if he is taking the negotiations seriously, but to involve other parties and key stakeholders in putting together not just a team, but a set of widely agreed negotiating positions. However, if Cameron invites Labour into the negotiations then in some quarters he may be seen to be admitting that he cannot win convincingly on 8th May 2015. He will face an ongoing threat to his leadership seemingly, whatever he does.
The ukip Effect
Unsurprisingly, ukip is in two minds about Scottish Independence, but assuming they revert to type then I expect them to seek to use the loss of Scotland to their advantage. Farage admitted after the Euro Elections that he is not reaching out to Labour voters as much as he is to Tories and, surprisingly, Liberal Democrats. He has mused, more recently, about agreeing to stand aside to let the Tory Party have a clear run in seats like those in Dorset. In return, he would expect them to return the favour in seats in places like Essex.
ukip is pitching for the votes of the huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ fraternity. Farage, that self-proclaimed man of the people, recently attended a conference of the Country Landowners’ Association and he was on the top table too. Moreover, this story (see third bulletin point) is very interesting concerning as it does some of the likely pressure already being applied to Cameron in the run up to next May. ukip with its opposition to wind turbines, PV panels and HS2; its anti ‘political correctness’ stance; its thinly veiled racism; its “fings ain’t what they used to be” riff and visceral hatred of green ‘crap’ is out to get the votes of rural Tories as much as the disenchanted working class. The CLA seems to have (temporarily?) given up campaigning against the closure of rural post offices, the end of rural bus services and the like. Hunting with dogs still trumps its concerns about the quality of life of its tenants and of the lower orders that live in the countryside.
I would be very surprised if Farage did not back up the only ukip MEP in Scotland who is on record as saying that he would seek to overturn a Yes result. ukip may say you cannot trust the Tories over the European Union just look at what they have done with regard to Scotland! Farage knows what will attract the support of Disgusted of Royal Tunbridge Wells. He does live down the road, after all and one day, of course, he will be one of them.
ukip will add to Cameron’s headaches, but also they will cause concern in many Tory constituencies. ukip’s support for fracking is possibly the only issue likely to frighten the horses out in the Shires, but then may be fracking is not going to be in ukip’s eagerly awaited manifesto? And fracking is a Tory Party policy too. One other point about ukip is that they have no realistic chance of winning seats in Scotland and Wales so stirring up English resentment against the Scottish and the Welsh is unlikely to be a net vote loser next May. Nor will making the CLA worried about a peasants’ uprising North of the Border be a vote loser down South.