Blowback and Project Fear

One week left to go before the referendum. Two years ago I would have said 35-65. A year ago 40-60. Now the polls are close to 50-50. Ladbrokes odds of a “Yes” have rapidly halved, now at 5/2, “No” on 3/10 – the bookies firm favourite. But on the day, who knows how remaining “Undecideds” will break. What turnout will be? How effective the “Yes” ground game will be in getting their vote out. Will there be some “Black Swan” event in the final week that benefits either side?

Regardless of the result, the fact that this referendum is happening at all is a result of blowback against the political establishment. Westminster has failed to govern for the nations and regions of the UK as a whole for decades now; I would say going back to 1979. Rather, it is widely perceived as governing for the benefit of the City of London, as evidenced by loose financial regulation that eventually resulted in the bail-outs. The expenses scandals. Cronyism, with the perceived connections between financial donors and MPs that result in policies being enacted or decisions being made that financially benefit the former, particularly NHS privatization. Reckless foreign policy. The obscene waste of replacing Trident. The complete erosion of trust, a broken social compact. This has all lead to disaffection, and does not apply solely to Scotland. The rise of UKIP similarly mirrors how people feel so let down, and alienated, by the actions of central government.

What puzzles me is that as the polls have tightened the political establishment just don’t seem to get it. Key individuals in the “No” campaign, such as Alastair Darling and Gordon Brown get trotted out, individuals who were at the helm in the years leading to the crash in 2008. They were seriously at fault. Given their reputations they are not assets to a campaign that seeks to keep the UK together, they are seriously tarnished. I could never really understand why Mr Darling, in particular, was the front man for “Better Together”. Or should I really just call him “Flipper”?

“No” ran a terrible campaign. “Project Fear” dominated. The polls closed as people became scunnered and moved towards “Yes”. Panic began to set in, with Alec Douglas-Home ’79 style promises being made in recent days. Now, if Ladbrokes has it right, “No” will have guaranteed that their victory would eventually be seen as pyrrhic. Reconciliation will have been made harder. Yet more blowback will be guaranteed.

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