Alex Massie

Rising Tory, Hidden Danger: David Cameron is Doing Too Much Too Well

Rising Tory, Hidden Danger: David Cameron is Doing Too Much Too Well
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The British economy is growing. Not before time you might say. Be that as it may, there is a breath of summer in the air after a long winter. The quickening recovery has the Tories in jauntier spirits than for some time. The polls are closing. The Conservatives are within the margin of error and though the odds may remain it is no longer utterly fanciful to think they might remain the largest party at Westminster next year. What ho and what larks, good news is all around.

Except in the north. Always the contrary north. A chill wind blows from North Britain and the message it bears should warn David Cameron he's being used by his enemies.

Scottish nationalists endlessly carp that Unionists are obsessed with Alex Salmond. A vote for independence is not, per se, a vote for Mr Salmond. Being immune to his charms need not dampen your enthusiasm for independence. September's referendum is not about personalities, you see.

Except when it is. Mr Cameron is Mr Salmond's unwitting - indeed unwilling, too - accomplice. A tool to be used by the nationalists to remind voters that the referendum is a choice between independence and more, long, bleak years of Tory rule. Cameron or freedom?

The more it looks as though the Tories might win in 2015 the happier the nationalists are. Vote No and Get Dave, they say. According to Joan McAlpine, if Scotland votes No it is certain - not possible but certain! - the Conservatives will be returned to power in 2015. And lord knows what whirlwinds of spite and revenge will be unleashed on Scotland then. A new era of Rough Wooing, that's for sure.

Now McAlpine's weekly epistle in the Daily Record is nothing more than propaganda, of course. Being so, it is interesting less for the claims it makes than for what it reveals about the mindset that spawns these claims.

As she puts it:

[I]f the worse happened and we inexplicably bottled it and voted No, who will be most triumphant?

There is absolutely no doubt David Cameron would be crowing. A very posh crow, admittedly, maybe more of a strutting peacock.

He would be the Prime Minister who saved Blighty and, my goodness, would he milk it.

The UK General Election would be in the bag for the Conservatives. They wouldn’t even need the Lib Dems to prop them up and they’d have seen off Ukip as the party of true Brits.

It would be one in the eye for all those Labour politicians who soiled their hands campaigning with the Tories for a No vote.

They will be sidelined in the land of hope and glory-ism that the Tories will orchestrate if the worst happens.

You may object that no evidence is produced to support the claim that a Unionist victory in 2014 will somehow guarantee Cameron a victory in 2015 but if you do you will be missing the point. The assertion, if repeated often and loudly enough, matters more than the fact it's based on nothing more than a hunch or a fear.

It is, of course, possible that Cameron could leverage a successful defence of the Union and use it to assist his party's fortunes next May but there is a great gulf separating could from will. It is all utterly unknowable.

Nevertheless we will hear much more of this. The more Tory prospects improve in England (and Wales) so the prospect of a Tory government in Westminster will be used to send Scots scurrying for the comforts of independence. It's all part of the positive case for independence, don't you know?

Fair enough. All's fair in love, war and politics.

Since the referendum struggle is, at least in part, a battle to enlist disenchanted left-leaning voters in west and central Scotland you can see why the nationalists are cheering Cameron on (though pretending to be appalled, natch). Hope, you see, can only spring from hopelessness and the prospect of a Tory win in 2015 can be used as a kind of cattle prod to shock voters into voting Yes in 2014.

It might just work, as well. Which leaves one to wonder, hypothetically, what Cameron would do if presented with this choice: win in 2014 or win in 2015? That is, would he consider a Labour victory in 2015 a price worth paying for a Unionist victory this September?

As I say, that's not a question he can reasonably be expected to answer but it's one to which it would still be interesting to know the answer. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

It's true that the Nats would spin these lines even if the Tories were 15 points behind Labour on September 18th but nevertheless a Tory recovery in the UK polls is not entirely good news. Every piece of silver has its cloud, if you will, and a stronger Tory party this summer complicates the job, even if only at the margin, in Scotland this September.

In this respect, if only this, Dave may be doing too well, too soon.