The trouble with bouncing bombs is they might come back to bite you, if you will pardon the mixed metaphor. As the self-proclaimed dambusters strategy continues to wreak havoc in Better Together, and the hunt continues for the mole who leaked the truth about Emperor Osborne’s new clothes, it is worth remembering how this all started.
In the beginning was a slip by Alastair Darling in an interview on Newsnight Scotland with Gordon Brewer in which he said, “”Of course! If you have independence, or separation, of course a currency union is logical.” This was back in January 2013, the Unionists had not yet got the hang of the idea that they might get asked questions about their own position, as opposed to delivering criticism of the very idea of independence.
This was very embarrassing for Alistair. Yes campaign supporters kept raising his statement when he was putting on his stern face and warning about uncertainty.
We will never know how much his own personal exposure on the issue was a motivation, but thanks to The Guardian we do now know that it was Alastair together with Andrew Dunlop, a Tory advisor in Cameron’s office, who came up with the wheeze of the joint “emphatic rejection.” The Treasury had assumed that the UK Government would stick to the “highly unlikely” line. A Treasury source reported in The Guardian said, “Alistair and Andrew are running the show – we just did what they said.”
And then a UK Government Minister let the truth out of the bag about the position on currency union being a tactical ploy that would be up for negotiation if Yes won.
This was very, very embarrassing for Alistair. Worse, opinion polls showed that, even before the leak, the Scottish public did not believe the Unionists on currency union.
Sadly for poor Alistair he did not follow the old adage that when you are in a hole stop digging. His next gaffe was to raise the prospect of a referendum in the rest of the UK on a currency union. He seemed oblivious to the idea that giving rUK a vote on such a deal might require negotiating the framework of a deal, and was totally inconsistent with saying a currency union was not possible. Grasping at straws is the phrase that came to mind as he tried to make up policy on the hoof.
And then today, the icing on the cake. Alistair is reported in The Herald boldly proclaiming that, “it is blindingly obvious the Nationalists are losing the economic argument.” He also reportedly said: “There isn’t going to be a currency union. The question does not arise.” Presumably he has changed his mind again and decided not to ask the voters of rUK in a referendum.
The embarrassment for Alistair continues. At some point the embarrassment of Alistair is going to be too much for Better Together. But lets hope not too soon.
PS Iain Macwhirter in Thursday’s Herald: “His call for an extra referendum on the currency, blurted out on the Today programme on Monday, was batted down by Number 10,” and, “The problem with the whole pound scare is that no-one really believes it, and that forces reasonable people to start saying unreasonable things in order to defend it.”