Week in Review: Alex Salmond is born slippy

Salmond: Born Slippy
Salmond: Born Sippyl
Ian Dunt By

It's strange to think that in three short years Britain could be out the EU and minus a Scotland.

Perhaps historians will one day describe this period, which often seems subdued and lacking in big political ideas, as a fundamental turning-point in British identity.

It was recess this week, so news was sparse. Flooding is still happening, but everyone has tired of talking about it. There were historic protest movements in Ukraine and Venezuela, but that was overseas so the broadcasters politely tried to avoid the subject.

Instead, what little news there was concerned the slow, unhurried movement of vast tectonic political plates. Underground, there was movement – potentially serious, game-changing movement – on the EU and Scottish independence questions.

Alex Salmond issued a long-awaited kick-back against the double whammy he received last week from George Osborne and Jose Manuel Barroso. He had all weekend to think up how to defend himself from the propositions that currency union was undesirable and EU membership impossible.

Alas, there was precious little new content in the speech. He did not answer the specific questions raised by the interventions and by the end he'd resorted to the cut-and-paste emotive rhetoric about 'Westminster bullying' which he usually deploys. He's a slippery customer. He always has been.

The polls showed the Osborne/Barroso interventions had little effect. The 'yes' camp is very slightly gaining ground. But most analysts believe these developments will really come into play towards the end of the referendum campaign. Referendums tend towards the status quo in the final six weeks, as the negative campaigning really cranks into gear. It's then that fears about currency and the EU will derail the Salmond bandwagon, if at all.

There was intervention of another variety later on, when David Bowie, speaking through his "representative on earth" Kate Moss at the Brit awards, asked Scotland to "stay with us". The comment was made marginally less convincing by the fact that Bowie isn't actually with us at all. He's in America. But anyway. Rocks gods don't face the same level of scrutiny as mere mortals.

You'd have thought that the comment, which was as far away from Osborne's threatening tone as possible, would have been met with a resigned nod of the head, even among those intent on ignoring it. But no, Bowie was savaged online by Scot Nats, as they took to Facebook with promises to burn their Ziggy Stardust vinyls.

It'll get more heated as we approach September. The current tone will look positively genteel by then.

Meanwhile, the great EU debate lumbered on for another interminable week.

A panel of five judges defied the European court of human rights by backing whole-life sentences, in a move which pleased Tory back benchers immeasurably, but did rather pour cold water on the argument that Britain is a helpless slave of Brussels.

Clegg committed himself to leading the 'party of IN', as it says in the sexy new Lib Dem website. Your tolerance for this phrase will depend mostly on whether or not it reminds you of Monty Python's Knights of Ni. If, like me, you cannot disassociate them, you will not be able to take it seriously.

The DPM is preparing for a full knock-down, down-and-dirty fight over the new EU commissioner, once Baroness Ashton steps down. David Cameron will be under pressure to get a Tory backbench favourite in there - someone who seems to be disproportionately angry about everything, like Liam Fox. He could find himself caught, once again, between his backbenchers and his coalition partners.

In a separate move, the deputy prime minister decided to challenge Nigel Farage to a one-on-one debate on the EU. For 24 mistaken hours, Farage did not reply, but got his comms bods to say that Cameron and Ed Miliband should be invited.

He was unwise to dither. It was an invitation which needed to be accepted promptly. The worst possibility thing would be for Farage to seem as if he was not game for a fight.

By the next day, he accepted. It's the political match of the century: stands-to-reason-dog-and-duck common-sense vs eurocrat-robotics. How could anyone resist?

Neither side will emerge victorious, except to their own followers, who speak altogether different languages. It'll be like someone throwing two pebbles at each other. But Farage is the one with the most to lose.


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