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In event of a No vote, will it be Osborne wot won it?

SOMEWHERE over the rainbow is a man who lives in splendid isolation.

This sunny soul ploughs a carefree furrow, unburdened by the cynicism that corrodes the hearts of so many of us. Yea, while we walk through the valley of deceit, he is as innocent as a newborn spring lamb, his way guided by bluebirds singing merrily.

But contacted yesterday, even this guileless numpty thought the 2014 Budget was a shameless political bribe.

Perhaps one day, our innocent abroad will come to admire Chancellor George Osborne the way the Conservative Party currently does. Can it only be two years ago that the Chancellor delivered a budget that fell apart like damp toilet tissue before the day was out? Today, having delivered radical reform of pensions and generous boosts for savers, he is being regarded by his Tory brethren as all-conquering. From omnishambles to omnipotent in the space of 24 months: that is a Usain Bolt-like dash for glory.

Indeed, so impressive has Mr Osborne been in trying to secure a general election victory for the Tories in 2015, and before that in throwing a spanner in the works of the Yes campaign with his "no" to a currency union, that in years to come historians might look back at these last few months and reckon that it was Osborne wot won it in both instances.

That is Osborne, not Darling, not Cameron, not Lamont, not Bowie, and definitely not Eddie Izzard and his "Scotland, Please Don't Go" initiative. Mr Izzard, a comedian, is by all accounts a lovely chap. Though he has toured all over Scotland, one suspects, to use the immortal words of Ken Dodd, he has never had to play second house at the Glasgow Empire on a Friday night. Following his intervention, however, he is now getting a flavour of that experience on Twitter.

Back to the newly gorgeous George. There has been some rain on his parade, notably from the Institute for Fiscal Studies about how the pension reforms will play out and how much they will raise, and from those worried that all those lump sums coming the way of pensioners will be spent at one time in just one sweet shop. Like a generous grandparent forced to convince parents that the grandkids really will use their Christmas cash wisely, Mr Osborne insisted that people who had saved throughout their lives should be trusted to make their own decisions. Fears that the streets could be full of destitute pensioners begging for enough money for a cup of Earl Grey, or mugging youngsters at cashpoints, were brushed aside like so many bad headlines from two years ago.

No wonder the Eds were scratching their collective heads for an effective response. Whatever they say on this one, Mr Miliband and Mr Balls cannot win. Arguing that people should have less freedom with their own money is about as crass as the Tories running adverts celebrating the cutting of taxes on beer and bingo so that "hardworking people can do more of the things they enjoy". What, no whippet racing, filling t'bath with coal, or dying prematurely? Central Office really had the old Etonian finger on the pulse with that one.

The two Eds have been Osborned the way the Scottish Government was nutmegged on a currency union. No ifs, buts, maybes, just "pick the bones out of that". While brutal, the Chancellor's actions have been widely held to be highly effective. But are they?

While older and better off voters in general are celebrating what they see as gains, younger members of the electorate could be forgiven for despairing at this sharing of the spoils. The gap between the young have-nots and the older haves has just become a chasm. Prospects that before seemed dim - from home ownership to getting a decent job - now appear to be receding ever further.

But then, as we know from a poll for The Herald this week, if a politician is going to ignore the needs of any sector of the electorate, young voters are the ones to choose. Why? Because as far as the independence referendum is concerned, many young voters are up in their bedrooms with the headphones on. Shout as much as you like about a historic vote, a once in a lifetime decision, posterity knocking on the door, people dying for the right to do what they are eschewing - they cannot hear you, daddio and mummio.

The independence referendum and the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds was supposed to boost political engagement by the young. Yet in the TNS Scotland survey for The Herald, some 49% of 16-34 year olds polled rated themselves as not terribly interested in the debate. Are they bovvered? It would seem not. This is despite both sides in the campaign spending time, effort and a little bit of cash on raising their profile through social media, meant to be the communications mode of choice for younger voters, and the internet. Little appears to be getting through, unless the internet is generating even shorter attention spans than we feared, and campaigning messages are flying in one ear and out the other with the swoosh and speed of emails. This is the generation that will have to live with the consequences of the vote on September 18 longer than many of the rest of us, but so far they do not see this referendum as important. Both sides of the campaign, and Scotland in general, should be concerned about that.

One would like to think youth engagement in the referendum was high on the list of Mr Osborne's concerns as September 18 looms. In reality, his focal point is more likely to rest where it usually does for ambitious politicians - on that celebrated bigger picture. Whatever your views on the depth of affection the Conservatives at Westminster hold for Scotland, and what they stand to gain if "red Scotland" does go its own way, there is a large part of the party which could not bear it if Scotland was lost to the Union on their watch. Such a defeat so close to a general election would be embarrassing beyond endurance. Canny old George, the Conservative's answer to Nicola Sturgeon when it comes to a politician with an eye on the top job, has done his utmost to save his party that humiliation, be it through courting those in receipt of pensions (a constituency the Scottish Government has done woefully little to reassure about independence), or the whisky industry. And there was Boris thinking that if he made a success of the London mayoral job for long enough that he would be a shoo-in for Tory leader.

But doing enough to convince one's party that the Union is safe and prospects for the 2015 general election are shaping up nicely is not the same as getting votes in the bag. In Scotland, the gap in the polls has narrowed, albeit slightly, since Mr Osborne's currency intervention. That would suggest the Yes campaign should respond forthwith with their own version of Project Fear, to wit: "Vote No and get George Osborne for Tory leader and PM."

Youth of Scotland, get those headphones off: you are missing all the fun.

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