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You love us, but what about independence?

THE instant I begin to listen to a celebrity handing out political advice, I wonder where and how I suffered the concussion.

If I'm paying the slightest attention, only a dunt to the back of the head could explain my lapse. This is what they call a non-partisan observation.

It doesn't matter how talented the individual is, how charming, or even - this might be the important part - whether I agree with what is being said. I harbour the quaint notion that people should arrive at political opinions under their own steam. The fact that I saw you on TV once is really neither here nor there.

Celebrities, as we are forced to call them, aren't entirely to blame. They are entitled to their opinions, obviously enough. They are certainly entitled to voice those opinions. But most of the entertainers I used to meet in the line of duty were sensible enough to realise that first, their expertise was limited, and secondly their views carried no more weight, on a one-person one-vote basis, than yours or mine.

Political parties don't see things that way. This tells us something about how they see the rest of us. They go after celebrities with the zeal of teenage stalkers. They flatter entertainers into believing they can "make a difference". In a world in which only giant egos survive, they manage to persuade those in the public eye that they have a duty to spread the word - whatever the word happens to be.

It's a bit silly. After all, it depends on the fiction that somehow we know and therefore trust him out of that boy band, or her from that TV soap. Since most of us don't trust politicians in the slightest, you can see how the fantasy begins. Reality continues to insist, nevertheless, that bolting a few celebs on to a campaign has rarely made much of a difference to the outcome.

This has not deterred Let's Stay Together, the latest of the outfits campaigning for a No vote. This spontaneous grass-roots effort has gathered together its quota of celebrities for the sake of a frankly weird video message sending love to Scotland and the Scots - even if it has not yet managed, at the time of writing, to get itself on the Electoral Commission's register of permitted participants in the referendum. But let's not be pedantic.

Agree or disagree, isn't it sweet to see a campaign that "brings together people of all political persuasions, from every community and corner of Britain, from all backgrounds and interests, to express how much we value the United Kingdom and Scotland as part of it"? Isn't it refreshing, after all the negative Better Together stuff, to hear from those who "believe that the key missing message is a positive, emotional one: not telling the Scottish electorate what to do or what not to do, but telling them how we feel about Scotland, about being part of the UK and about our collective place in the world"?

The answers probably depend on how you feel about having your choices put through the Labour spin cycle. Inadvertently, the video itself is very funny. In terms of content, it makes a case for the UK based on Scots in the military, the London 2012 Olympics and the fact that some people will find the world confusing if we vote for independence. But that's it. You will hear no mention of Trident or currencies or European Union membership.

You will hear no mention of Labour, either. Nor will you find mention of the party on the Let's Stay Together website. Only in the small print at the foot of the page will you see: "Promoted by John Braggins, 63-64 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SW on behalf of Let's Stay Together." It's not a name that will mean much to many people, especially as the website has managed to omit any reference to his firm.

That company would be bbm campaigns, of which Braggins is a founder and director. His firm describes him, with no little pride, as having once been "Labour's 'secret weapon', helping Labour win virtually every parliamentary by-election in the 10-year period leading up to the Tony Blair landslide victory of 1997". Braggins is an "expert in campaign planning and message development". That's handy, no doubt, when you're just plain folks speaking from the heart.

Meanwhile, we discover that Let's Stay Together itself is the brainchild of a pair of concerned voters named Andrew McGuinness and MT Rainey. That would be the Andrew McGuinness of the agency Beattie McGuiness Bungay. He was also the chairman of the Advertising Association who, in 2011, agreed to chair a Labour "creative network", a decision welcomed by Ed Miliband and described by the party as "a coup".

That would also be the noted entrepreneur Mary Teresa Rainey, she who chairs an agency called Th_nk (really), the same Rainey who last year accepted Margaret Curran's invitation to lead a Scottish Labour employment taskforce. The letsstaytogether.org.uk domain was registered in May of this year, it so happens, by Th_nk's Newcastle office.

Just a homespun campaign, then, inspired by everyday advertising folk, driven by the conviction that "most people in England, Northern Ireland and Wales don't want Scotland to leave the UK". The video itself is produced by Silverfish Media, the London outfit responsible for Labour's main 2010 party political broadcast.

When you actually get down to the Let's Stay Together movie, and once you understand that you are to be simpered over by people "from all backgrounds and interests" who just happen to be celebrities, you begin to wonder about the cast list. It doesn't take long to spot clues.

There's the very funny Eddie Izzard, Labour supporter and possible candidate for London mayor. There's the singer and actor John Barrowman, confessed Labour voter. There's Ross Kemp, below, who made a no-nonsense campaign video for the party in 2010. Then there's Richard Wilson, a Labour supporter of many years standing. There's Tony - now Sir Tony - Robinson, a party activist for decades. There's Fiona Phillips, once of GMTV and Labour's first choice candidate in last year's Eastleigh by-election, who was offered a peerage by Gordon Brown. And there's Doreen Lawrence, who accepted such a peerage.

Noticed a pattern? True, the video-makers have not been completely obtuse. It's doubtful that Trinny and Susannah have infiltrated these proceedings from the left, for example. But any idea that this is a spontaneous outpouring is hokum. In fact, as has been pointed out since David Cameron's "lovebombing" speech, the "Please Don't Go" riff is lifted wholesale from the No side in the last Quebec referendum in Canada. Labour thinks so much of us, it can't even stretch to original thinking.

All these people who love Scots dearly have left it a bit late, I'd have thought. Even if the emotions are sincere, I wish they'd spare us. I don't mind what they think about me. I do mind what they think about a country's right to self-determination. Let's Stay Together is a Labour front yet Labour, strangely enough, doesn't want to say so.

That part I do love.

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Local government

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