No sooner had the final results been declared than Labour leader Ed Miliband popped up at a victory speech alongside Alistair Darling, who ran the successful ‘Better Together’ (No) campaign against Scottish Independence.
Instead of celebrating the victory for the union, and instead of representing the countries of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, Darling and Miliband stood in front of a deep red, ‘Scottish Labour Party’ backdrop and began to pat the Labour Party on the back for their hard fought victory.
And there’s no doubt it was hard fought. It had to be hard, because it was so very bad. The Labour Party almost lost Scotland due to its startling campaigning ineptitude, coupled with the fact that it fails to excite anyone, north or south of the border, anymore.
Instead, when panic set in, Labour had to call for Gordon Brown, who is still relatively, albeit bemusingly, popular in Scotland. They had to rely on last minute visits by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, prodding Her Majesty the Queen into a clumsily leaked statement, and dare I say it, even a UKIP rally in the heart of Glasgow to prop them up. With the General Election now in sight, Tory campaign HQ staff must be licking their lips at the thought of taking on such a poor campaign machine.
But instead of humility, instead of reflection, instead of acknowledging that his failure in leadership and his party’s failure to work hand-in-hand with non-Labour supporters to secure the union, Ed Miliband was in full gloating, full spinning mode this morning.
He decided that this referendum was not about Scotland. He decided it wasn’t about the union. No, Ed Miliband decided, in his words, that “this referendum was about the welfare state”, and indeed, the leftward lurch of the Labour Party under his stewardship.
It is this sort of narcissistic, self-obsessed partisanship that caused the need for this referendum in the first place. The parties who have caused the greatest upsets for the Westminster ruling classes are both ‘country first’ and ‘nationalist’ in their outlooks, albeit from different sides of the political spectrum.
The Scottish National Party recognised the desire for Scotland to break away from the Westminster-centric, grey men in even greyer suits. Remember, though the result was decisive, the difference between the two camps was just 383,937 votes. That’s basically the number of people registered to vote in one city in Scotland: Edinburgh.
UKIP, in the rest of the country (and to be fair a little bit in Scotland too) has also recognised this disconnect, and is setting out proposals to rectify it. Rumour has it that at its conference next week we will hear much more about UKIP’s localism agenda, about the structures it plans to put in place to return power to the public, and remove it from career politicians and bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, Miliband and co are trying to consolidate support around what they believe people really want: diktats, authority, welfare, European integration, and high taxes, the latter of which they describe as “investment in the NHS/social services/etc etc”.
Instead of realising that this referendum was about disillusionment, and disenfranchisement, the Westminster classes will choose only to reflect on what happened post-5am on September 19th 2014.
“We won,” they’ll toast in London’s champagne bars tonight. Never realising that what lurks around the corner, be it in another Scottish referendum bid, or a decimation of many of their candidates at the general election next year, has been on the cards for a very long time. If only they were humble enough to flip them over, instead of, like a drunken blackjack player, hitting on a hard 17 that they didn’t even know was there.