Quite the most dispiriting article I’ve read in a very long time is this one by Iain Martin arguing that if Scotland votes “Yes” to independence in September’s referendum then David Cameron will still get to stay as Prime Minister.
Like many natural conservatives – including David Bowie – I’m dreading the increasingly likely prospect that Scotland might part company from the United Kingdom. For any number of reasons I believe we would all lose far more from the arrangement than we gained. But even the worst eventualities have their upsides and one of them, I thought, would be this: that as the Prime Minister who failed to keep Scotland in the Union – thanks not least to the complacency of his campaigning efforts against the ruthless, despicable but brilliant Alex Salmond machine – he would be compelled, in all decency, to fall on his sword.
Indeed, until quite recently this was the received wisdom throughout Westminster and the media. And the consolation it has offered those of us who are otherwise appalled at the prospect of a “Yes” vote has been great indeed.
Martin, however, argues that this happy event is by no means guaranteed. Anglo-Scottish relations will be in such a mess, he thinks, that they will require an experienced leader to negotiate the fine detail with Salmond.
Fairly quickly, south of the border, the discussion would arrive atthe question of which person England and the rest of the remaining UKwants to lead for it against Salmond in fraught negotiations. It ispossible that an untested person would emerge from the Tory backbenches,although it is unlikely. Perhaps Osborne would try to take over fromCameron if his friend did quit. That would surely necessitate a messygeneral election in late 2014. Meanwhile, Farage would be jumping up anddown shouting, but he has no MPs. Boris? He’s not going to be inparliament until 2015. Would the Rest of the UK turn at that moment ofchaos and calamity to Ed Miliband? Really?
It looks to me as though it would fall to Cameron to stay as PrimeMinister as the person best-placed to try, calmly, to start clearing upthe mess.
Ah yes. The last refuge of every political scoundrel ever: “I’m not doing this for personal gain, you understand. I’m doing it in the national interest.” I can see Cameron, Machiavellian chancer spiv that he is, seizing that one with alacrity. Falling on your sword may be what a gentleman does when he has brought disgrace on himself and his country. But Cameron is a politician.