Wanted: the story of Ellie Gellard

. . . aka @BevaniteEllie.

It was always likely to be a strange day for Ellie Gellard, known to her (3,000-plus) Twitter followers as @BevaniteEllie. Just when you'd expect her to provide a blow-by-blow account of Labour's manifesto launch in 140-character bursts, all went quiet on the Twittersphere.

Why? Because she was there in person, on the podium, introducing the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Not a bad gig for a 20-year-old party activist.

What followed was fairly inevitable. First, her previous online utterings were trawled for something "embarrassing", or at least not on-message (I'm not sure they're the same thing).

Sure enough, this blog post came to light. Judging by the social media audit trail, it looks like Conservative press office researchers got busy pretty quickly: their head of press, Henry Macrory, tweeted it just before 3pm, and it wasn't long before Tory Bear and Iain Dale were following his lead.

Second, she was asked to do a media interview. But, much to the dismay of Sky News, she said no. Nonetheless, expect a smattering of mini-profiles in tomorrow's papers.

(Incidentally, last time she made a mini-splash was when she successfully campaigned to show the "Against the Odds" video as an election broadcast.)

UPDATE (13 April): Sure enough, the Times and the Daily Telegraph have prominent pictures of Gellard on their front pages this morning.

Follow the New Statesman team on Facebook.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.