The ADgenda: No. 7 discovers what colour your face is

Know thyself.

Adverts are designed to make us question the things we see as important, and enlighten us with what we actually need. We didn’t know that shiny new hot-plate holder was a matter of life and death, but it is, and if we don’t buy all those Swiss army-style attachments, our lives are purposeless. No 7 has put out a new gadget designed to tell you the colour of your skin. Of course; it’s so simple! This is what we’ve always needed. Finally, I can discover what colour my face is! They’ve made more than just a make-up product here: this device should be sold to the army and kept a national secret. For it has unfathomable power; No 7 have put an end to the human philosophical struggle of who we are, and cracked the code of the ancient message at the Delphic Oracle “know thyself”. We never know when humanity might need this to combat an existential crisis.

This is the message they employ in their advert. We see a woman working, looking agitated, bursting out of the enclosing walls of her office at the first possible opportunity, stumbling in her concealed excitement, until finally she unlocks the true meaning of her life – her face colour. The nation heaves a sigh of relief as she escapes the pointlessness of a job to receive the true enlightenment of perfect make-up. The fates smile upon humanity as they watch poor, deluded Woman finally achieve the goals of her gender.  Now, with the message unlocked, they transmit the epistle down, soon to be adopted by our omniscient No 7 PR agency: value female appearance before female careers

New gadget. Photograph: Getty Images

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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