David Cameron and Alex Salmond attend the Drumhead Service on June 25, 2011 in Edinburgh. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why Cameron has said he won't resign if Scotland votes for independence

Aside from his own preservation, any hint that he would depart would aid the Yes campaign. 

For weeks, Westminster has been awash with speculation that David Cameron will resign if Scotland votes for independence (I was one of the first to report the story here). There would be no constitutional requirement for him to do so (we would, after all, be in uncharted territory) but the loss of the 307-year-old Union, combined with the fact that Cameron initiated the vote, means many regard it as the only honourable course to take. 

Today's Daily Mail, however, reports that whatever the outcome on 18 September, the PM will remain in office. The paper's James Chapman writes that Cameron has told friends he has "no intention" of resigning if Scotland votes for independence. One source comments:

Better Together is cross-party, so this doesn’t arise. He would not resign - definitely not.

In Scotland, Labour is the big, dominant political force. Does Ed Miliband have to resign too if there’s a yes vote? The SNP was elected with a clear majority in the Scottish parliament having said they would hold a referendum.

We either moved ahead with that referendum or we blocked it. Do people really think the Prime Minister could have said to the people of Scotland: 'You may have voted in favour of having a referendum but you can’t have one?'

Aside from Cameron's own interest in his preservation, there is one other reason why the Tories are keen to kill the speculation. Any hint that he would resign would only serve to energise the nationalists and encourage a Yes vote. Alex Salmond would be able to boast that not only would he free his country from Westminster, but that he would topple the prime minister in the process. And Cameron, as he self-deprecatingly remarked at a recent PMQs, is a man whose appeal "does not stretch to all people in Scotland" (where the Tories have just one MP). 

Assuming that this is no bluff (as nationalists will claim it is), we are left with the oddity that Cameron has made it clear that he will resign if he is unable to deliver an EU referendum by 2017, but that he won't if he loses the Union.

The issue, however, is likely to remain hypothetical. Despite the recent excitable commentary, the reality remains that the No side retains a comfortable average lead of eight points and that the Yes campaign has not led in a single poll. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Birmingham Labour members were almost disenfranchised, until Corbyn intervened

Newer members were to be denied a say in selecting candidates.

For decades, Labour members in Birmingham have had to wait for a year after joining the party to vote to select local candidates – unlike the six-month national rule. New ward boundaries for Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe, will be contested for the first time next year during an all-out election – and a reduction from 120 to 101 members means every Labour candidate, including sitting councillors, must be selected.

However, Labour’s Birmingham Board decided that to vote in the upcoming selection meetings, members must have been in the party for a year prior to their call for candidate applications in 2016. As a result, if you wanted to have a say, the cut-off date for being a party member was July 2015: two years ago.

It took the intervention of Jeremy Corbyn turning up at an obscure local meeting in order to vote for this two-year cut-off date to be replaced by a six-month minimum period. This has enfranchised the vast majority of Labour members, many of whom were increasingly annoyed with the original decisions taken by the Birmingham Board.

One of those who would have been disenfranchised if the board had had its way is Birmingham councillor Liz Clements, who re-joined the party as soon as Corbyn was first elected leader in 2015. Twenty years ago, she was an Oxfordshire County Councillor, and, in 1999, a European parliamentary candidate. While studying at at Oxford, in the same year as Yvette Cooper, she chaired the university Labour Club for a term in 1989. This year she was selected to contest the marginal Hall Green ward in a by-election, and, had the original rules been in place, she would have been unable to vote for herself (or anyone else) to be selected for council elections next year.

She says: “For me it was simply a matter of fairness and democracy. I couldn’t understand why the national rule wasn’t being applied. I found it very odd that I could seek selection as a councillor and get elected before I’d be eligible to vote in a selection meeting myself.”

She feels the two-year cut-off would have sent a message to new joiners and re-joiners alike that they were “second-class members”.

"During the general election we succeeded in firing up our membership with enthusiasm for the Labour manifesto and for our Labour candidates – people came out to campaign in large numbers. The proposed freeze date was divisive and would have discouraged newer members from campaigning in next year’s council elections.”

Before the Birmingham Board met, a large number of branch and constituency-level Labour groups passed motions calling for the freeze date to be scrapped. Councillor Clements was not at the Board’s meeting, so can’t comment on why they chose to ignore the members. From speaking with other party members, it's clear there was a widespread belief that this was done deliberately so unpopular councillors could cling to power.

With every ward holding selection meetings, there is am opportunity to clear out the dead weight and for fresh talent to revitalise the council, which is currently struggling to keep up with the austerity cuts imposed by central government. Some sitting councillors are retiring or facing scrutiny of their records, and may not even be shortlisted for selection. The Birmingham Board, after all, can veto any candidate before selection, including current councillors with poor attendance and casework records.

It therefore isn’t surprising that Councillor Clements doesn’t believe these rule changes will actually result in different candidates being selected. For her, it was about Labour values. “Corbyn listened to members and asserted the importance of democracy, fairness and inclusion”.

One reason it is arguable the selected candidates would remain the same is that Birmingham is struggling to attract enough people to stand for selection in the first place. There is, particularly, a shortage of women putting themselves forward. Liam Byrne MP is understood to have suggested relaxing the Labour Party rule demanding that at least one woman in selected in multi-member seats. It would be an extremely unpopular decision with many members, but there aren’t currently enough women candidates for the 32 two-member wards.

Councillor Clements says we should stick to the party’s rules as they are, but we need more women and BAME candidates. There are other options being suggested; re-opening nominations if no women have declared an interest in time, allow some wards to select two men if a neighbouring single-member ward selects a woman, relax the rule entirely, demand local parties re-advertise the space and find women candidates, or something else entirely.

Selections are underway, but most will take place in September, as many wards now need to find larger venues to hold the meetings. This will give candidates eight months to campaign before the Birmingham City Council elections next May.

Its current (and likely future) leader, John Clancy will almost certainly remain in post. Results from the general election showed many areas, previously thought to be unwinnable or marginal for Labour, have become either safe or eminently winnable. If Labour can keep itself above 40 per cent in the polls, we may well see a huge influx of new councillors representing people across Birmingham. The difference now Corbyn has stepped in, is that there is a real chance most candidates and councillors will be united by a belief in Corbyn, and his manifesto.

David Barker is a writer and journalist based in Birmingham, and press officer for Bournville Labour Party