Gordon Brown delivers a speech at Scottish Labour campaign headquarters on September 9, 2014 in Glasgow. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Scottish No side ahead by six points in new poll

Yes campaign momentum halted as new survey puts No ahead by 53%-47%. 

After a torturous week, the Scottish No side finally has something to cheer. A new poll by Survation for the Daily Record, the first since last weekend's stunning YouGov poll putting Yes ahead for the first time, has the Unionists in the lead by 53 per cent to 47 per cent (excluding the 10 per cent who are undecided). Those figures are unchanged since the company's last survey on 28 August. 

Significantly, Gordon Brown's dramatic intervention appears to have helped, with just 21 per cent of Labour voters now backing independence, compared to 30 per cent previously. Blair McDougall, the Better Together campaign director, has responded by saying:  "This fight for Scotland's future will go right down to the wire, but it's one we will win.

"Alex Salmond wants us to take so many huge risks - over our pound, pensions and NHS. The last few days have shown that these risks are real. Separation would cost jobs and push up costs for families in Scotland. This is too important for a protest vote. There would be no going back.

"We don't need to take on all these risks. There is a better way for Scotland. We can have more powers for Scotland over tax and welfare, and keep the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. For the sake of future generations we should say No Thanks to separation next week."

As his cautious reaction suggests, it's important to remember this is just one poll and the race remains perilously close. But crucially, and to the Unionists' huge relief, the momentum that the Yes side enjoyed has been halted tonight. 

The nationalists, meanwhile, are highlighting the fact that their support, if the don't knows are included, is at the highest level yet in a Survation poll (42 per cent). Here's the statement issued by Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins: 

"This puts Yes support at its highest yet in a Survation poll when those still undecided are included, and at 47 per cent excluding don’t knows - which confirms we are in touching distance of success next Thursday, and will galvanise all those who are wanting and working for a Yes to redouble their efforts.

"As we say in response to all the polls, we are working flat out to ensure that we achieve a Yes vote, because it’s the biggest opportunity the people of Scotland will ever have to build a fairer society and more prosperous economy.

"It is now abundantly clear that the No campaign parties are offering nothing new in terms of more powers, which fall far short of what Scotland needs. A Yes vote is Scotland’s one opportunity to achieve job-creating powers and protect our NHS from the damaging effects of Westminster privatisation and cuts."

Expect the No side's message to remain the same until 18 September: there is no room for complacency. But tonight, perhaps, there may be no need to panic either. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Wikipedia.
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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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