Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why the Scottish Tory leader said it's unlikely the Conservatives will win the general election

The possibility of a Conservative victory in 2015 is one of the Yes campaign's biggest trump cards. 

During last night's inter-party Scottish independence debate, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson made an apparently remarkable statement. Asked by an audience member what would happen if there was a No vote in Scotland and then a Yes vote in an in/out EU referendum, she said she wanted the UK to remain in the EU but to secure a better deal. She added that this would become possible if the Conservatives won the general election but that this was "not likely by the polls". 

Confronted by Labour's small but stubborn advantage, many Tories privately conclude the same, but no senior figure has been as blunt as Davidson. She broke one of the iron laws of politics: never talk down your own side's chances. 

But if Davidson's candour was remarkable, it was also understandable. As I have written before, the Yes campaign has long regarded the prospect of a Tory victory in 2015 (a party that famously holds just one seat in Scotland) as one of its biggest trump cards. The poll surge that it has enjoyed since refocusing the campaign on the threat posed to the NHS by the Conservatives (despite health being an entirely devolved issue) and punitive policies such as the bedroom tax suggests it is right to do so. The defection of Labour voters to the Yes camp (from 18 per cent of 2011 supporters to 30 per cent) shows that fear of a Conservative future is outweighing fear of independence. For these reasons, it is profoundly helpful for Davidson to suggest her party is destined for defeat. 

Yet to secure the margin of victory that the No side believe is necessary to avoid a "neverendum", Scottish voters also need to be inspired by the prospect of a Labour victory, as Ed Miliband told yesterday's shadow cabinet meeting. Miliband's social democratic policy agenda - intervention in the broken markets of banking, housing and energy, greater use of the living wage, the abolition of the bedroom tax - is one that should have mass appeal. But something has been lost in translation. The key challenge for the Labour leader when he visits Scotland tomorrow is to change this. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The new caliphate

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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