The Queen warned Scottish voters to "think carefully". Photo: Getty
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Scottish referendum: how the Queen was asked to intervene amid fears of a Yes vote

The Guardian reveals the negotiations that led to the Queen's intervention ahead of the Scottish independence vote.

A few days before the Scottish independence referendum, the Queen warned Scottish voters to "think very carefully about the future". It was the first time she had expressed a view on the vote, and came after reports that she had "a great deal of concern" about the prospect of a Yes vote, following narrowing polls.

The Guardian, which is telling the behind-the-scenes story of "how the Union was saved", reveals the delicate negotiations behind the monarch's intervention.

Its reporting uncovers that when the Queen spoke publicly, it was after she had been urged by senior Whitehall officials who were acting on David Cameron's concerns about the Yes camp developing a rapid last-minute momentum. The government figures suggested the Palace that it would be helpful to the No cause for the Queen to intervene.

The conversations took place between the Cabinet Secretary very close to the Prime Minister, Sir Jeremy Heywood, and Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen's Private Secretary. They initially discussed the wisdom of the Queen speaking out at all, considering how meticulously impartial she has been throughout her reign. The Guardian reports that "the Queen was minded to speak out", which meant the two negotiators then had to work out a way in which she could do so, in the most neutral way possible.

The report also reveals that the PM had discussed the upcoming referendum with the monarch during a stay at Balmoral a week before she spoke publicly. On the last day of his stay, the shock YouGov poll that was the first to put the Yes side ahead, by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, was published. 

This revealing inside take on the build-up to the referendum quotes a Whitehall source, who explains how delicately the Queen's comments were planned:

She knew exactly what she was doing, which is, there are two possible responses on the referendum. [They are] either: one, you buy into this is a fantastic festival of democracy, or two, you suggest this is a decision filled with foreboding. So by saying I hope people will think carefully you imply the second. So if they’d said: ‘What do you think of the referendum ma’am?’ and she’d said: ‘Oh it’s lovely’, that would be very different. Without her taking a side, it cast just the right element of doubt over the nature of the decision.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.