You may have noticed that Westminster’s three main party leaders are on what must be the world’s most stressful road-trip around Scotland today. Rather than visiting whiskey distilleries, going on ghost tours or merrily gorging on butteries, they are trying to stop the Scots voting Yes.
Their pleas to referendum voters are the political equivalent of standing in a bedraggled wedding dress outside Scotland’s window, in the driving Caledonian rain, mascara pouring down your cheeks and violins of doom surging in the background. This emotion led to David Cameron’s desperate act of self-deprecation earlier today, acknowledging that Scotland tends to want to give the “effing Tories” a kick.
Then it was Ed Miliband’s turn. His speech focused on arguments from the “head, heart and soul”:
Head: because I believe we can better create a more equal, a more socially just society together than we can alone.
Heart: because of the ties that bind us together and would be irreversibly broken by separation.
And soul: because it is solidarity that built the great institutions like our National Health Service and can tackle the great injustices of our time.
It smacked a bit of last-minute, seminar-room-concocted triadic structure. But it was the “soul” that really stood out – because he seemed to equate “soul” with the “the spirit of the Labour party”. This was where his argument was most convincing.
Although acknowledging that he’s not a Scot, and doesn’t have a vote, he drew on his own personal experience – of being born to immigrants and growing up under a Tory government.
Here’s the passage:
I am not a Scot.
I don’t have a vote.
But I do care passionately about the outcome of this referendum.
I care because of the values that motivate me as a person, the reasons I am in politics.
My parents were immigrants, Jews who fled from the Nazis.
They taught me a faith that you should not just get angry about injustice but you should do something about it.
I grew up in the 1980s against the backdrop of the Miners’ strike and Mrs Thatcher.
I saw communities ripped apart by unemployment.
I hated what she was doing to our country and that’s why I joined the Labour Party at 17.
I marched against the poll tax.
And today I feel an immense sense of pride to lead the party I joined then, more than twenty five years ago.
My argument for Scotland to say no starts from the belief in tackling injustice wherever we find it.
Miliband’s strategy of pitting social justice, the NHS, and being a Labour voter against independence may be too late to sway voters that have settled on a Yes. And it may be unsubtle. But Alex Salmond’s tactic of talking down the Tories has worked for him, so talking up Labour to the same audience might just do a bit of good for Miliband.