Last week, in an attempt to stop the tribal anti-Toryism in Scotland pushing voters towards the Yes camp, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson declared that it was not “likely” that her party would win the general election. Today, in his speech in Edinburgh, David Cameron went even further and told Scots that they would have other opportunities to give “the effing Tories” a kick.
Sometimes, because it’s an election, because it’s a ballot, I think people can feel it’s a bit like a general election. That you make a decision and five years later you can make another decision. If you’re fed up with the effing Tories give them a kick, and then maybe we’ll think again. This is totally different. This is a decision about, not the next five years, but the next century.
It is a mark of Cameron’s desperation that he is prepared to so explicitly acknowledge his party’s toxic brand, but will it help or hinder the No campaign? The PM’s words could remind voters of precisely the point he made: that the referendum is not a judgement on one government, but on a 307-year-old Union.
Alternatively, they could be seen as profoundly patronising (many Yes supporters want to kick Westminster, not just the Tories) and another sign of panic. Cameron’s comments will also surely be clipped by the nationalists to make it appear that he simply declared: “If you’re fed up with the effing Tories give them a kick”. The obvious rejoinder is that Scotland has regularly kicked the Tories but has still had to endure years of Conservative government.
Yet at this desperately late stage, the PM is probably right that the biggest risk is not to take any.