Monday, May 21, 2012
Is Tony Blair the right man to keep Scotland in the Union?
I suspect that Alex Salmond will have been quietly chuckling into his porridge at the news of Alistair Darling's comments that Tony Blair will have an important role in the "No" campaign for the Scots independence referendum.
There was a time when Tony Blair was popular with many people throughout the UK including Scotland, and the image he presented of a fresh, modern leader, more open and inclusive, honest and free from sleaze, had a great deal of appeal. He maintained that appeal for a long time, which is how he won three consecutive general elections - a feat which only Margaret Thatcher in the modern era ever equalled.
Unfortunately for the Blair legend, too much of the reality of his administration eventually seeped into the public awareness for him to retain that popularity - and I suspect that is as true in Scotland as it is in the rest of Britain.
I hope for the sake of an honest debate about the best interests of Scotland that the "No" campaign is led by authentic Scottish figures whose personal history does not detract attention from the advantages and disadvantages of staying part of the UK. For Tony Blair to take more than a supporting role would risk just such a distraction.
How to respond to a joke: and how not to
Still on the subject of Scots independence, do you remember that a few weeks ago when "The Economist" magazine published a front cover about the economic consequences with the title "It'll cost you" with featuring a map of Scotland with various pessimistic spoof names like "The Grumpians" and "Edinborrow (twinned with Athens)" the Scots Nats all went ballistic? The usually more astute Mr Salmond even suggested that the Economist would "rue the day" they had a joke at Scotland's expense.
I thought at the time that the Economist cover was a potential own goal but the SNP over-reaction to it was probably a worse one, and was sure that this wasn't the first time that the Economist had run that kind of cover.
Sure enough, during a clearout of my house this weekend what should I find but a back number of "The Economist" from 2011 anticipating the US "State of the Union" address which played exactly the same trick on a map of America: Barak Obama was pictured looking forlornly at a map of the USA with pessimistic spoof names such as "No Hopeshire" for New Hampshire, "Washedup" for Washington (state), "Taxes" for Texas, "Virgin on the ridiculous" for Virginia, etc, etc, etc.
The Economist sells a lot more copies in the USA than it does in Scotland, but funnily enough I don't recall that cover producing anything like the furore than the Scottish cover did. I'm pretty sure President Obama didn't say the magazine would rue the day they made a joke at America's expense.
Nine times out of ten the best way to respond to a good joke is to laugh, and to a bad one, to ignore it.