I used to be a barman in a pub in Rosyth, where David Cameron is visiting today, and it’s hardly a hotbed of separatism. Its dockyard is not just a reminder of the many defence jobs the Union brings, but of what happens when the work shrinks and the jobs go.
Many of the locals in Cleos were unemployed ex-dockyard workers, and I spent a good chunk of my life hearing them tell me about life and politics. All of them derided the idea of an independent Scotland: they saw it as a quixotic bet that a family man could not afford to place. Mind you, they had a burning hatred for obfuscating politicians who spoke down to them. This was a solidly Labour seat, and had been since Gordon Brown settled down (and even married) a couple of miles away in North Queensferry. But when the boundary review came along, the Liberal Democrats challenged. Brown didn’t fancy what looked like a contested election, Brown found that the new seat he’d be living in had more Liberal Democrats than he felt comfortable with.
Not for the last time, Brown bottled it. Lewis Moonie in the neighbouring constituency suddenly found himself being fitted for ermine. The terminally ill Rachel Squire contested the new Dunfermline and West Fife, and Brown did try to help in the by-election a few months later. But he did it in a way that lectured the locals about all manner of things, reeling of statistics in a way that was designed up pummel people into submission. Labour lost the seat, and Brown ended up living in a Liberal Democrat constituency in an SNP-run country and working in a Tory-controlled city. This should have told Labour something about his effect on elections. Luckily for the Scottish Labour Party, Brown focused on England in 2010 and Dunfermline and West Fife reverted to being a Labour safe seat.
That Brown wants a role in the ‘better together’ pro-union campaign is the best news Alex Salmond has had in ages. Now that the question has been settled, the unionists need to make a quick and discreet executive decision: no Brown.
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