One of the many blows landed by Alex Salmond during last night’s debate centred on Alistair Darling’s criticism of the Office of Budget Responsibility, set up in 2010 by George Osborne to provide independent economic forecasts for the Treasury.
The OBR’s numbers have been key to the Better Together’s onslaught on the numerical black holes at the heart of the Yes campaign. Yet Darling was left spluttering that he was ‘taken out of context’ and ‘misquoted’ when Salmond pulled up criticism the Better Together boss had made of the OBR, with a more partisan hat on.
Salmond recited a sentence uttered by Darling in 2010, as far as Mr S can see, entirely accurately: ‘Right from the start the Tories used the OBR not just as part of the government but as part of the Conservative Party.’
Loyal supporters trumpeted this ‘misquoted’ and ‘out of context’ line on social media in the post-match tussle.
But what of that ‘context’ Darling was so quick to bemoan? His attack came after the OBR had watered down growth forecasts, and for good measure, Darling added that ‘they have succeeded in strangling what could have been a good idea at its birth’.
Better Together have made a big deal out of the accuracy of the SNP and Yes campaign’s somewhat dubious interpretations of reality. But there is no point in pretending this is anything other than a fair hit.
With a campaign funded by Tory money and old Labour faces – who are more used to tearing chunks off each other than tweeting platitudes about unity – Mr S is surprised it has taken Salmond this long to exploit partisan differences.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.