There’s nothing wrong with a bit of last minute pressure to concentrate the mind, if it produces the right sort of results. The problem is that the pressure of the last few days of the Scottish independence referendum seems to be getting to a lot of the coolest Westminster politicians.
Alistair Darling sounded genuinely unsettled when he sat in the Today programme studio on Monday, and today it was Sir John Major’s turn to sound panicked. The problem with this sort of panic was that the former Prime Minister failed to make much of a positive case for the Union while sounding utterly terrified of the impact of Scottish independence, and utterly exasperated with the questions.
Will the three panicked party leaders make the same mistake when they pop up to Scotland today? They have so far focused on the ‘we desperately want you to stay’ line, but the pressure will feel rather more real as they talk to Scots (and are perhaps heckled by some campaigners, Jim Murphy-style).
Some papers have already dismissed this visit by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband has something they must do but that won’t shift a single vote, while Alex Salmond is painting the trip as something that will shift votes – but in his direction. He will be looking for any slip-up – from another awkward Saltire moment to something bigger – to ridicule the three men from Westminster. If they don’t keep cool heads, they might hand him one such moment.