In a nation where politics is understood to pivot on the weekly theatrical show at Prime Ministers Questions, the loss to Westminster of not just the PM, but the deputy PM and leader of the opposition may have led to a seismic change in our politics. Instead of the theatre of PMQs we had the theatre of a PM pleading with a small proportion of the electorate, not to leave an arrangement that has worked so well for so long! Further down the road his opposite number was making a plea of his own. The impact of this behaviour will reverberate for many months and potentially into decades, irrespective of the outcome of the momentous referendum. We have got used to our Political Leaders telling us that they know what we are thinking and how our comments on the doorstep have endorsed their own position. All of a sudden they seem to be trying to influence some of the voters and asking them to make a decision based, not on their own judgement, but rather on what these political leaders believe is best for the country.
In part this changed behaviour reflects how much the leaders of the main two political parties rely on being on the winning team or the runner up whatever the decision taken in the country. Most of the time our decisions in General Elections reflects the dynamic in the parties. After 18 years of Tory rule, frankly they were desperate to face time in opposition. They may have wished that the 1997 election would have been less harsh, but everyone knew change was happening. The same was true in 2010. Whilst the outcome of the election was unpredictable because of the electoral maths, no one expected Labour to win, nor for Conservative to win convincingly. These leaders never really face defeat, they never really lose. Sometimes they can achieve more in opposition than in Government. However the referendum is different. What is shocking is that they appear to have only just worked that out for themselves. Perhaps that reflects complacency that No was a done deal until a few weeks ago?
In just over a weeks time, the referendum outcome will be known. Whatever the impact in Scotland and indeed across the UK of the vote, our own politics feels as though it has changed in tone as well as substance. The promise by Gordon Brown to give away significant powers in the event of a No vote, a promise endorsed by William Hague as third man in the PMQs spotlight, will change the substance of a United Kingdom in England as well as Scotland. Yesterday showed that the tone used by these leaders when addressing an electorate with a real chance to change the way the country works is also very different. All that is needed is to ensure that future elections all have the potential to change the way our nation works.