This week's humbling of the UK's premier business lobby reveals the disorganisation and complacency at the heart of the No campaign, argues David Jamieson
The latest unionist debacle has neatly folded itself into a week of media intrigue. Last Friday news broke that the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the all-singing bells-and-whistles premier UK business lobby had registered with the Electoral Commision as a ‘No’ campaign group in the independence referendum. Today the CBI cancelled it’s registration amid a contagion of high profile desertions and despite bullishly defending the decision throughout the week, whilst half-heartedly claiming the original registration was mistaken.
In order to pre-empt the spin that many media outlets will no doubt put on this, let me clarify that this is the Confederation of British Industry. Not a CBI, not CBI Scotland – the entire outfit. The flagship lobby of British capitalist interests has come a cropper. It isn’t some underling, but the Director-General who is grovelling:
“The CBI is politically independent and impartial. Although the decision to register with the Electoral Commission was taken in good faith, in order to carry out normal activities during the referendum period, it has inadvertently given the impression that the CBI is a political entity – we are not and never will be.”
That’s Director-General speak for “we took an overtly political stance – as we usually do, but this time we got slapped down. What’s happening? What’s happening to this place?”
What’s happening is the independence referendum. The British state, as all the world can now see, is decomposing around the edges. Its world is caving in, and it’s beautiful to watch.
The referendum is gaining a reputation as a giant-killer – having largely shredded the remaining careers of two supposed Westminster heavy-weights. But this is the biggest scalp yet. What else do they have to throw at us?
The list of handwringing, forehead crumpled defectors from CBI is, at the last count, as follows:
Universities: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian, Glasgow, Heriot Watt, Highlands and Islands, Strathclyde
Media: BBC, STV
Public, Private and third sector: Aquamarine Power, Balhousie Care Group, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Skills Development Scotland, The Law Society of Scotland, Visit Scotland
The BBC was the last to fold to the inevitable – which is on the face of it fairly surprising. Given that it is a public service broadcaster and supposedly the most impartial monitor of the referendum, its membership of an aggressively partial right-wing lobby group should be ruled out in principle. The fact of its equivocation in respect of its continued membership of the business union is in itself telling.
And partial CBI will remain – just as they were when they, for example, opposed the minimum wage. They just can’t be open about it anymore. It will be more difficult for them to pour funds into Better Together’s astroturf campaign, at least as the CBI.
All this raises yet more questions about the competency of both Better Together and the British state when it comes to defending the Union. Why are they so ill-prepared? Why do they keep dropping these massive howlers? There have now been so many successive blunders that nobody even seems to be paying attention anymore.
After such a long period of bumbling idiocy from the No campaign the temptation is to write them off as hopeless. However, a big part of their problem so far has been complacency. We shouldn’t mimic them.
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