I decided to do my bit for the television party political broadcast in a field with our dairy cows in the background. The sun is shining and, by chance, they are grazing one of the paddocks that has Criffel, the South of Scotland’s most beautiful mountain, in the background.
Gayatri (George’s wife) is behind the camera and despite being outside her comfort zone, gamely scrambles under the electric fence and gingerly picks her way in patent leather ankle boots between the cowpats to set up.
It takes several takes as each time I launch into my soliloquy the cows come up and start nuzzling me, so that we get the giggles. Gayatri clearly thinks I must be St Francis of Assisi. I have to explain that dairy cows are very tame as they are handled every day, whereas if they were beef cows they might have attacked us.
I take the opportunity to make another video explaining how vulnerable the dairy industry is to a hard Scexit. There is nowhere near enough processing capacity to deal with all the milk produced in Scotland. Thousands of litres of milk go south as far as the English Midlands each day. A hard border at Gretna would be a disaster. Farmers are also terrified of the SNP’s currency plans (or lack of them) as we all have large loans in Sterling, which we would be hard pushed to service in any new, devalued currency.
The trolling by other unionists continues apace on Twitter. Apparently we are responsible for ‘splitting the vote’. One minute they accuse us of being a threat to their parties, the next minute they say we are not going to get any votes anyway. Hmm! It’s as if Tesco, Morrisons and Asda are telling consumers not to shop at Aldi as it might depress their market share.
There are actually thirteen pro-UK parties standing on the list in this election. If All for Unity had not launched a charm offensive last year to try to get all Unionists under one banner, there would be seventeen, because the Scottish Unionist Party, Workers Party, Reclaim and the Scottish Christian Party would all be contesting this election, but we are never given any credit for that.
We tried very hard to get the leaders of three other small parties to subordinate their egos for the greater good, but sadly they declined. They know who they are.
I now understand why previously friendly Tories on Twitter and party drones like Henry Hill and Stephen Daisley are attacking us so aggressively. A Tory, disgusted by the party’s arrogant sense of entitlement to list seats inherent in its attacks on A4U, has sent me a leaked document entitled ‘Rolling Brief: Scottish Parliament Election 2021’ produced by the Scottish Conservative Research Department (I wish we had one of those).
It tells party members to accuse us of ‘splitting the unionist vote’ and encourages ad hominem attacks on George for his previous speeches in support of a united Ireland. I think most voters are sophisticated enough to understand that Ireland and Scotland are not the same at all, with very different histories and a completely separate set of circumstances.
Nevertheless, it makes us a target for the more extreme type of unionist, which is a frustration for those of us who risked our lives to keep the peace in Northern Ireland, ironically while the young journalists attacking us were still at primary school.
The leaker’s assumption is that the Tories’ internal polling is showing All For Unity doing far better than they expected. They would rather have ignored us. There is a rather naïve assumption among their more unquestioning followers that A4U will simply evaporate if they keep attacking us. They forget that George Galloway is too big a beast not to have an impact and if they were to be successful in keeping A4U below the level at which we would win seats, it wouldn’t help the unionist cause.
It would be better to get behind us so that our votes, which are not divided by any d’Hondt handicap, are leveraged to the maximum. They also forget that for every one person in Scotland who supports the Tories there are four who don’t, so making A4U their enemy risks making lots of other voters our friends.
The Tory strategy is to get everyone to give ‘both votes Tory’, which flies in the face of every bit of tactical voting advice. It seems to be rather like circling the wagons and hoping the Apaches have run out of arrows. Sometimes, I despair.
As the campaign progresses I am more and more impressed by our candidates. It has been a risky business selecting fifty six people with whom to stand shoulder to shoulder, particularly, as unlike any other party, we have gone out of our way to try and represent just about every viewpoint as long as it isn’t nationalist. It has been astonishing to see how socialists and capitalists, Protestants and Catholics, townies and countrymen have all pulled together.
We have resisted the temptation to be too prescriptive in telling our candidates what to say and this has led to the flowering of some great talents on Youtube videos– Catherine McCall’s impassioned defences of free speech, Niall Fraser’s oratorical brilliance on the subject of SNP perversions, Charlotte Morley like a tigress in defence of her cubs, and many more. I feel sure that whatever the result of the election Scotland will not have seen the last of these people.
A leading member of the paperazzi turns up at George’s to try and get some photographs to sell and we do a photo shoot on his lawn holding up A4U placards. George then mounts his soap box for some oratory for video and delivers a virtuoso performance, off the cuff, no notes, one take. Respect.
He then remembers that he has to be at the surgery for his second Covid vaccination. It’s a reminder that he is old enough to be Sturgeon’s, Ross’s or Sarwar’s father. I tell him that from now on he will be known as ‘Two Jags George.’
To be continued…
Jamie Blackett is leader of All for Unity (the Alliance for Unity). Follow him on Twitter @Jamie_Blackett.