Like the rest of his male, pale, and very, very stale front bench, Dave is locked into body swerve mode on pretty much every key issue. And as issues go, they rarely get bigger than this Autumn's referendum on Scottish independence. If Dave was any kind of leader, he'd be all over the campaign. For a man who said yesterday that we have "seven months to save the most extraordinary country in history", he has been remarkably mute about this referendum.
Far be it for me to advise Dave, but the vote provides a golden opportunity. Sure, not many people in Scotland likes Tories but, from a cynical point of view, having him swashbuckle his way through the lowlands and highlands, facing down Alex Salmond in a live debate, being seen *to listen* to grievances of ordinary Scots. it could allow him to project himself as a national figure - a Prime Minister for all Britons. If he was to take such a lead and the No Campaign won, he could reap considerable political capital as the Man Who Saved the UK. That would be his legacy, not the bedroom tax. He might even get himself re-elected in 2015.
Unfortunately for those who wish Scotland to remain with the rest of us (that includes me), the biggest asset the Yeses have is David Cameron and the worthies of Official Britain who line up with him. The historical crisis of the leadership of the ruling class has landed us a Prime Minister who couldn't be less suited to bat for a voluntary union of peoples. Thatcher was a class war premier, but she was canny. She constructed a flag-draped narrative pitting 'the nation' against the 'enemy within'. It was plausible enough for the support needed to return her to government and to see off organised labour, even if it was poppycock. And it all came apart when she departed significantly from this "one nation" course with the introduction of the Poll Tax. Remind me, which part of the UK served as a laboratory for it?
Dave, however, is neither as sharp or as lucky as Thatcher was. His mob are of the school that they don't just believe what they say, they take flight from anything inconvenient rudely intruding into their field of vision. They probably really do think austerity means "we're all in it together", just don't show them a cumulative impact assessment of social security cuts. I'm sure Dave is sincere in his belief that he acts in the nation's best interest. The problem is his idea of 'the nation' coincides with the most backward, most decadent sections of British capital. Dave's government is very far from being the "committee for the common affairs of the bourgeoisie", let alone representing the interests of everyone else. And the thing is, most Scots know this. They know the Tories are not for the likes of them, which is why they return one Conservative MP out of 72 to Westminster.
That's one big problem. Here's another. What compelling reason is there for Scotland to stay? Okay, naysayers can point out what kind of independence involves keeping the Queen, the pound, and nuclear submarines. You can argue that it's a bit silly letting the Bank of England and the Treasury control your economic fates, semi-colonial-stylee. Scotland might be less able to weather the headwinds of global capital and could find the path to EU membership a tortuous one. Some business might relocate south of the border to remain in EU territory until that is sorted out. And Scotland will have to take The Krankies back. Yes, some might want to frighten Scottish voters into casting no ballots. But, sadly, that's all Better Together have got. Just look at Dave's speech - a pile of platitude topped off with guff. Quelle surprise, one of the most important speeches of his political career has absolutely nothing to say.
You could level the exact same criticism at the SNP-led campaign, of course. The difference is the Yes'ers are holding out the prospect of change. No one knows what an independent Scotland would look like, but it wouldn't be Tory. As such it can be a catch-all for every hope and dream, of a new start crammed with new ideas. Of a Scotland defining itself against the corpse blue of Tory England. No offers nothing, just more of the same. If the union is to be preserved, the No Campaign has to offer something more than Olympic Medal Tables - nothing less than a re-visioning of Britain will do, and that means commitment to deep, lasting constitutional reform. But the chances of that happening are a great deal less than Scotland voting yes.
With a choice between hope and a miserable status quo argument saddled with liabilities, who would you vote for?