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Lib Dems pina colada blues

Brian Taylor | 09:52 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

There is, as I recall, a rather deft little ditty entitled: "Blame it on the bossa nova." It even featured in an episode of the West Wing.

Tavish Scott, it appears, is inclined to look elsewhere for his causal link of choice. On BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme this morning, he blamed it on the pina colada at his party's Bournemouth conference.

The import of his wireless words was that one or two excitable delegates had been so fired up by a lethal combination of sea air and Latin liquor that their thoughts instantly turned to...the prospect of a referendum on Scottish independence, no doubt conducted via the single transferable vote.

Mildly seriously, Mr Scott was seeking to play down the prospect that his party might perform a Palais glide and endorse the SNP's plans for a plebiscite next year.

Now, Mr Scott might have a point. If TUC talks in days gone by could be settled over beer and sandwiches, perhaps Scotland's future will indeed be heavily influenced by pina colada and nachos.

I suspect, however, that the Bournemouth brouhaha owes more to a factor I have identified previously. Which is that opposing a referendum is an uncomfortable place to be for a democratic party. Perhaps especially one which carries that name in its title.

When they all get together, when they've exhausted the topic of multi-member constituency canvassing, when the tapas are nearly done, it's then that the chat turns to the referendum.

Tavish tells them: "Just say no." But it's so tempting, so tempting.

Doesn't make Mr Scott's stance impossible. There is a cogent argument to be advanced to the effect that a referendum now would be an unwarranted distraction from the task of tackling the recession. (NB: by cogent, I mean relevant or pertinent, not inherently right.)

Mr Scott makes that argument in Holyrood where it finds a ready echo from Labour and the Conservatives. The LibDem leader is also making that argument in Bournemouth, only just a little distracted by the noises off. Too many pina coladas, guys, one too many.

Incidentally, if he's looking for tips on the bossa nova, he could do worse than consult Vince Cable, the dance maestro of the Locarno, Twickenham.

Mr Cable certainly needed neat footwork as he explained his "mansion tax" on houses worth more than one million pounds. Was it temporary? Was it a prelude to Local Income Tax? What would happen in Scotland? Answers came there many - when just one or two would have been preferable.

No doubt, though, it's all the fault of the wicked media. Hey, Jimmy, when you're done with that sangria, por favor...


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