THE pro-UK campaign in the independence referendum has been hit by a fresh split amid reports that senior Conservatives have labelled Alistair Darling as “comatose”.
Senior Conservative sources are quoted in a report by the Financial Times slamming the way the former Chancellor is running the Better Together campaign.
According to the paper, one senior Tory figure said: “The man has never run a campaign. He is comatose most of the time.”
A Downing Street source was also quoted as describing Mr Darling as a “dreary figurehead” for such an important campaign.
In a damage limitation exercise this morning, Number 10 quickly dismissed the claims, saying the criticism was “completely untrue” and “100% not the case”.
But the reports were already being seized on by the pro-independence side as evidence that the cross-party pro-UK effort was divided over strategy ahead of next year’s referendum.
Tory figures backed Mr Darling’s appointment last year as the head of the Better Together campaign, aware that the pro-UK effort needed to be run in Scotland by a senior Labour figure.
However, the report this morning appears to suggest that, among some Conservative figures in London, that backing has now been withdrawn, amid suggestions that Mr Darling has not been attacking the pro-independence case with enough force.
The FT claimed that the “no” campaign was reluctant to use information attacking the case for independence for fear of being accused of running a negative campaign.
Labour sources meanwhile hit back, suggesting that the Conservative attacks were motivated by party political concerns, in an effort to reduce Mr Darling’s credibility ahead of the 2015 general election.
One member of the shadow cabinet was quoted as saying: “They are playing with dynamite playing with Alistair like this. This is not some political game, this is the future of the union.”
The timing of the attack is suprising as it comes with polls suggesting that the “no” side remains well infront on voting intentions. A poll at the weekend showed only 27 per cent of voters plan to vote Yes in next year’s independence referendum while 56 per cent intend to vote No; 17 per cent are undecided.
More polling on voting intentions is expected before the end of this week.