It is difficult to understand exactly what is happening to the Brexit campaign following the surprise announcement by Nigel Farage that he is standing down as leader of the UK Independence Party.
In a scenario not short of ironies it was probably Mr Farage who spooked David Cameron into going for a referendum on the UK’s place in the European Union – but Mr Cameron only acted well after the danger had passed.
It is without a doubt that the rise of Ukip was the motivating factor in Mr Cameron’s actions. Many of his own Euro-sceptic Tory party were worried that Ukip was rising at the expense of the Conservatives.
Equally there can be no doubt that a lot of that appeal came from Mr Farage himself, a larger-than-life character who was your stereotypical bloke down the pub – even though he wasn’t really. He was the man who used humour and cheeky chappie patter to articulate a viewpoint that few had managed to articulate in a passable way before him.
Mr Farage boldly proclaimed that Ukip had become the third force in British politics and it seems Mr Cameron took him at his word. Ukip actually failed to live up to that banner, it had largely stalled in its appeal, but by that time Mr Cameron had decided on his course of action, and for him it morphed into trying to heal the Tory party and secure his own legacy as opposed to the initial trigger. It is a great pity Mr Cameron did not reconsider.
But Mr Farage’s timing does seem odd. It will have been a very hard course for him over the past years, it will have been exhausting, but he certainly looked as if he was getting at least some pleasure from it. Those who witnessed his address to the European Parliament after the referendum result would surely testify to that.
But is his job really over? He himself said today that the party would campaign against any “backsliding” over the UK’s position as it negotiates its exit from Europe. That is a clear admission he recognises the party supporters see there is still a job of work to be done.
And he must surely recognise that his departure from the party will weaken it and it will take a long time to recover, if it ever does, Ukip was pretty much a one-man band.
So with Mr Farage going so soon after Boris Johnson announced he would not stand for the Prime Minister’s job the Leave campaign has lost its two most popular leaders, and that must leave supporters feeling let down.
It also lends weight to the view that there really wasn’t a plan for the Leave campaign in the event of a victory and its adds to the general vacuum surrounding leadership in England. And here in Scotland, although there has been leadership, there are added layers of uncertainty with little clarity on what kind of relationship a Scotland still in the UK could enjoy with Europe and the prospect of second independence referendum.
If politics is making readjustments to the mood of the people, it seems there is a lot of adjusting still to be done, and no-one knows where it might end.
Courts should consider jurors
Serving on a jury is a civic duty. For many Scots, it is their first and only encounter with the justice system, and one that can often be disorientating.
The language employed in the courtrooms of Scotland can be unfamiliar to the untrained ear and it requires the guidance and expertise of the presiding judge to ensure that those members of the public chosen at random from the electoral register are able to fulfil their important role.
While making certain members of a jury are able to follow the proceedings and points of law must be paramount, there can often be unnerving and distressing repercussions. In serious criminal cases, for example, the evidence presented in court can be of a graphic nature, depicting violence or abuse. This was raised in stark fashion following the case of the murder of toddler Liam Fee, said to be one of the most unsettling ever heard in a Scottish court.
Derek Ogg QC has now backed a range of measures to offer better support to jurors in traumatic cases. From greater use of computerised graphics to the risk assessment of cases before they are brought to trial, Mr Ogg, a former head of the National Sex Crimes Unit, believes more thought needs to be given about the impact of the evidence on jurors.
“The poor old jurors who are just members of the public and have never had any encounter with the legal system come in and see some of the most appalling and dreadful things,” he explained.
The decision to implement such measures requires careful thought and cannot be allowed to jeopardise the courts’ work, but
Mr Ogg’s sensible and considered proposals warrant further consideration.