Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May set for Downing Street talks
- A question for you, what does Theresa May want almost as much as the right to trigger Article 50? The answer, the ability to manage the media coverage. So this morning the Prime Minister will probably be fuming over her cornflakes as she sees how Nicola Sturgeon has upstaged her and stolen the headlines.Brexit is deeply unpopular. The Government may be racing to kickstart the process on behalf of the 52% who voted to leave but the 48% who preferred to remain are being ignored and left behind. So Theresa May’s team know they need a clear media landscape on which to tell their story, to spin it as hard as they can to manage a positive and supportive narrative. So Nicola Sturgeon’s theft of that media landscape has totally buggered Number 10’s plans.It was a quick reaction by Downing Street to delay triggering article 50 until the end of the month rather than pressing the nuclear Brexit button today. Nicola Sturgeon pulled off a masterstroke by announcing a second Scottish independence referendum yesterday afternoon. She did so before the Brexit bill had completed its course through Westminster but she knew it was a foregone conclusion so faced very little risk in pulling her own trigger first.In doing so she secured the media spotlight ahead of the Prime Minister. It means for a day or so Scottish independence will be in the news, endlessly debated, picked apart and scrutinised. It doesn’t really matter that the Scottish First Minister doesn’t actually have ultimate authority over an independence referendum, the story will be enough for Nicola Sturgeon to capitalise on the news, promote her reasoning for independence and crucially to raise funds and support to fight a campaign.Mrs May can decide whether to allow or forbid a second indyref and has already indicated she will decline it, at least until after Brexit. Here too Ms Sturgeon has played a blinder by suggesting the date for indyref2 should be between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, i.e. before the UK has formally left the EU, albeit possibly quite close to that cliff edge date. Regardless of whether you agree with Scottish independence, or Scexit, Nicola Sturgeon’s timing and mastery of the media message are brilliant. Naturally some newspapers don’t pull their punches when describing what she has done. The Daily Mail takes a typically jaundiced view of someone who has interfered in its plan for Armageddon, sorry Brexit, saying in its headline ‘Hands off our Brexit, Nicola!’.Nicola Sturgeon would have anticipated how her announcement would be treated by various media outlets. She knows just as well as Theresa May that she won’t get universal applause. But she also knows that when media is poised pen in hand to write and analyse the biggest story of the week, the month, the year so far, crashing that party to usurp the host guarantees her acres of coverage. Just as Theresa May will be scowling over her cornflakes this morning in Number 10, Nicola Sturgeon will be beaming over her porridge in Bute House. It won’t matter whether Theresa May accedes to her referendum request, she has got the headlines, she has delivered on her election promise and she has set the ball rolling. Fair play to Nicola Sturgeon, it’s back of the net stuff.
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