Struggling, but with scant success, to get her head round the concept of an independent Scotland, the mother in the much-viewed Better Together advertisement, the Woman Who Made up Her Mind, cuts a pitiable figure. One section, if she is typical, raises questions about women’s suffrage throughout the UK. “My Paul is worse than the telly these days,” says the Woman Who Made up Her Mind, of her comparatively engaged husband, on whose mind political matters weigh suitably heavy. “He started again first thing this morning” – puts on masterful voice – “‘Have you made a decision yet?’ I was like, ‘It’s too early to be discussing politics. You eat your cereal.'”
Cereal? While a milky bowl with stray Cheerios communicates at least some mental competence, it is clear that the Woman Who Made up Her Mind, further evidenced by her painful gurning, really does have trouble processing abstract thoughts and, at the same time, providing her husband with a nutritious, if simple, breakfast – whose detritus he has now left her to wash up. Men!
Accusations that this represents an archaic and insulting picture of female political awareness have been rebutted by the campaign director of Better Together, Blair McDougall, a man who occasionally places his ownreflections on film , minus props, against a backdrop of NOs. Although it remains unclear why he chose to place the muddled woman in a kitchen – clinging to her mug and surrounded by children’s toys – as opposed to say, in a laboratory or a truck, he claims all the words were authentically spoken by “women in dozens of focus groups around the country”, prior to being stitched together in this latest triumph for the fashionable, verbatim school of drama.
And the result is, unarguably, a significant advance, in terms of realism, on its celebrated public information predecessor: Women, Know your Limits!, in which the woman character’s principal contribution to a political debate is the highly unlikely – given not a single cat is in evidence – “I do love little kittens.”
In fairness to Mr McDougall, whose effort has been subjected to sustained derision, many men south of the border view women with equally unembarrassed contempt. Indeed, you could argue that Better Together’s estimation of women’s political contribution is more respectful, for instance, than that of the Labour MP Austin Mitchell, and a school of thought that finds, with him, that women are not so much too preoccupied, as too feeble, mild, parochial and, basically, female, not to be discriminated against. What, he recently asked , in his attack on all-women shortlists (AWSs) if local people genuinely believe women to be inferior? Don’t they have rights too? Objecting, at length, to the “feminisation” of his party (as he conceives of equal numbers of male and female MPs), Mitchell complained about the number of selections made “on the all-women basis, even where hairy-arsed local politics, a major Ukip threat or a substantial Muslim population might suggest that it’s better to choose a man”.