Is Ruth Davidson about to have a fall from grace?
There has been a bit of a media blitz to coincide with the Scottish Tory conference. Ruth Davidson wants to let us know she has what it takes to be First Minister of Scotland.
She wants us to know that she is confident about the unionists winning a second independence referendum.
In an interview with Holyrood Magazine she said:
I’ve always said that I don’t believe that it will be the Labour Party, and I don’t believe that it will be us, that will be the downfall of the SNP – I think it will be hubris.
I still believe that, and I’ve got five years to make myself and my party look like a government in waiting and make myself look like a first minister in waiting – and I will.
I don’t doubt Davidson’s desire to be First Minister. It would be strange for a Scottish party leader if she didn’t want that role.
That said, given how much ground the Conservatives still have to catch up in order to become the biggest party this claim shows some serious cockiness. Davidson is clearly affable, witty, intelligent and pugnacious, and there is no doubt that these attributes have led to her being infinitely more popular than the average Scottish Tory. Yet, is the confidence she exudes justified?
Davidson has been, in Scottish Tory terms, a relative political success but I would argue that the bulk of her success is due to factors beyond her control.
If she has had a role to play, it is as a distraction to make the Scottish Tories seem more palatable than their UK counterparts. To create an illusion that would allow long term Labour voters to do the unthinkable and vote for the mortal enemy.
In the creation of this illusion the media have given her a relatively free ride. Despite being fairly inexperienced, and despite having a bit of a silly public persona, they talk seriously about her being a future PM. You could say this is just par for the course in a world where Trump can become president of the USA and Boris Johnson can become the UK Foreign Secretary. Maybe in the modern world you don’t have to prove yourself competent to be considered worthy of leading a nation. Maybe the role of leader has been so eroded that we just want entertainers instead?
However, surely her easy ride makes more sense in the context that soon she will be called upon to be saviour of the union?
Davidson this week is talking up her chances of winning a second referendum.
At the moment they are polling way below what they were doing then. I think the arguments are weaker and I think the people of Scotland are just as switched on as they were three years ago so I think there’s every chance that we would win by a wider margin
Yet, one can’t help feeling all of the bravado belies the fact that she and the unionists are petrified of a second referendum. This recent ramping up of the never completely disbanded Better Together campaign is evidence that they are in no way as confident as they seem. There are few people around with the gravitas and authority to argue the case for union. Brexit has smothered the idea of a partnership of equals as much as it has severely dented the safety and surety of union.
They are terrified as their arguments lie in tatters, and their campaign lies in the hands of a person whose reputation has been blown out of all proportion.
Let’s be honest here. In political terms it is relatively easy to become the leader of the Tory party in Scotland. It takes a similar level of political nous as that which is required to be elected leader of the local neighbourhood watch. It is also relatively easy to get MSPs elected to the Scottish parliament due to the Dhondt voting system. This is especially true at a time when Labour have imploded and the populace is divided over the constitutional question. The Tories have risen to mediocrity in Scotland by gushingly supporting the union while pretending not to be Tories. If Davidson has a political skill it is disguising her true colours, or a least the true colours of the party she represents.
When the scrutiny does get turned on, in the glare of a referendum campaign, no amount of buffoonish joviality or buffalo straddling is going to distract from Davidson’s achilles heel.
Davidson is from the party that gave us the Poll Tax and the Bedroom Tax. The party on whose watch the income of our royal family doubled while benefits were removed from the disabled. The party that brutally decimated Scotland’s industrial heartlands. The party that is currently presiding over the worst growth in living standards in 60 years. The party that has declared thousands of sick people fit to work only for them to die shortly after. The party that is determined to sell off the remnants of the public institutions we cherish.
It is not just the ghost of Conservative past that will haunt Davidson in the next few years. In the glare of indyref2, the party will be presiding over the shitshow of Brexit while doing its utmost to stop the Scottish parliament gaining more meaningful devolution. In fact they are currently telegraphing to us they are going to remove powers.
The Conservative party grassroots just don’t like the idea of devolution and it is those people the Conservative party ultimately have to please. Don’t forget that this is the party who, to placate their core voter-base, gambled and lost an EU referendum with potentially disastrous future consequences for all of us.
This week a poll, conducted by the Centre for English Identity and Politics on the readers of conservativehome, demonstrated that the followers of Davidson’s party don’t think much of Holyrood.
Davidson has a similar problem to the one Cameron had over the EU. No matter how passionate Davidson seems about devolution within the UK her party don’t share her enthusiasm. Just like they didn’t share her love for Europe. Regardless of what she says and does, regardless of how little the media prod her, she will always be tainted by association. Just look at how many empty seats there are at the Tory conference to understand the power of that association and the overstatement of Davidson’s ability to overcome it.
There are only so many Scots who are willing to forego their ultimate principles just to save a union that isn’t willing to listen to them. Her manufactured cockiness has already won over the hardcore and the easily gulled. Her run of luck has ended for there is nobody else left to fool. In the future we’ll see if she can live up to her inflated reputation.
Please give your thoughts on Ruth Davidson’s chances of being first minister and winning indyref2 below!
A large majority of UK Tory voters think devolution has hurt England.
A large majority of UK Tory voters don’t want to see any more powers given to Holyrood