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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack: Pale blue Ruth should turn her attention to Scotland


How often do the mainstream media praise a Conservative Party politician? Yet they laud Ruth Davidson. The Independent gives the Conservative Party the benefit of its advice: ‘Ruth Davidson is the prime example to follow’. According to the Financial Times ‘Ruth Davidson provides inspiration for the Conservatives’ future’.

Meanwhile The Guardian is having a love-in with Ruth. ‘That English Tories may look to her with hope is easy to understand’. ‘London Tories would be foolish to pay lip-service to Davidson. Their own chances of staying in power and even forming the next government rely on the continued success of the Scottish Tories’.

An important plus factor for The Guardian is her continuing opposition to Brexit, ‘Davidson believes that Europe should stay together and that single market membership is the best option for the Scottish economy’.

It is easy to understand why ex-BBC journalist Davidson gets such support from the media. She advocates the same progressive stances they do. The Guardian notes approvingly, ‘She spoke out when rumours suggested the UK was to cut international aid budgets’. Getting to the root of the matter they accurately judge that, ‘Davidson isn’t an ideologue in favour of a much smaller State and open markets’.

Basically The Guardian supports Davidson as leader of the Scottish Tories and guide for UK Tories because she isn’t much of a conservative, the palest of pale blue Conservatives.

Conservatives who adhere to the media line argue, ‘She increased Tory representation in Scotland from 1 to 13, she must be doing something right’. This confuses labels with content. If you were to put a label on your hamster cage saying ‘Lion’ the creature inside would still be a hamster.

We already have enough Tories who are indistinguishable from Lib Dems. Those on the right of UK politics are doomed to frustration as long as they cling to the delusion that the Conservative Party is a conservative party.

The turnaround in the fortunes of the Scottish Conservatives is remarkable. Their one lacklustre pre-election MP has been joined by another 12 sparkling brand new MPs eager to enter the fray. This is quite a turnaround from the days when Scottish Labour proudly boasted they would make Scotland a ‘Tory Free Zone’, and nearly succeeded.

A more important question than why the Conservatives did so well is: How did the SNP manage to lose 21 seats in the general election?

In part it was because in the 2015 election the SNP achieved an incredible success, nearly sweeping the board, leaving Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems with a single seat each. This was never going to be repeated. The SNP also backed and lost IndyRef1 by a significant margin. Scots voted to remain in the union 55 per cent to 45 per cent. Given this situation all parties had a good chance against the SNP.

Scotland, for the moment, has had enough of independence referenda and Ruth Davidson was astute enough to plug it relentlessly. Whenever Nicola Sturgeon spoke on education, economics or other policy issues, Davidson did not take the bait and argue on policy, instead she would return to ‘No IndyRef2’.

If Davidson did speak on the SNP failures in government she would invariably urge Sturgeon to ‘Get back to the day job’, reinforcing the impression that the SNP were neglecting the task of government to pursue independence, the only issue about which they cared.

Davidson succeeded in making this a single issue election in Scotland. In doing so she backed the side which won the first referendum and didn’t want a second. The rise in the fortunes of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is due to their opposition to Scottish independence.

Davidson was remarkably successful in electoral terms, but where else could the anti-independence vote go?

Labour didn’t know what their policies were, both Corbyn and Dugdale giving differing messages on IndyRef2. Yet Scottish Labour managed to increase representation from 1 to 7 MPs. Incredibly the Lib Dems who wanted two referenda, a rerun of Brexit and IndyRef2, now have 4 MPs, having added 3 MPs in areas where they were the viable alternative to the SNP. The Greens were an irrelevance fielding only 3 candidates, standing aside so as not to split the pro-independence vote.

What the Davidson promoters in the media fail to recognise is that many of the Scots who voted Conservative in 2017 were not pro-Tory but rather anti-SNP, and the other parties, particularly Labour, were in a shambles.

Post-election Davidson could be hung by her own petard. After urging Sturgeon to ‘Get back to the day job’ the Scottish Conservative leader could be urged to do the same thing.

Since the election and Theresa May’s deal with the DUP, Ruth Davidson has one overriding priority. Not securing the best deal for Scotland. Not the declining state of Scottish education. Not pushing back the role of the State in Scotland where an above average percentage of workers are employed in the public sector.

None of the above. Pursuing her progressive agenda Davidson’s priority is same sex marriage in Northern Ireland. As she wrote in The Times, ‘Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where equal marriage is still prohibited. I’ve campaigned passionately for this to change’.

The task of the leader of the Scottish Conservatives should be promoting conservative values and policies in Scotland, not lobbying for social change in another devolved and separate part of the United Kingdom where she has no locus. Perhaps Ruth Davidson should get off the progressive hamster wheel and ‘Get back to the day job’.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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