Davidson's a good debater but is not a future Tory Party leader

Davidson's a good debater but is not a future Tory Party leader

by Brian Monteith
article from Wednesday 22, June, 2016

YOU KNOW when you are getting to the end of a divisive referendum when stories appear that seem incomprehensible and challenge reality, while sentiments and judgements by usually level-headed people are thrown out of the window.

That moment arrived yesterday. Twice. And both involved Ruth Davidson.

The first came when it was briefed to The Courier (that’s the Dundee Courier to our readers outside Scotland) that Ruth Davidson would lead the Scottish Wing of the Conservative Party in a breakaway move if Boris Johnson were to become Conservative leader at the House of Commons.

It made great copy and it may even be what she feels to be the right thing to do. Murdo Fraser certainly used to argue for such a division and I supported him. There is much to be said for it as a political definition of difference that should help the Scotland’s Tories self-identify as Scottish, and thus build a stronger bond with the electorate. So far so good, and I say that also as a Boris admirer, having convinced him all those moons ago to stand for Rector of the University of Edinburgh.

Still, it doesn’t quite compute with everything else I have been hearing in Scotland, and more particularly London, which is that Davidson is being groomed to become a Tory MP and then be brought into the cabinet. While I can see sense for this in meeting the personal ambitions of Davidson (where that would leave her group at Holyrood is a separate question) it will need a great deal of help and co-operation from a party that is likely to be at war with itself for the next few years – with many other highly ambitious actors all jostling for position.

The Holyrood bubble might think Davidson is the Tory party’s savior but the Westminster bubble is much more effervescent and corrosive – and is less than certain to agree.

Let’s remember, Davidson the Remainiac has to get a seat, then win it. She then has to convince her colleagues she’s not just a good debater but a good egg that will help them get places. To do this after she has led her party out of the Conservatives, possibly taking a new-fangled name, and all because she and her followers don’t like Boris, is just not credible.

Maybe, then, Davidson’s chances are better if Boris does not become leader?

It’s here that the Holyrood bubble is in denial. It is my firm view, and it is shared widely by people in and outside the party, that whatever the referendum result the next leader will definitely be a LEAVE campaigner, a Brexiteer. The chances of a Remainiac being leader are slim to the point of being delusional.

Cameron is finished. It’s not if, it’s when. Osborne is toast, the clock is already ticking. Neither of them will be forgiven by the party faithful for the way they have conducted their referendum campaign. The next Tory conference could be an abattoir if they have not gone beforehand.

The future for those that did not go with their previously-stated beliefs or follow-up on their tub-thumping speeches – such as Theresa May and Savid Javid – is at best a period of purgatory. That would be a political life sentence with no parole for May, and only a slim chance of remission for Javid. Many in the party see them as selling out, the phrase “traitors” being often used. There is a long list of MPs that will soon find this out. That’s not a threat, just an observation of the mood amongst many party members.

For the leadership the smart money is on Boris, not because he made the transparent leap to oppose the Prime Minister when he had previously appeared equivocal, but because he showed the balls to seize his moment and has made a damn good fist of it. The reason he is demonised so much is that the left of all parties genuinely fear him, they know he is a winner, and they will use every opportunity to diminish him.

We then get to the next moment of madness from yesterday. The tweeting, even by some who should know better, promoting the future of Davidson as an alternative to Boris.

So, we start over again. Remember, she has to keep her Scottish Party in the UK party to have an earthly of getting a seat. She has to convince her new parliamentary colleagues she is leadership material to become one of their two nominees that goes before the party faithful. She ten needs to convince party members that witnessed her campaigning devoutly for the EU. This could be a party that has swallowed up sections of the UKIP membership. Davidson as leader? Come on. Get real.

Davidson is a good performer. Personally, I found her rather shouty and rude, she made many errors of fact and branded her colleagues liars, but she was the best of her team. It is understandable that remainiacs found solace in her performance, for they have had few advocates that could put their case of fear and doubt passionately and aggressively. To mistake this as a reason for her to be leader of a post EU-referendum Tory party is pure unadulterated fantasy. It won’t happen.

Davidson as leader of a social democratic pro-EU party? Why, yes. That would suit her down to the ground, in the tradition of other Conservatives like Chris Patten, Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine.

But not the contemporary Conservative Party, it is changing under our feet as we stand still, and by the time Davidson ever gets elected to Westminster it will take more than yomping to Port Stanley to catch up with where it is going.

Picture courtesy of Getty Images.



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