Friday, 11 November 2011

Rocky Road for Ruth

Will the election of Ruth Davidson as the Scottish Tory leader herald rocky times ahead for the Party?

A mere six months ago she was elected to Holyrood as a list MSP, that is – she got there on the “top-up” vote rather than the “first passed the post” preference. Now she leads the Party.

Launching an attack on Alex Salmond in her inaugural First Ministers Question Time, she certainly didn’t set the heather on fire. Choosing to continue with this week’s anti-independence mantra about the Euro and timing of the referendum.

Using the word “feart” came over as a bit patronising. We will all be listening for the first time she lapses back into “frightened”.

Those who supported her elevation to leadership in the belief that it would mean a new approach from the Party already know that nothing has changed in that department.

It was a case of “new face”, “same old”.

She has made it clear that the Scottish Tories will continue to be a loyal outpost at the fraying edges of London Party’s empire.

She will of course get an easy time from her old pals at the BBC and it is doubtful that the rest of the media will be any harder on her. As long a there is a referendum on the horizon she is unlikely to get it in the neck from the broadsheets and as Labour see the Tories as irrelevant, even their flagship rag the Daily Record might not bother her too much.

But can she count on support from her fellow MSPs?

Well, the majority didn’t vote for her. And she’s already had major problems forming her front bench. Elected politicians don’t take kindly to the party telling them who their boss is going to be and I don’t doubt there will be some on the back benches who don’t like this one in particular.

There is an argument that if the Party’s policies in Scotland are not going to change it would have been better off with a more experienced MSP at the helm.

Ruth Davidson has come from nowhere and risen to the top very quickly. There are many around her who, although their knives are sheathed for the moment, are waiting for her to fail.

The real test will not be her performance against Alex Salmond; I doubt she will win that one, but the Local Elections next year.

Its hard enough for the Tories in Scotland and the by next year it’s a stick-on that the Coalition will have scuppered any chances she has of increasing her Party’s standing. Doing as well as her predecessor might be the best she can manage. Whether that will be good enough remains to be seen. But she will have to do a wee bit more that parrot David Cameron to achieve even that.

And if the Tories do even worse will the knives be drawn?

If there is an iota of realism left in their ranks, perhaps not. But she will come under increasing pressure to change the Party north of the border. An internal review of what went wrong, again, is not going to do her or the Tories any favours in the run up to the “big vote”. And in the long run won’t change a thing.

We wish Ms Davidson well in her career and hope she’s still there for the referendum.

Although what it takes to lead the rump of Scottish politics, other than an impossible optimism, might well be the acceptance once and for all that the Tories are a spent force.