Earlier this week Ruthie Davidson got down off her tank long enough to stand up on a podium and give a talk to the Rowntree Foundation on how to combat poverty. The invite to the Tory leaderene followed the successful speech about blood donation given to the same foundation recently by Dracula. To be fair, the invitation wasn’t quite as out to lunch as it might appear at first glance, Ruthie does know a lot about poverty seeing as how her party is a leading cause of it. Asking Ruth Davidson to give a speech on preventing poverty is like asking a flea for its opinions on the best way to prevent the bubonic plague.
Unsurprisingly, Ruthie shares the view that poverty is best challenged by threatening recipients of social security with sanctions. In the world of the Tories the poor are out to lunch, but only as they trudge to the nearest foodbank in order to find something to eat. Poverty is the fault of poor people not striving hard enough. The view that people who subsist on £67 a week need to be punished in order to learn that living on £67 a week is no picnic is commonplace amongst people who think little of paying considerably more than £67 on artisan cheese and wine for a picnic. And funnily enough Tories like Ruthie believe that that sort of big cheese person needs to be rewarded in order to get them to strive harder.
Ruthie once infamously stated that she was too young to remember Thatcher and denied the damage that her heroine had wrought on Scotland’s working class communities was in any way relevant to modern Scotland. Ruthie doesn’t recall the rampant homophobia that Thatcher stoked as a weapon to use against her political enemies. But some of the rest of us do, and we’re revolted by the image of a gay Scottish woman who parades in Thatcher’s cast offs like a third rate drag act in a down market bar. Ruthie’s message is that the need for social progress, the need to right injustice, the need to achieve equality, it all ended as as soon as Ruthie got hers.
Ruth Davidson, Davie Mundell, and the gay Scottish Tory commentators who defend their misogynist pals, might not remember the struggles of the lesbian and gay rights movement in the 70s and 80s, but I do. We were not seeking social justice just in order to prove that if society stopped being nasty to LGBTI folk then lesbian and gay people could be selfish and intolerant arseholes too. If this was the 1980s they’d be hiding in the closet and condemning those who challenged society for being divisive.
The speech to the Rowntree Foundation was really about positioning the Tories as contenders for the runner up prize in Scottish politics. It’s not so much that the Scottish Tories have recovered in their fortunes, there remains a ceiling to Tory support that would force even the dwarvish intellects of the mad bag of spanners which constitute the coprophagous Scottish Unionist media bubble to bend over double. It’s just that there is no floor to prevent Labour’s support plummeting even lower than the barrel bottom that the party scrapes in order to locate some policies. By comparison with Labour as it sinks to the Marianas Trench of Scottish politics, the Tories are doing the doggy paddle.
Even when Labour can manage to come up with a policy, it has to be presented to the public by the same old tired and discredited politicians who’ve spent the last ten years screaming SNP baaaad ever louder and louder with less and less effect. Labour is led by politicians who would react to the news that a Glasgow SNP MSP has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by insisting Sturgeon should condemn the ones who haven’t. When you’re a political party which thinks that Anas Sarwar is the best person to represent Glasgow you’re a political party that has long since lost sight of the difference between principle and patronage. What is the point of Labour in Scotland these days? No one knows, least of all Labour in Scotland.
Into the void between the ears of a Sarwar steps the Scottish Tories, draped in a Union flag and waving a benefits sanction score card. As Labour desperately flails every way at once as it drowns in the public sea of disgust, and makes vague noises that it might rethink its opposition to independence, the Tories make a pitch for those voters whose Unionism is more important than any lingering sense of social justice that might cling to Labour like the faint whiff of a perfume from someone that the party stood beside on the train home from Anas’s selection meeting. Their only message is vote Tory, because everyone hates us and we don’t care.
The heady days of the 60s and 70s when the Conservatives could count on the support of over a third of Scottish voters are never going to return. Any increase on the meagre 15% that they were able to secure during last year’s Westminster General election will be hailed as a massive success and a vindication of Ruth’s tank posing politics. The truth however that a party which thinks it’s doing well to get over 15% is a party that’s given up all hope of ever being a party of government. Yet this misbegotten bunch of benefits sanctioners, these parasites causing a sickness of the body politic, get an influence over Scotland that is grossly out of proportion to their insignificant electoral size.
And then they complain that Scotland is a one party state. The only reason that the Scottish Tories don’t have the same reputation as Labour for lying is that most people stop listening as soon as they open their mouths. The way to remove the curse of poverty from Scotland is to remove the curse of Tory governments that we don’t vote for. But that’s not a cure that Ruth would have suggested to her audience at the Rowntree Foundation.
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