Ruth Davidson is nothing if not consistent. She talks the talk and then consistently finds some reason for not walking the walk, or more accurately, for walking back on her previous promises. She is very consistent in her lack of consistency. She assured us that the 13 MPs elected as representatives of the Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson for More Ruth Davidson Party would vote as a bloc to defend Scotland’s interests within the UK and that they’d be answerable to her personally. That didn’t happen. When pressed to name a single concession on Brexit that she and her MPs had been able to wring out of the British Government, she couldn’t answer.
During the EU referendum she strode the stage telling one and all how dreadful Brexit would be, and now she’s in favour of that mythical beast “a Brexit that works for Scotland”. Which is apparently whatever form of Brexit that a Tory government can deliver.
She said that the UK government shouldn’t block a Scottish independence referendum if it had the support of a majority in the Scottish Parliament and that it was up to the people of Scotland to decide. Then Theresa May announced that she’d not agree to a Section 30 order and suddenly Ruth is in favour of British Prime Ministers having a veto power over whether Scotland is allowed to ask itself about its future.
More recently Ruth launched the Tory campaign for the Euro elections in Scotland with the promise that only a Tory vote was a vote for no more referendums. Then Theresa May went and offered MPs the chance to vote on whether to hold another EU referendum. Ruth hasn’t commented yet, as she usually goes to ground when there are difficult questions to answer, but it’s a safe bet that she’ll find some way of supporting it. She is, after all, terribly consistent in her willingness to obey whatever her Westminster bosses tell her.
Theresa May’s leadership has now entered its penultimate stage. The final stage will be when she’s physically dragged kicking and screaming out of Downing Street, yelling “Strong and stable! I’ve been very clear!” at the top of her voice. Since there’s going to be a new leader, sooner rather than later despite May’s new strategy of putting a sofa up against the door to Downing Street in the hope of keeping the 1922 Committee at bay, Ruth and her wee pal David Mundell, who hasn’t resigned yet, have signalled that they would be prepared to work with Boris Johnson as the new leader of the Tories and Prime Minister. This is despite the fact that there is no love lost between the tank riding charlatan and the tousel haired charlatan.
Johnson is miles ahead in polling of the Conservative party members who will elect the new leader, and his election seems assured if he is able to gain enough support from other MPs to ensure that he makes it onto the shortlist. Since the Tories are widely expected to have a catastrophic time of it during the EU elections, panicked Tory MPs might see Boris Johnson as being the only candidate who has popular appeal – at least in England – and who offers the prospect of reviving the party’s ailing fortunes. In Scotland he’d go down as well as an abandoned bottle of yellow liquid the day after a party, but then Scottish considerations have never figured high in the calculations of Conservatives, for all their protestations about love of the union. Ruth and David Mundell are resigning themselves to the inevitable.
It’s all a very far cry from the Operation Arse which senior Scottish Conservatives mounted last year to try and spike Boris’s leadership ambitions. This is because they believed that Boris as Prime Minister would be an electoral disaster for them, as compared to Theresa May who has been working out so well for them. A senior Scottish Tory said that they had called their campaign Operation Arse, “so we’d all be clear who we were talking about.” The party was worried that if Boris Johnson won the Tory leadership it would endanger Ruth’s plans to win control of Holyrood in 2021. I’ll pause for a bit now so you can stop laughing. Now faced with the very real prospect that Boris Johnson would win the Tory leadership contest, Ruth is willing to work with him and all of a sudden she’ll be singing his praises. So it’s not so much Operation Arse going arse about face into Operation Kiss Arse.
It’s a dramatic volte-face. Last year David Mundell accused Johnson of not being an asset to the party, and said that he was focused only on his own self-interest and not that of the country. Admittedly that’s a description which could equally apply to the David, but still. Getting savaged by Fluffy Mundell is like getting savaged by a one eyed teddy bear that’s lost most of its stuffing. Now after his colleagues describing Johnson as an arse, and himself sticking his teddy bear boot in, David thinks it’s all an SNP plot to demonise Boris and it’s got to stop.
In 2016 Ruth Davidson called Boris Johnson a liar. She accused him and the Leave campaign that he led of putting lies on leaflets. During a debate she stared at Johnson and accused him of lying about the costs of Europe, of lying about the proposed European army, of lying about Turkey. In 2018 after resigning from the government Boris Johnson roundly condemned Theresa May’s Brexit deal, Ruth Davidson lashed out at him and accused him of not paying attention at the cabinet meetings he had attended when he was a senior member of that very government and pointed out that he had previously welcomed the deal he was now describing as “demented”.
What the headlines really ought to have said is that Ruth Davidson has admitted that she’ll do as she’s told if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister. No one should be surprised by this, as telling Scotland to be quiet and do what it’s told is what the Tories are all about.
The reason for the change of heart is because the other candidate with the best chance of winning is Dominic “Oh, Britain’s an island?” Raab, who is widely believed to be even more toxic for the Scottish Conservatives than Boris Johnson. When he’s not expressing surprise that most of the UK’s trade comes via the Channel ports, and admitting that he’s never read the Good Friday Agreement, Dominic is best known for co-authoring a book which claimed that UK productivity was low because British workers are feckless and lazy.
Just think about that for a second. Boris Johnson is the guy who once said that a pound of government money was better spent in Croydon than in Strathclyde. He’s a serial liar. He was once described as someone who is considered likeable only by people who don’t know him. He describes black people in racist terms. When warned that business leaders feared that a no deal Brexit would be catastrophic he replied, “Fuck business.” He is bereft of principles other than an overweening sense of entitlement and a burning careerism. And this is the guy that Ruth Davidson thinks is the least worst option.
Tomorrow it’s the European election, where all the opinion polls point to a drubbing for the Conservatives and for Labour. It’s vitally important that every independence supporter gets out and votes for a pro-independence party. Because otherwise those who are going to be most motivated to vote will be supporters of Nigel Farage’s Brexit vanity project. The Brexit party could pick up two seats in Scotland, which would mean a series of media stories about how Scotland isn’t really that opposed to Brexit after all, and we all need to sit down and shut up and allow Brexit to take its course even though it will damage Scotland’s economy and is being used as an excuse to undermine the devolution settlement. Then we could very well end up with Prime Minister Boris Johnson being the least worst option, because the other option would be Prime Minister Nigel Farage.
The future of Scotland is at stake here. Get out and vote.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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