Scottish Tory Leadership Runners and Riders

Following Ruth’s unexpected decision to step down as leader of the Scottish Tories this morning, politicians north of the border are now be on manoeuvres to replace her. As ever Guido brings you the runners and riders:

  • Murdo Fraser – 3/1. Ran against Davidson back in 2011 on a platform of formally separating the Scottish Tories from the main UK party – a proposal that may be more popular now that it was eight years ago. Also wants a fully federal UK.
  • Jackson Carlaw – 5/1. Stood in for Davidson during her maternity leave from September 2018 to earlier this year, in what turned out to be a far less quiet period in British politics than he’d been expecting. One Scottish Tory source told Guido he did a good job.
  • Adam Tomkins – 6/1. A former lecturer at KCL and fellow at Oxford, researching (appropriately enough) constitutional theory. He was appointed as an unpaid adviser to the then Scottish Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell during the passage of the Scotland Bill through Parliament.
  • Donald Cameron – 8/1. Harrow and Oxford-educated, Donald unsuccessfully contested Westminster elections twice before being elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, and appointed Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and the Scottish Tories’ 2021 Policy Co-ordinator.
  • Alister Jack – 12/1. The National is reporting that the Scottish Tories may change their structure, with a separate Holyrood group leader and a Westminster leader, drawn from the Scottish Tory MP contingent. In which case the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Scotland is the obvious contender – although Colin Clark and Liam Kerr‘s names are also being floated. A Guido source however says there’s “next to no chance” of them selecting an MP as leader.
  • Annie Wells – 12/1. A former M & S retail manager of 12 years, Wells was suspended from Holyrood in 2018 – two years after assuming office – for leaking an embargoed committee report. She is a single mum as well as an out lesbian.
  • Maurice Golden – 12/1. The current Chief Whip of the Scottish Tories and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, which is appropriate after working for Zero Waste Scotland for five years.

This leadership competition will be ruthless…

Read Ruth’s Resignation Letter

Following speculation last night, Ruth Davidson has now formally resigned as leader of the Conservative and Unionist

Party, saying it has been the “privilege of my life to serve as @ScotTories leader“. She also implies that she’ll step down as an MSP in 2021. The Tories will be hard-pressed to find someone as able to continue their Scottish revival…

Read below:

Update: Watch Ruth’s resignation speech here:

BREAKING: Regional Branch Tory Leader Considering Position

In news set to rock the exciting world of local politics, Tory Scottish leader Ruth Davidson is set to resign as per reports. Bound to be front page on the National.

UPDATE: Scottish Tory sources insist the decision was not taken today and therefore not influenced by Boris’s decision to prorogue parliament

Tories Overwhelmingly Happier With New Boris Cabinet

The first ConHome Cabinet League Table of the Boris era is out and net satisfaction ratings are through the roof. New Chancellor Sajid steals into top spot with +80.5% net satisfaction, just ahead of the new PM on +77.2%. May’s final rating was a full 138% lower on -61.2%…

The entire Cabinet is in positive territory for the first time in a long time, even Amber Rudd in bottom spot has bounced from up -25.2% to a healthy +21.3%. The shock faller is Ruth Davidson, who drops a hefty 28% from last month. Davidson may feel she has to distance herself from Boris to preserve her image in Scotland. Evidently it’s not going down so well with Tory members at large…

Scotland Ready for Raab and Will Back Boris

Remainer Ruth Davidson had been briefing until recently that she would lead a bloc of Scottish MPs to block Boris being selected on the grounds that he will go down very badly in Scotland. However it turns out that when you drill down into the regional data tables of the YouGov poll of all voters for the Tories under different leaders, that actually Brexiteers have more support in Scotland than Remainers. 21% of Scots are ready for Raab and 20% would back Boris. Aberdeen’s own Michael Gove would score only 19% – the same as Theresa May. Remainers Jeremy Hunt (18%) and Sajid Javid (16%) actually poll worse than Theresa May…

Maybe Ruth – who was one of the leaders of the Remain campaign – should listen to her voters rather than her heart on who would be the best Tory party leader. Tory voters in Scotland are pro-Brexit, electing a remainer will actually drive Scottish Tories to vote for the Brexit Party…

Ruth Will Work With PM Boris

Ruth Davidson on working with PM Boris

“I have worked with him when he was Foreign Secretary. I will work with whoever the Prime Minister is. I haven’t had a phone call yet to ask me to run his campaign in Scotland. I am not expecting the call. But I will genuinely judge him on the same criteria as I judge any of the candidates.”

Ruth Davidson Firmly Rejects Second EU Referendum

Leading Remainer Ruth Davidson has firmly rejected the possibility of a second EU referendum, saying she would be an “enormous hypocrite” for supporting one:

“When it comes to the possibility of re-running referendums, I would be an enormous hypocrite if I said ‘just because there was one that I had lost as a Remainer we should immediately re-run it’ when I’ve spent four years in Scotland saying that Nicola Sturgeon shouldn’t get another one on independence because that’s one that I won…”

Tory Remainers agitating for a second referendum could take a lesson from Ruth on what political principles look like…

Ruth and Hammond’s Radical New Tory Ideas: More Taxes, More Spending, More Regulation

After a month of think tank launches and relaunches, op-eds and policy papers discussing the new radical policies the Tories need to win the next election, Ruth Davidson and Philip Hammond have come up with the uninspiring, unoriginal idea of high taxes, new regulations, more intervention, more borrowing and more public spending.

Ruth today says the Tories have cut taxes far enough and demands more money for the NHS, presumably funded by tax rises or extra borrowing. Her call comes the day after Tax Freedom Day, the point in the year at which the average person starts to actually keep what they earn rather than pay it to the state in taxes. That day now comes later than at any time since 1995 – even worse than under New Labour. Government spending is at £30,000 per household. There is room to solve the housing crisis and make sure the NHS is properly funded while bringing down overall spending and lowering taxes.

Hammond, meanwhile, is planning a speech arguing that Thatcherite free market capitalism is no longer fit for purpose and that greater state intervention is needed to win over young voters attracted to Corbyn. This is such a lazy analysis of the the 2017 result. The ‘youthquake’ theory has been largely debunked, polls are showing a clear trend towards young voters now preferring the Tories to Corbyn, and under 25s are more likely to think the government taxes and spends too much already. As are 25-39 year-olds and 25-49 year-olds. 

Ruth and Hammond’s blunt big state approach is not new, it’s not original, it’s not radical, it is the same, tired, old ideas of more taxes, more spending and more regulation. Not only does it concede ground to Labour and play Corbyn’s game – and he can always promise more spending and regulation than the Tories – it doesn’t even correctly identify the direction in which young voters want to see the country to go. Will Tory members and voters really go for it?

Ruth and Gove Blast ‘Dour, Joyless, Pessimistic, Unhappy, Authoritarian’ Tories

Some choice quotes from the keynote speakers at the launch of the Osbornite / Mayite / centrist think tank Onward last night. Ruth Davidson left the sweaty Churchill Room in parliament in no doubt as to who she was talking about here:

“Sometimes as Tories we just look a bit dour. We look a bit joyless, to be fair. A bit authoritarian, sometimes. We don’t get to win if we start hectoring the people that we need to vote for us… We’ve got to learn to be a bit more joyful… It’s not just what you say but it’s what you can show people… when you do it with a smile, they actually get behind you.”

Bet that went down well in Number 10.

Her attack on Labour was punchy too:

“If you look at Jeremy Corbyn, actually I feel sad. I feel sad at how far a once important, integral, sensible, solid party has fallen. And I then look at John McDonnell, and the shock troops, and the troll factories, and the conspiracy theories and their envy and their fake news and their Skwawkbox and their Canary and the rest of it, and I think that this Labour Party has about the same amount of moral authority as Sepp Blatter putting a fiver on Russia getting the World Cup. I genuinely think to myself, when I look at the Nationalists or the Corbynistas, what I see is a movement that works in its own way to break up our country. That’s what they want. They want to tear it apart.”

A woke Michael Gove said of Ruth: “In the future when think tanks ask, ‘Can we get the pregnant lesbian to speak?’, they will ask: ‘Which pregnant lesbian?’”. Less woke Gove made two comparisons between himself and Ruth, first as Ike and Tina Turner, the second between Sonny and Cher. Perhaps might have thought that through.

His musical call for the Tories to pursue a Fleetwood Mac / Pharrell Williams strategy was more successful: ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ and ‘Happy’ would certainly be a change of tone. Gove echoed Ruth in calling for optimism, though his call could have easily applied to Remainers as well:

“Sometimes in the past the Tories have been pessimistic and unhappy, uncomfortable that we seem to be living in the 21st century, when the 1950s would be far more attractive, and what a pity that the 19th century isn’t an option. Indeed when I heard today that Club 18-30 was at last closing, I thought that must be a group of Conservative modernisers looking forward to that year as some glorious future to which they can aspire.”

The evening was also notable for Neil O’Brien’s Macron style speech, which several in the audience saw as the beginnings of a leadership bid. The theme of the night certainly that the Tories should be more bold, interesting, positive and happy than what is currently on offer…

Ruth: I’m Pregnant

Congratulations! Wouldn’t be the first to have a wee bairn ahead of a leadership bid…

Onward to PX2

Invitations are going out this week for the launch party of Onward, the new Tory think tank promising to come up with ‘retail’ policies to win back under-45 voters. Onward was the brainchild of Tory MP and former Osborne SpAd and Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien, with Nick Faith, the former PX comms chief who now runs WPI Strategy with Sean Worth. So is it just Policy Exchange Mark II?

Onward’s main aim seems to be to bring the Cameroon and May brands of Tory party politics together. Last summer O’Brien and Faith organised a dinner at the home of Tory donor David Meller (don’t mention the President’s Club), who hosted Nick Timothy and JoJo Penn from May’s inner circle, top Cameroon Nick Boles (a former PX director) and a number of younger ambitious MPs. Onward’s director will be former May adviser Will Tanner, its chair is Osborne confidant Danny Finkelstein (former PX chairman), and its board members include former Cameron advisers Kate Rock and Kate Fall, ex-Osborne aide Eleanor Wolfson, and Craig Elder, who co-ran Cameron’s digital campaigns in 2015 and the referendum. Their main financial backer is Martyn Rose, who ran Cameron’s National Citizens Service.

The plan is to create a party-oriented think tank for MPs rather than wonks, which combines Timothy’s statist agenda with the more liberal politics of the Cameroons, and has both Remainers and Brexiters on board. They have signed up MPs from the left and centre-right of the party, from Ruth Davidson and Tom Tugendhat to Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch. It will have some external authors but most of the reports will be written by MPs.

The danger for Onward is it goes down the road of expensive, interventionist, big-state policies which mean higher taxes, more spending and more borrowing – social democracy with a blue-wash. A May-Osborne fusion could mean more cumbersome policies like the energy price cap, HS2 and ever-creeping vice taxes. Guido also fears the instinctively more liberal, small-state, low tax MPs may fail to resist the temptation to drift leftwards as they seek wider support ahead of the next leadership contest. Number 10’s hopeless lack of a domestic agenda means the Tories are crying out for post-Brexit polices, or, perish the thought, policies that could actually be implemented while Brexit is taking place. They won’t beat Corbyn with lite versions of his policies…

Ruth: The Dam Has Broken

Ruth Davidson, addressing Michael Fallon’s resignation in the wake of the Westminster sexual harassment scandal, tells Today:

“The dam has broken on this now, and these overwhelmingly male dominated professions where the boys own locker room culture has prevailed, and it’s all been a bit of a laugh, has got to stop.”

Before the dam broke Ruth tweeted this:

She laddishly told this line at a Lobby lunch:

“That’s kind of the difference between our two parties. You know, Labour’s still fumbling with its flies while the Tories are enjoying a post-coital cigarette after withdrawing our massive Johnson. Sorry that’s not even my speech, that’s just a text from Stephen Crabb.”

Oh, Ruth….

Ruth: A Scot Can Lead Tories Again

Ruth says she is focussed on her job “right now” but doesn’t rule out coming down to Westminster after 2021…

New Statesman’s Rude Ruth Page Break

An accidentally naughty page break in this week’s New Statesman, as an interview with Ruth Davidson reads:

“On education, she wants to encourage innovation by giving head…”

“…teachers autonomy over budgets…” obviously…

H/T @jondharvey

Davis Leads Boris in ConHome Leadership Survey

David Davis leads Boris Johnson by 24% to 18% in ConHome’s new Tory leadership survey of 1,191 readers, though the clear winner is the ‘none of the above’ option on 30%. DD’s grown-up handling of Brexit is serving him well with the Tory grassroots, as was always his plan. Boris’ recent outbreak of Torbynism won’t help him with members. Not real appetite for Hammond or Rudd at all. In terms of the “others” suggested by readers, Raab was most popular on 2%, Gove behind him. No Ruth Davidson surge…

Colonel Ruth Davidson

We’re used to seeing her on manoeuvres atop a tank, now Ruth has been made an Honorary Colonel of 32 Signal Regiment. If she could just get her head around Brexit she’d be in with a decent shout you know…

Friday Caption Contest (Ruth Edition)

Storm Greets SNP Rap Against “Ruth Dykey-D”

At an SNP event attended by Alex Salmond a comedy rap was described by the MP for Edinburgh South West Joanna Cherry* as hilarious. Guido thinks the rap was dire and toe-curling even before they dissed Davidson. Scottish Tories say:

“The nationalists are always the first to scream offence at anything that even mildly upsets them. But when it’s a joke at the expense of pro-UK campaigners, it’s suddenly harmless and hilarious. The SNP should be lambasting this, but instead its elected representatives are praising it on social media.”

Scottish politics as calm as ever…

*Joanna Cherry is the SNP Spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs, she describes herself as a feminist and a lesbian who’s been out for over 30 years.

Ruth Davidson’s Lobby Lunch

ruth davidson

Ruth Davidson didn’t spare Leadsom or Brexiteers at today’s lobby lunch:

The top Tory Scot left no Brexiteer safe, taking a pop at the member for Uxbridge’s recent departure from front line politics:

After the room broke up into laughter she said “Sorry that’s not even my speech, that’s just a text from Stephen Crabb….”. She did eventually take a pop at the opposition, calling Corbyn “comical Ali”:

As well as her own opposition in Holyrood:

Davidson also revealed why she was so pro-Remain – love:


And let’s not forget her words for the press:

Letting off some steam, Ruth?

H/T the lobby

She Shoots, She Scores

Ruth Davidson veers to the left…[…] Read the rest

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