Ballantyne – a risk worth taking

Ballantyne – a risk worth taking

by Dr Sutherland MacNeill
article from Wednesday 29, January, 2020

MICHELLE Ballanytne is ruffling a few feathers. Last night I met her on the campaign trail as she seeks to become the next leader of the Scottish Conservative & unionist Party, at a very well attended rally on a cold Monday night in the Borders. It was a rather different and more positive affair than the normal Tory gathering.

Being an occasional attendee of Conservative events one is rather used to the elderly cohort of attendees, the polite chat and the absolute absence of political ideas or debate. Conservatives events are about defining what we are not – not what we are. We don’t like Scottish Independence but can’t quite remember why? And beyond that what exactly does the Scottish Conservative Party stand for. Where are the bold ideas to transform Scotland?

Well you should listen to Michelle Ballantyne MSP. Judging by her rally last night with those attending quite passionate and coming from a wide range of ages and interests she is going to give Jackson Carlaw a run for his money. 

After the usual polite drinks she took the floor and spoke eloquently, without notes, for 20 minutes on a whole range of initiatives. Sure, she explained why Scottish Independence is such a bad idea, but positive policies on both the big and little things were so refreshing from coherence on tax to why Police Scotland is such a shambles and what can be done about it. Watch her here for her launch video.

Perhaps even more impressively was how she handled the many and varied questions with a positivity, taking the argument to the enemy and a creativity which Scottish politics has lacked for so long.

An SNP Scotland is consensual, politically correct, poorly run and stifling. Ballantyne could give them a run for their money and she deserves a chance.

Her challenger, Jackson Carlaw, may be better known but he has been on the scene for a long time without really making a splash. He looks like the continuity core vote candidate and frankly that is not enough for a Party that after years of near irrelevance is showing signs of having peaked. Getting 25-26 per cent of the vote may be better than a decade ago but it is still a long way from genuine influence.

This is a critical time for our country. The Labour Party is in disarray, the Liberal Democrats in terminal trouble with really only the Scottish Conservatives left to make the case for Britain and a better Scotland. Can Jackson really offer wide appeal? Sadly I doubt it. Michelle is a risk for sure, as she has not been in front line politics for long, but last night I saw a candidate brimming with ideas, who is outside the cozy consensus that has let Scotland down for so long.

As I discovered on the night, Michelle is no career politician. She is a former senior nurse, a mother of six and with her husband runs a small business employing 20-odd people. This is invaluable real life experience and a far cry from the cosseted world of most of our career politicians of today. Yes entrusting Michelle Ballantyne with the leadership of the party is a risk but it is a risk worth taking. The choice really is the management of decline or take the risk on more creative common sense polices that broaden the appeal and properly challenge the SNP.

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