AS SHE scurried around the afterdeck of the good ship Titanic, handing out fresh sheet music to her little band of spin doctors, Tory bandleader Davidson tapped her baton on her music stand and was heard to say, “now people, let’s have a verse and two choruses of Sinead Lohan’s “believe it if you like!””
I have to hand it to the Conservative parties new Scottish leader; what she lacks in political insight and skill is more than made up for in her ability to spin a good line: except that to the more perceptive amongst her membership and the wider media pack at large, they just don’t buy it anymore.
This week’s plea was an impassioned plea to disaffected Lib Dems, or at least those not of a socialist leaning, to come on board the Titanic, where ‘together we can secure a prosperous Scotland’.
Begging your pardon Ma’am, but would that be an invitation to Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Scotland who recently said he would not describe himself as a Unionist and disliked the term: or to Sir Ming Campbell who is currently chairing a commission on home rule: or the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, soul mate to the Deputy PM, and a man who knows he will have to face down Charles Kennedy in the battle for a constituency in 2015?
Just why anyone standing on a melting iceberg would want to jump aboard a sinking ship beats me, but then I have never been able to truly understand the Lib Dems. One thing about them I do understand, however, is that they would rather stick pins in their eyes than become members of the Conservative Party. For a start they are committed to Home Rule, which Ruth Davidson is not, and in their approach to Europe, proportional voting and justice policies are far removed from most Conservatives. A sharp repost from Willie Rennie will no doubt ensue and maybe he will invite disillusioned Tories to join him, as a few former TRG mammoths like Arthur Bell and Anna McCurley did before when Captain Forsyth was on the bridge. (I do recall the iceberg stayed afloat longer than the Titanic, by the way.)
In times past when I was mentoring young Tory candidates I used to tell them the first law of political survival was, when you rise to speak, engage brain before mouth! The brighter ones got it very quickly!
Even to the few optimists still aboard Ms Davidson’s badly listing ship, the harsh reality of the Local Government elections surely cannot be other than crystal clear.
National Share of the Vote – Down by 3.0% compared to 2007
Average Tory Councillor’s Vote – Down by 5-6%
Number of councillors – Down by 12%
Number of Councils with fewer Tories – Up by 13
Number of Councils without a Tory member – Up by 1
So what has life to offer the hard working 115 Conservative Councillors who in the main just scraped back in with an average 5-6% fall in their vote?
Well in most councils the answer will be nothing at all, other than a lot of hard work and very little thanks.
For a select few however life as a very junior coalition partner in less than a handful of councils beckons, along with an extra responsibility payment of about £6500 pa, and a dance with the devil. To an increasing number of the ‘never had a real job’ full time Conservative activists/Councillors , no doubt a few extra quid in their pockets and maybe even a grand job title will add to any misty-eyed belief that a career in politics is their destiny .
To achieve such aims the current expectation is that most will have to climb in to bed with Labour as Madame Lamont liberally sprays them with her Lynx-effect pheromones. What then of Political principles? Best forgotten, boys and girls, would be my guess. Most Labour politicians of my acquaintance could eat you for breakfast.
Fortunately for those of us on the centre right who despair about the Scottish Conservatives all is perhaps not lost.
One lifelong Conservative has embarked on a different course. My friend Peter de Vink in his own estimable way has now jumped ship and by simply stating what he believed in and saying what he would do if elected has managed to do just that – get elected with 1400 votes that in that bastion of rotten socialist empires – Midlothian Council. It is there that Peter found himself on Friday last holding the balance of power along with a Green against 8 Socialists and 8 Nationalists.
He immediately announced that he would be spending the next 5 years trying to undo almost a generation of socialist neglect and incompetence (never mind possible corruption and bullying) and would be supporting the Nationalists in an administration, for the good of Midlothian and ultimately his fellow Scots.
Yet another of Ms Davidson’s litany of mistakes in the last six months was to show Peter De Vink the red card, but that’s what happens when political beginners draw lines in the sand for the sake of a quick headline. As I used to counsel – engage brain before mouth.
To quote again Ms Davidson’s latest news release, “It’s a choice between separation under the SNP, stagnation under Labour or a secure and prosperous Scotland as part of the United Kingdom under the Conservatives.”
You might as well ask the band for another two choruses of – “Believe it if you like!”
Euan Wallace is a former Deputy Chairman and head of campaigning of Stirling Conservatives.