It was the news that snuck out last week amid all the drama of the riots. The Scottish Conservative leadership race finally has a contender in Jackson Carlaw.
Not that anyone cares: posts on anything Tory tend to attract few readers and little comment. A microcosm of the Scottish attitude to Tories then.
But in the interests of political balance, it’s important to say something – anything- about our right of centre party.
So, three months after Annabel Goldie declared she was standing down, at last a candidate. Let’s hope we get a few more, not least because a debate would be good on whither the Scottish Tories. And it won’t seem like the job that no one wants. How else to explain the reticence of talked-about possibles?
Unless the others mislay their nomination papers, Jackson Carlaw won’t win. He shouldn’t win.
Since arriving at Holyrood in 2007, Carlaw has smoothly established himself as a senior Tory with a decent front bench berth, first at health, now at transport. Yet, the burd is struggling to think of a single blow he has managed to land or stushie he has managed to cause. Perhaps worse, given that the Conservative group spent the last four years in constructive opposition – buying policy concessions in return for supporting the minority SNP Government – I’m struggling to recall a health triumph, in the way that the 1000 extra police officers comes to mind.
So far, so invisible. Worse though has been undeniable failure to win a supposedly safe bet for a Tory gain. Not once but twice. The odds with the changed boundaries at the 2011 election were overwhelmingly in the Conservatives’ favour and on previous voting habits, gave them a significant notional majority in the thousands. But still Ken Macintosh got back for Labour, with a not inconsiderable majority himself. How can a man who cannot even triumph in a Tory shoe-in hope to lead a party in electoral decline which has yet to find a way to successfully ditch its toxicity and also straddle the devolution-union divide? Issues which I blogged on previously in calling for Annabel to go.
Richard Cook penned an excellent article on some of the challenges facing the new Conservative leader and the burd would agree that the Tories have little to fear from a robust debate on these issues. But he also ignored the elephant in the Scottish Tories’ parlour.
A Conservative led UK government slashing and burning its way out of economic difficulties serves everyday to remind the Scottish people of what happens if you vote Tory. This week has provided a sharp reminder of what we Scots, instinctively if irrationally, dislike about the Conservatives.
First was the unedifying spectacle of the Prime Minister having to be dragged practically kicking and screaming from his foreign holiday to address a major domestic crisis. See, he is so far removed from the real world, he thinks it is okay to put his own needs first before those of his country.
Worse, it transpired that half the government seemed to be on their jollies at the same time, leaving no one in charge. Again, it’s that arrogance innit? And while all around families are feeling the strain of these austerity times, these posh boys are so far away in foreign climes it takes some of them near 24 hours to get home. The class divide as exemplified by which Costa you visit for your holidays or not is alive and well.
While we might all agree in disgust at the horrors that unfolded in English towns and cities last weekend, many Scots will instinctively recoil in similar disgust at the hardline law and order approach being taken to address them. In recent years in Scotland, acceptance has grown that if we are to eradicate the possibility of such blights on our communites, we must address the causes and prevent them happening in the first place. Rightly, there has been much praise directed at Scottish initiatives to tackle gang violence and culture, that have been missing from the English policy hinterland, initiatives predicated on the need to prevent violence in the first place.
Not sure how assaulting civil liberties by shutting down social networks or banning the wearing of hoodies anywhere there is trouble does any of that. Though many of us may rejoice on aesthetic grounds on the demise of the hoodie, many Scots will see this rightly as a distraction. Tories doing what they always do – picking on the poor.
And even though many Scots will agree with the hard line and the measures announced by Cameron this week, they will remain as reluctant as ever to vote Conservative or acknowledge an alignment with Tory values and policies. We wear our anti-Tory badge with pride. Still.
This is the conundrum the next Conservative leader must attempt to resolve. Annabel Goldie ignored it and in her six years – two Scottish elections and one UK election later – the Conservatives have emerged with fewer elected representatives, a decreasing membership but at least a blueprint for modernisation. This latter issue will take a lot of energy to resolve; dragging dyed-in-the-wool members who like what they have always done in their cosy fiefdoms into the 21st Century won’t be easy.
It’s not hard to see why when you lay out all the issues that will require the new Scottish Tory leader’s attention, this is the job no one seems to want.