What will Boris Johnson’s premiership mean for the future of Ruth Davidson’s Tories?

Written by Mandy Rhodes on 29 July 2019 in Comment

The dilemma for Davidson going forward will be where she can find common ground with her party leader and how she then sells that to Scotland

Image credit: David Anderson

Boris Johnson is our new prime minister. Let those words resonate. We knew it was coming but when it finally did there was a sense of the surreal.

And that was only further cemented by his appointment of a man who was the architect of the ‘Vote Leave' campaign and just four months ago had been found in contempt of parliament, as his chief aide.

And with that two fingered salute to the more moderate Tories who hadn’t voted him into No 10, he cut through Theresa May’s cabinet like a maniac brandishing a scythe in a wheat field sacking more than half of them and packing his team with Vote Leave veterans and right-wing free marketers who had all swallowed the Kool Aid and signed up to the prospect of a No Deal.

In contrast to May’s pledge to lead a government that worked for everyone rather than being driven by the interests of a privileged few, Johnson has created a government of extreme right-wingers.

And in a clear act of his contempt for what anyone thinks, he has brought back into the fold a whole host of MPs who have lied, been shamed, sacked or berated by his predecessor.

And Johnson’s choice for Secretary of State for Scotland, a multi-millionaire land owner and Brexiteer, who has dismissed Scotland’s 62 per cent Remain vote as no more important than Wales’s choice to leave.

He has said that a no deal would not be “seriously damaging” to the country and that the UK Government would “absolutely not” agree to a second independence referendum.

With this cabinet, Johnson has shown decisively that he will do what he wants, when he wants.

And for Ruth Davidson, who has been uncharacteristically quiet of recent days, that could spell the end of the brief revival of the Tory party in Scotland.

It’s a paradox of devolution that as powers have shifted from Westminster to Scotland, the powers of the UK political parties over their Scottish counterparts have not.

It might be politically expedient for Davidson to portray the party she leads in Scotland as different from the one Boris Johnson leads across the UK, but they are, to paraphrase a politician of another time, two cheeks of the same arse.

And if Davidson was to formally sever that tie, which some have been musing, not only would that give lie to her one USP, being a unionist – albeit one that couldn’t even keep her own party together, it would also remove the one seduction she can offer sceptical Scots, access to the levers of power in Number 10.

Davidson’s attempts to pretend she was in the Tory party but different, have been exposed by the election of a right wing PM who some call a bargain-store Trump, who has called gay people bum boys in tank tops, described women in burkas as letter boxes, who has placed an anti-abortionist into the position of  leader of the House and who, with a dwindling majority, will depend even more so on the bonds with the DUP.

The dilemma for Davidson going forward, if she does, will be where she can find common ground with her party leader and how she then sells that to Scotland as a price worth paying to stay in a union that her party has helped fracture.

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