Ruth Davidson interview: Scottish Conservatives are in "good heart" going into the General Election
In an extract from Kate Shannon's interview, the Tory leader discusses the big issues facing the party
Going into the General Election in May and the party’s conference on Friday, Ruth Davidson believes the Conservatives are in a strong position.
She said: “We came out of the referendum with more supporters, more activists, more donors and more people coming forward wanting to be Conservative candidates. We also came out with a campaign team which had been tested in earnest and that is hugely gratifying and heartening because we’re taking that into the General Election.
I love campaigning; you wouldn’t do this job if you didn’t
“From a personal point of view, I kind of hoped there would be a dip in tempo between September and now but there hasn’t been. We’re all still full cylinders at it with 88 days to go – I’ve got an app on my phone which tells me exactly how many hours and minutes we’ve got until the polls open. I love campaigning; you wouldn’t do this job if you didn’t.
“It’s great to get around the country, I’ve never been one to sit behind a desk, so it is really good to get out there with our candidates and make arguments.”
September’s referendum has had far reaching consequences for all the political parties, both in terms of projections for Westminster seats gained and in levels of political engagement.
Davidson said: “The referendum has echoed through Scottish politics since close of polls on 18 September. One of the reasons why recent polling is showing so many different results is, we’re in a huge state of flux.
“It will probably be in the closing stages of this election campaign that people will actually turn their attention to what it is about, and that is, will Ed Miliband or David Cameron be Prime Minister?
“[The referendum] lit people on fire. I was standing in a taxi queue in Glasgow at 2am after a birthday party and the people behind me were discussing the Barnett formula. I never thought I’d see that in Scotland and it was really wonderful.
“I think we are going to be the only pro-Union party that comes out of the General Election better than we went in. We are not just holding our own but you saw from the recent Ashcroft polling that 10 per cent of Liberal Democrats are now voting Tory so we want to build on that.
“In terms of the referendum casting a shadow on this General Election, I think it is but the big story out of this election is going to be the Liberal Democrat collapse. I think it is going to be similar to their 1948 wipe-out or our 1997 wipe-out, it is going to be a huge event.
“The Conservative Party’s strength, as well as its weakness, in Scotland is our vote is spread all over the country. Last time we got over 400,000 votes, the same as the SNP and the Liberal Democrats but we only got one seat and the Libs got 11. It’s about concentrating our forces and showing people that we can start winning seats again. That’s the focus for me.
“We’re in good heart, we’ve been working exceptionally hard and I think the real thing in people’s minds for the General Election in Scotland is that they’ve finally seen the Conservative Party in Scotland stand for something. They’ve seen it stand against plenty of things but during the referendum, they saw us stand for something and for something we really believed in.”
In terms of big election issues, Davidson believes the economy lies at the heart of many people’s worries and concerns.
The big story out of this election is going to be the Liberal Democrat collapse
She said: “The last Labour Government left us with a huge peacetime deficit, rising unemployment and basically, a note which said, ‘sorry, there’s no money left’ as they laughed and left office. Actually, we’ve had to take some really tough decisions. We now have the fastest growing major economy in the western world, we’ve had more than 1.75 million jobs created in the past five years, we’ve kept interest rates low, we’ve kept mortgages low and we’re now beginning to see wages and earnings outstripping prices so people are beginning to feel like they’ve come through the worst of it.
“The question is, we’ve done all the hard work, so do you go back and undo it all or do you see this through? For me, it’s not just an economic issue, though that’s important, it’s a moral one too. There’s nothing socially just about landing future generations with our debts and a structural deficit which they can’t hope to eliminate. We have to, as a country, learn to manage our economy and live within our means and not have a millstone around the necks of future generations.”
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