Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, whoever wins, Scotland loses
In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda stumbles upon a shipwrecked group of treacherous would-be regicides.
She is enraptured: after a lifetime being raised alone on a desert island, they are the first human beings aside from her father that she has ever set eyes upon. “How beauteous mankind is!”, she acclaims. “O brave new world, that has such people in it!”
Away from the shores of this fantasy island, it is hard to imagine any location where Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak might be greeted with such a warm welcome. Certainly not in Darlington, or any other part of Scotland.
The two contenders to be the leader of the Conservative Party and, ipso facto, the prime minster of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are manifestly unfit to hold any sort of political power – let alone the highest office in the land.
Regardless of who wins this election, Scotland loses.
The first reason for this cannot be repeated often enough. Any politician who aided and abetted Boris Johnson as he drove a wrecking ball through the United Kingdom’s democratic institutions is either a naïve fool and a poor judge of character or a selfish opportunist, willing to do anything and say anything to win and hold political power.
As senior members of his Cabinet, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak should be made to bear that cross for the rest of their political careers.
It seems clear, however, that neither Ms Truss nor Mr Sunak are naïve.
As they compete to see who can most viciously disavow the policies they wrote, approved and implemented, we non-members of the Conservative Party – reduced to voyeurs in our democratic process – are left with no doubt that these people will do anything, say anything, and be anything that they think will grant them the keys to Number 10.
As one example, Liz Truss and her taxpayer-funded photographer have spent the past few months posing in a series of the least subtle Margret Thatcher impersonations ever seen – and I once watched an Edinburgh Fringe performance where a drag queen performed a Section 28-themed cabaret.
But Rishi Sunak, true to form, has managed to one-up even that, with a Thatcher impression that makes Liz Truss’ clumsy photographs look like outtakes from The Iron Lady.
Writing in The Telegraph, for a readership he clearly assumes is too stupid to understand visual cues or clauses longer than five words, Rishi Sunak duly informed his readers that “my values are Thatcherite … I am a Thatcherite, I am running as a Thatcherite and I will govern as a Thatcherite”.
The Iron Lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak represent a coherent political ideology which offers any kind of meaningful vision for the United Kingdom – let alone Scotland; their policy platform – cut taxes, kick out immigrants and sort out the economy – could have been lifted from a forty-year old election manifesto. Instead, their primary pursuit is political power for themselves – and they will do and say anything to get it.
Secondly, neither candidate, despite their future mandate given by a whopping 0.29 per cent of the population, seems to understand how democracy works in the United Kingdom.
While Liz Truss has declared that “probably some Scots love me” and Rishi Sunak has bemoaned the fact that “the SNP takes credit for the good things happening in Scotland”, neither are willing to accept the result of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election in which the Scottish electorate voted in a parliament with a pro-independence majority.
There are no Union flags big enough to hide that simple fact.
If neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak is willing to acknowledge this democratic mandate and enter into meaningful discussions with the Scottish Government, they enter into a space which goes beyond party politics and political disagreements.
They become leaders who ignore the results of elections that they find inconvenient. That is dangerous territory for democracy – regardless of where you sit on the constitutional question.
Finally, going beyond the character and beliefs of the two candidates fighting to be prime minister, the institution they represent – the Conservative Party – has itself has morphed into something that deserves to be nowhere near any kind of political power.
Having orchestrated attacks on judges, lawyers, the Electoral Commission, devolution, the BBC, international law, the civil service, the Church of England, the business community and countless others, their political party seems hellbent on tearing apart the fabric of this country in its relentless goal for political power at any cost.
To return to my first point, a party which would even select Boris Johnson to stand for elected office under their banner, let alone put him in Downing Street, is not one that is fit to govern.
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, like their old boss, have shown that they only care about one thing in their political lives: themselves.
Regardless of which one wins in September, the rest of us look set to lose.
Stewart McDonald is MP for Glasgow South.