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Scotland has nothing to look forward to in this changing of Tory leader

Scotland has nothing to look forward to in this changing of Tory leader

Mario Cuomo’s remark that, in politics, you campaign in poetry but govern in prose has a certain truth in it.  

Getting people to vote for you should be about inspiring them, even if the reality of delivering on the promises is much harder and much more mundane.

However, there is no poetry in the current Tory leadership race and there will be no pleasure in the resulting prose either.

Sunak and Truss are spending the summer pandering to the prejudices of this contest’s electorate - 160,000 or so Conservative party members who are overwhelmingly old, white, affluent and rarely Scottish - and they will govern in the same way.

The very nature of their party will dictate that, with its benches in the House of Commons now stuffed full of MPs who have drunk the Brexit Kool-Aid and whose outlook has much more in common with Nigel Farage than with one nation Tories of the past like Kenneth Clark or even John Major.

In the autumn of 2019, I had a private dinner with a senior Tory to talk about what Scotland might expect from Johnson, recently the victor in a similar contest.  

This well-informed and well-connected individual was keen to persuade me that Johnson as prime minister would be a different creature to the one in evidence at the member’s hustings.

This difference, he claimed, would make him more amenable to constructive discussion about both Brexit and Scotland. Things could and would get better.

They didn't. In fact, they got considerably worse.  

Johnson in prime ministerial office was even more the arrogant, blustering liar with a contempt for Scotland than he had been as editor of the Spectator, mayor of London and foreign secretary.

The poor communication that was the hallmark of the May government - she asked people to come and give their views and then talked over them for most of the meeting - became diktat, with hardly a gesture towards consultation.

Worse, his addiction to lying quickly became his government’s hallmark, with constant public assertions regarding the excellent work being done by “Scotland’s two governments” when all the time one of those governments was being (and still is being) cynically and deliberately undermined - politically and legally - by the other with the full connivance of the worst Secretary of State for Scotland in many generations.

Judging by last weekend’s Sunday papers the same attempt to draw a distinction between the candidate and the future office is underway once again.    

As no one could possibly enjoy, still less endorse, the miserable spectacle of the tax bribing, intolerant, chauvinistic auction now in full swing, the usual suspects are puffing the individual's personal qualities as evidence that they will bring something new and more attractive to Downing Street.

That is just another lie.  

What you see in this contest is what you are going to get at the end of it - a divisive and deeply partisan politician pandering to extremism, not a prime minister seeking to heal a severely fractured and rapidly declining state.

A product of the same narrow, right-of-centre, unrepresentative and now profoundly anti-Scottish Tory party who is surrounded by the same cast of discredited characters.

Truss is even putting it about that she may recycle the failed Brexit negotiator “Lord” Frost by making him her chief of staff.

The next Tory Leader and therefore the next prime minister will be a rabid Brexiteer (the born again variety like Truss are often the worst) endeavouring to fulfil the impossible task of “making Brexit work”,  a culture warrior dripping with prejudice against progressive policies that heal long lasting wrongs, a sabre rattler who fails to understand the danger that lies in tearing up treaties and a democracy denier who thinks that a deliberate policy of contemptuously ignoring Scotland’s elected First Minister, or being “firm” with  her,  (the very language and actions used against colonies and their leaders a century ago, to no good effect)  is the answer to the demand of the Scottish people for the right to choose their own future. 

They will be those things because those are the things their party wants them to be.  

Consequently, they will govern as they have campaigned - in the image and style of a party which Scotland has not elected to government for more than sixty years.

It does not matter to Scotland a jot or a tittle who wins. Scotland has nothing to look forward to in the changing of the guard (yet again) within a party that can and will deliver nothing to it.

It simply provides a further exemplar of why independence is essential.

Michael Russell is SNP president and the Scottish Government's former constitutional affairs secretary.




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