Ruth Davidson’s relatively short-lived foray into the world of politics has been a phenomenal career move
The former leader of the Scottish Conservatives is described on her Twitter feed as someone who doesn’t ‘write the headline’ but today Ruth-‘I used to be a journalist’-Davidson is certainly hitting them. And for all the wrong reasons.
In the eight short years that she has been an MSP, Davidson has torn through Scottish politics like a hyperactive whirlwind wrapped in a Union Jack.
She has made her mark on the political stage by pouring her energies into detoxifying the Tories in Scotland.
And to an extent, sitting astride a bison, making laddish jokes and having the balls to simply blast through any attempts to be pinned down on policy much more than standing up for the Union, has worked.
The news that Davidson had joined City PR firm Tulchan Communications to advise some of the biggest players in corporate Britain on how to cope with the changing political clime has been met with wholesale condemnation
And while the Scottish media might have been more circumspect over the real value of her achievements, the London press bought into the fantasy that she would be the next First Minister, if not get the keys to No 10.
Elected leader just months after becoming an MSP in 2011, she has led her party through frenetic times. She has undeniably upped the profile and managed to increase the number of her MPs from one to 13, double the number of seats in the Scottish Parliament and put her party ahead of Labour as the main opposition.
To an extent, she has managed to separate herself from some of the harder line Tory policies of her UK counterparts, avoided being too clear on any of her own, and even managed to set herself apart from some of the more hard-right sentiments expressed at Westminster post-Brexit, simply by saying she would do things differently but without ever being put in a position to have to do so.
But it is also conveniently forgotten that under her watch, the Tories delivered the worst general election result in Scotland since records began and at the next general election, her MPs are predicted to be back down to just one.
A party source once told me that the political facts didn’t matter because she was just a star.
Politicians taking second jobs should not be up for debate
And in the campaign to promote an image of herself that is entirely based on the superficial, Davidson has proved herself a success at PR. Maybe that is why she is now being paid the equivalent of half a million pounds year to play that dark art while still sitting as an MSP. But I doubt it.
Whichever which way you view it, Davidson’s relatively short-lived foray into the world of politics has been a phenomenal career move, propelling her from the ranks of a BBC radio journalist with a redundancy cheque in one hand and a Conservative Party membership application in the other, to being able to command an eye-watering salary as a PR guru.
But ironically, the move has proved to be a PR disaster.
The news last week that Davidson had joined City PR firm Tulchan Communications to advise some of the biggest players in corporate Britain on how to cope with the changing political clime has been met with wholesale condemnation.
The industry body, the Public Relations and Communications Association, has blasted her appointment as “wholly unethical” and Iain Anderson, one of the most influential lobbyists in the City as the chair of Cicero Group, denounced the move while Neil Findlay MSP, whose private member’s bill on parliamentarians having second jobs is weaving its way through the legislative process, has lodged a motion calling for Davidson to stand down from the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body and to consider her position as an MSP.
Davidson has feebly insisted that what she will really be doing is ‘helping firms to do the right thing’. She has said that capitalism has some problems and that she intends to be part of the solution. The first step in that process is apparently by lining her pocket and cashing in a pro-rata salary of £0.5m a year. Kerching!
It smacks of Kezia Dugdale’s claim that the purpose of her going into the jungle for I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here was not the fat cheque, but to give air time to Labour values when all she really got to chew over were the genitals of marsupials.
Politicians taking second jobs should not be up for debate. Personally, I think if you’re elected to sit as a legislator, then that’s the job you should do. Nothing else.
I see there are nuances and unique circumstances but as a rule, serving politicians capitalising on who they are and by dint of who they know is wrong. It smacks of the potential for corruption and is the corporate capture of the democratic space at its worst. It all but amounts to cash for access.
Announcing her new role, Davidson said capitalism has been “the most powerful force in history for lifting people out of poverty” and that “life is now more equal than at any time since she was born.”
Is she for real?
Her party’s record on introducing austerity policies was described by a UN inquiry as amounting to “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities. It has cut housing benefit to the young, forcing them onto the streets, pushed benefit claimants into suicide and its so-called welfare reforms are so bad that Ken Loach made two films about them. All this on top of the economic and social damage brought by Brexit.
This is the divided Britain that Davidson helped define. This is her record.
And as she banks the £2,000 a day she earns from her lucrative second job, she might consider that it is the same amount that some hard-up families lost because of her party’s heartless ‘two-child cap’. And no amount of PR spin can ever counter her culpability in the rape clause.
Perhaps it is the grotesque sums involved or that we should expect better of someone who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body overseeing how parliamentarians conduct themselves, or that she has so far refused to stand down, that she is now at the centre of a governance storm, but this is pure Davidson. Sticking up a couldn’t care less, two-fingers salute, to anyone that takes her to task.
Davidson says capitalism needs a reboot but, in her greed, it is her that has stuck the boot into politics and hit bonanza time.
Pure Davidson. Pure old-school Tory.