A Warning for Ruth Davidson
Reflecting on statements Ruth Davidson made at the start of her period of office as leader of the Tory party in Scotland it is clear she is cut from the same stone as Annabel Goldie. In her heart she is an old fashioned Scottish Tory and her politics are driven by truths and principles strange to her colleagues at Westminster. She is now under the same threat of a corporate coup d’etat, (assuming a poor result in the 2016 Scottish election), which will culminate in her removal from office. Cameron, Mundell and his mates are in control of an agenda for change, details of which have yet to be shared outwith a small core group of top party officials reporting direct to Cameron. Evidenced by the latest Westminster/Scotland spat, Ruth Davidson does not enjoy corporate membership of the team.
The Spat – Davidson V Cameron
August 3rd, 2015 – Ruth Davidson, Scottish Tory leader tells Cameron not to stand in the way of a second referendum on independence.
Cameron, (without consulting Ruth Davidson) said last week the UK Government would stop another referendum. “It is important that a referendum is legal and fair and properly constituted. That’s what we had and it was decisive, so I don’t see the need for another one.” When asked if this meant he could rule another referendum out before the next UK General Election in 2020, he said: “Yes.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reponded saying “David Cameron has no right to stand in the way” of a second poll, if it is supported by a majority of Scots.
Adding comment, Ruth Davidson, (Tory Party in Scotland Leader) warned Cameron that “such a move would put the party in a hellish position in Scotland. If the Nats won a majority having said in the manifesto that they would have a second referendum and the only thing standing in the way of having a second referendum was the UK Government, then that would be a pretty uncomfortable position for the Scottish Conservatives to be in.” http://www.thenational.scot/news/ruth-davidson-warns-david-cameron-not-to-block-a-second-independence-referendum.5903
The hitman and Annabel Goldie – One in the heart and One in the head
Recent evidence of the cynical approach of Cameron and his henchmen to political democracy in Scotland is to be found in the article below which tracks the Tory Party leadership record of Annabel Goldie and her team in the period 2005-2011. The manner of her unjustified removal from office gives warning to the SNP that the Westminster Tory elite have no honour and as such are not to be trusted.
November 2005 – Forced to step down in the face of a scandal associated with his misuse of the claims system David McLetchie’s resignation created yet another crisis in the ranks of an already decimated Tory Party in Scotland. lumbered with a Leaderless, powerless, despondent and desperate party that had lost it’s way in Scotland and rejected yet again by the Scottish electorate the controlling Westminster elite, with very little recent knowledge or experience of Scottish affairs within the new Holyrood parliament were at a loss as to the way forward.
The first final decision arrived at by Tory Central Office was to transfer leadership of the party in Scotland to the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland but the favoured option was swiftly abandoned when rejected by the recently formed Tory MSP group at Holyrood. Melt down of the Tory party in Scotland beckoned.
Rescue manifested in the unlikely form of a hitherto undiscovered middle aged, grey haired spinster called Annabel Goldie. Her view of politics in Scotland was completely at odds with her predecessor, who had slavishly followed the Westminster Party line which was that devolution was an ever present odious threat to the Union and doomed to fail.
Annabel worked hard, first off convincing her colleagues, garnering their thinking to the view that devolution was a reality and that it presented new opportunities for the Tory Party to become once more a “Tartan Tory” powerhouse providing Scotland with a centre-right alternative to an increasingly left leaning SNP and an incompetent Labour/Lib/Dem coalition government.
Annabel’s “new way” was actively supported by her deputy leader, Murdo Fraser and reflected her many years of politicking in Scotland, stretching back to the heady days of 1980/90 when Tory MP’s in Scotland numbered in double figures. Facing the reality that, with only one MP left in place, (desperately clinging on for dear life down near the border) the future for the party in Scotland appeared gloomy and depressing.
It was against this background of unmitigated disasters that, in her acceptance statement to the party, at the time she took up the reins of leadership, she said “the wheels are back on the wagon and the nag hitched up to tow it”. She also gave warning, that “disloyalty or disobedience will not be tolerated so long as I am leader”. “I think you may take it matron’s handbag will be in hyper-action.”
Speaking directly to the Scottish public she said, “There is work to be done tackling the huge frustrations about what devolution is not delivering for Scotland and the Tory Party under my leadership will be united in doing it’s best to ensure there is a robust opposition presence in Scotland. The Tory party was back!!
In parliament, she proved to be a skilled debater. Possessing a dry wit and self deprecating humour, “the matron” very quickly established a positive image of herself and the party at Holyrood and with the Scottish public and press.
The first test of her leadership was not long delayed when after only a week in office she had to deal with a “deep throat” Tory who had released damaging evidence of David McLetchie’s improper claims to the press. David Monteith MSP, (a right wing Thatcherite friend of Michael Forsyth) had admitted to being the source of the leak. Annabel immediately withdrew the party whip forcing him to remain at Holyrood, as an independent until his resignation at the time of the 2007 Scottish elections. But, in banishing Monteith she reopened wounds that had barely healed and set Annabel on a collision course with a small core of Thatcherites remaining in Scottish politics, (including the party heirarchy and David Mundell).
Mundell made his move a few days ahead of the 2007 Scottish Tory annual conference (only a few weeks before the Scottish general election) when a four page memo (written by himself to David Cameron in June 2006) was released anonymously to the Scottish Daily Record. In a longish ramble Mundell bared his thoughts to Cameron advising that MSP’s in Scotland lacked the skills necessary for political office. He also stated:
* There is a “simple lack of thinkers” on the Conservative benches at Holyrood, they don’t have the capacity to formulate their own policy independently.
* Annabel Goldie had made a reasonable start but has been criticised for “lack of activity and strategic thought”, she also has “sensitivities” about how she is being presented alongside Cameron.
* The next Holyrood manifesto will simply recycle existing policy positions and that the Scottish party “don’t get” the new direction/moderation of the Westminster party.
MSP’s as one attacked Mundell, furious in their demand that the party whip should be withdrawn from him, (as it had in the case of Monteith). Such action would limit the damage that his ill-advised and leaked memo threatened to cause to the party in Scotland. This was the only way of killing the story and distancing the Tory leadership from Mr Mundell’s criticisms of the Scottish party leadership.
But there was a problem. Annabel had no authority over Mundell and it soon became evident Cameron backed him over any of the Scottish Tories, including Annabel. Rallying to her side, Murdo Fraser, deputy Leader of the Tory Party in Scotland stoutly defended Annabel stating “Everyone in the party owes her a debt of gratitude for the steadfast leadership she has provided over the past 16 months. http://conservativehome.blogs.com/torydiary/2007/03/david_mundell_m.html
The 2007 election was near. Ignoring internal squabbles mischeviously created and fueled by Mundell, Annabel gave the party the direction and leadership it needed. She launched her party’s manifesto well before anyone else, ruling out any chance of a coalition deal – claiming eight years of a Labour/Lib Dem pact had done little to enhance the public perception of devolution. Her position paid off.
The Tories, whilst maintaining their independence and right to oppose policies it did not approve of, were able to extract a number of important concessions from the incoming minority SNP Scottish Government – including drugs policy, business rates and other benefits to Tory leaning constituences including the much vaunted “Townscape Heritage Initiative” regeneration scheme. The party also supported the SNP proposal to freeze the “Council tax” which was rejected by the Labour Party. She won the day for the SNP government simply telling her colleagues “We cannot not support a Council tax freeze? We’d be unelectable.” in return for supporting its first budget. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6604155.stm
Confidence renewed, Annabel and the Tory Party in Scotland gained the respect of the Scottish electorate for their new found positive outlook at Holyrood and it appeared Annabel had gained the ear of Cameron over Mundell (who continued with his undercover tactics always seeking to undermine the authority of MSP’s and Annabels leadership).
Cameron then installed Annabel in his shadow Cabinet in London as part of his strategy to bring Holyrood and Westminster closer together. She became the first Scottish Tory leader regularly to attend meetings of the shadow Cabinet as shadow First Minister for Scotland. The break with tradition was another indication of Cameron’s apparent desire to make devolution work more effectively and also indicated his determination to increase the number of Tory politicians at Holyrood and Westminster.
Extending the hand of friendship to the SNP, (at the behest of Annabel) Cameron, fiercely critical of the fractious relationship between Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown and SNP ministers in Edinburgh and the UK Labour Government pledged to work closely with the SNP if he defeated Labour at the General Election. Adding her support Annabel said: “Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond do not meet with each other to stand up for the people of Scotland. David Cameron and I will.” http://www.scotsman.com/news/goldie-chosen-to-join-cameron-s-cabinet-1-1304310
In the period 2007-2010, to the casual observer, all appeared to be well within the Tory party in Scotland but this was not the case. Cameron, Mundell, Osborne and others conducted a war of attrition against Annabel and (in their view) her outdated Unionist views of the UK which, whilst maintaining the Union gave precedence to the interests of Scotland over the wishes of Westminster.
In the 2010 General Election the Tory Party in Scotland failed to make any progress, asking the Scottish electorate to support a manifesto formulated in Westminster containing nothing of note for Scotland’s economy. Annabel, bound by party rules to accept and implement Shadow Cabinet decisions had advised, without success against a number of the proposals contained in the manifesto as being wrong for Scotland. Cameron had snookered her by adding her to his cabinet. Rumours also circulated widely throughout the period of the campaign that Cameron and his advisors had scant regard for the abilities of Annabel and her team and moves were afoot to replace her regardless of the outcome of theelection.
Annabel’s arch nemisis, Mundell, the sole Scottish Tory MP in the last Parliament, held on to his seat of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. At interview he made a telling statement: “It wasn’t my intention five years ago to be the only Conservative MP in Scotland and it certainly wasn’t my intention tonight. I’m not complacently brushing aside the fact that we haven’t made progress in the number of seats of Scotland; we haven’t and I accept that. That’s something that we have to look at very seriously in the aftermath of this election.”
Cameron speedily commissioned an investigation (without reference to Annabel) into the poor performance of the party in Scotland and subsequently supported recommenations contained in the “Sanderson Report” which had advised a radical leadership and party structure overhaul as part of a battle plan to improve its future electoral prospects. Power would be transferred to a group of thatcherite driven slick Young Turks in Glasgow University a number of whom would work out of Annabel’s office with immediate effect. This included Ruth Davidson who had only recently returned to Scotland having failed to gain a seat in an English constituency. The die had been cast against Annabel. Cameron’s long held plans for Scotland did not include her as leader of Scotlands Tories. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11839934
Michael Crow, Director of Strategy, (with a remit to forge closer links between London and Edinburgh) was sacked by the Tory Party in Scotland, claiming that it could no longer justify or afford his £100,000 salary. One in the nose for Cameron.
In a leaked memo to the party’s ruling executive, Murdo Fraser, the Tories’ deputy leader at the Scottish Parliament, described the Conservative brand in Scotland as “toxic.” two in the nose for Cameron.
In a burst of frustration after the May 2010 results were declared, David McLetchie, the Tories’ former Scottish leader and business manager at Holyrood, said the party would have to prove that it “didn’t eat babies”, to get people to vote for them once again. three in the nose for Cameron.
There were suggestions that the Scottish party should revert to it’s pre-1965 status splitting from the party in the rest of the UK so as to revive its fortunes. It was also mooted that the party should change its name — dropping the word “Conservative” — to distance itself from the memory of Margaret Thatcher, whose tenure as Prime Minister in the 1980s is widely blamed for the party’s dramatic downturn north of the Border. A final punch in the nose to Cameron’s authority.
The growing dysfunctional nature of the relationship between the London and Scotland arms of the Tory Party became public knowledge as the party in Scotland became divorced from its Westminster masters. On at least two occasions, major policy decisions were taken by Conservative leaders in London in direct contradiction to Scottish Tory policy. On both occasions, sources say, the Scottish party had no idea what was going on before the decisions were taken and, therefore, had no chance to influence policy direction.
A party insider said: “There is no communication between the party leadership in London and the leadership in Scotland. Before the election, Annabel Goldie used to sit in the shadow cabinet. She doesn’t now. There is a Cabinet and she is not there. She has been cast adrift.”
The revelation that, effectively, it had been cut loose by its parent party in London plunged the Tory Party in Scotland into a fresh crisis. Since the general election, senior figures in the UK Conservative Party no longer consulted or communicated with their Scottish colleagues.
As a result, Scottish party leaders had been virtually shut out of all decision-making roles and were no longer invited to top-level strategy and policy meetings. Indeed, the isolation of the Scottish party reached such a level when it was revealed Annabel had not spoken to David Cameron since the election, while SNP First Minister Alex Salmond had held five conversations with the Prime Minister since he took office.
Presented with a poisoned chalice to hold close to her chest the ever loyal Annabel put a brave face on matters and admitted that she had not spoken to the Prime Minister since the election, but denied there was any “disconnect” between the Scottish and London parties, insisting that she had a “line of communication” to No 10 which she could use at any time.
She said: “There is not a disconnect. We retain very good communications. I am in the position where I can communicate with him in his office any time I want and, obviously, I am not going to be on the phone every five minutes to the Prime Minister, he has an important job to do. The important thing is that I have a line to communication to him if I need to use it.”
She then made it clear that David Cameron had led the Tories in Scotland into the 2010 general election with his manifesto, not that of the Tory Party in Scotland. Her implication being: “It wasn’t my fault we only got one seat, it was David Cameron’s.”
She also pointed out that the Tory vote in Scotland had increased over her time in office as leader championing rising numbers of members, councillors and MSPs as evidence of progress.
In issuing a statement critical of Cameron and his Westminster team Annabel had effectively sealed her fate. Mundell, acting on instructions from Westminster orchestrated her removal from office ensuring the promotion of Ruth Davidson who had been waiting in the wings,full working out of Annabel’s office for nearly a year.)