This post exposes Tory Party in-fighting in Scotland in the period 2005-2016. The party is hopelessly divided in many areas of policy and the bitter legacy of battles for the hearts and minds of party members and officials will only be resolved when the Party in Scotland asserts its right to autonomy from Westminster control, enshrined in the Statutes of the Party.
David Mundell and Ruth Davidson have sold their souls to Westminster mirroring the actions of their forebears in 1707.
2005-2011: The Tory Party at War – Mundell the hit-man and Annabelle 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 Annabelle 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 Annabelle 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.
Annabelle 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.
Annabelle’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.
Annabelle 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 Annabelle on a collision course with a small core of Thatcherite s remaining in Scottish politics, (including the party hierarchy and David Mundell).
25 March 2011: The Scottish Tory party was plunged into pre–election turmoil last night when key donors were reported to have withdrawn their support from the party after the unwarranted sacking of Malcolm Macaskill
Senior party sources claimed last night that wealthy donors – believed to include Tom Coakley, a former footballer turned millionaire property developer and John McGlynn, an airport car park magnate – had told officials they would no longer contribute to party funds after Malcolm Macaskill, a Glasgow businessman and justice of the peace, was removed from the top slot on the Tories’ Glasgow list by Andrew Fulton, the party chairman.
Mr Macaskill, who was virtually guaranteed a seat in the Holyrood elections on May 5, was kicked out by Mr Fulton, a former MI5 official.
Mr Fulton made no mention of the reason for the dismissal, merely saying Mr Macaskill had been dropped “following discussions between the candidate and the party’s candidates’ board”.
The chairman thanked Mr Macaskill for his service and announced that Ruth Davidson, a close aide of Annabelle Goldie and a former BBC producer, would be placed at number one on the list.
There was undisguised anger from Mr Macaskill’s supporters at his treatment last night. One senior party figure said “This is outrageous. Malcolm has served the Conservatives loyally for over 30 years and is treated like this.”
Mr Macaskill was responsible for recruiting several wealthy donors, including Mr Coakley, a former professional footballer with Dundee FC who subsequently made his fortune buying and selling property in London’s Mayfair.
Estimated to be worth £70 million, Mr Coakley announced two months ago that he would donate £100,000 per year for the next 10 years to Scottish Tory coffers.
However, a senior Tory with close links to the situation said last night: “Mr Coakley is furious and he has told the Tories that he will no longer be making any donations.”
The same source said Mr McGlynn, whose companies own airport car parks all over Europe, and who also donates funds to the party, may also withhold future donations. Last night, Mr McGlynn said “This is outrageous. to penalise someone in this way is completely wrong.
An SNP spokesman said it was the “worst possible” start to the Tory campaign, adding: “The first day and they have lost one of their top candidates, amid party infighting and internal allegations of malpractice. The Tories are not fit for purpose, fit for Glasgow, or fit for Scotland.”
David Meikle withdrew in Glasgow because he felt that his allegations of vote rigging on the list for the city had not been sufficiently investigated. His complaints centre on the Conservative Rutherglen’s Association, whose membership shot up by about 150 members from a starting point of 17 in the months before the selections for Conservative lists
Mr MacAskill’s, who has been removed from the top of the Glasgow list will be replaced by Ruth Davidson, a former BBC journalist, this means she is likely to become an MSP.
Miss Goldie admitted that she did not have any say in the departure of Mr MacAskill. The Tory hierarchy in London, who are directing the campaign are said to be delighted with the way it is being run north of the Border.
The Tories also insist their budget for the 5 May election is in place despite reports that wealthy donors, including former Dundee FC footballer and property magnate Tom Coakley and airport car park magnate John McGlynn, had withdrawn their funding.
9 September 2011: Ruth Davidson draws a “line in the sand” on the constitution by promising “No More Devolution” no more powers for Holyrood if she wins Scottish Tory leadership.
At the official launch of her campaign she said “The time for arguing about the powers the people want is over. It’s time now to use the powers that we have. “the range of powers included in the Coalition Government’s Scotland Bill 2011 is the final word on devolution.
When the referendum is done and Scotland and the Union has won the day, that will be an end to it.” She added: “Under my leadership, there will be no existential crisis, no wringing of hands. Instead I want people to call themselves Scottish, Conservative and Unionist.”
23 September 2011: Data Ding Dong for Davidson
Tory leadership hopeful Ruth Davidson is facing an inquiry after her campaign used the private email addresses of party members.
A Tory councillor has complained to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after the Glasgow MSP’s team sent unsolicited material to his personal account.
The ICO may now examine whether Ms Davidson or her campaign used data from restricted party membership lists.
The Tory leadership candidates are not supposed to see the national membership details.
The Scottish and UK Conservative parties are registered with the ICO as “data controllers”, and must keep their data secure.
However, dozens of Tory party activists have received unsolicited “Campaign Update” emails from Ms Davidson.
Despite only being elected in May, the 32-year-old has emerged as the establishment’s choice to replace Annabelle Goldie.
Her supporters include Thatcher-era grandees such as Lord Forsyth and Lord Sanderson, and the party’s biggest Scottish donor, Sir Jack Harvie and Prime Minister David Cameron.
Under the Tory leadership rules, candidates are allowed to send a single “election communication” to the party’s 8500 members when ballot papers are posted out next month.
Ms Davidson’s campaign is sending regular emails to party members via a commercial marketing service called Mail-Chimp.
One, sent September 12, just four days after her campaign launch, claimed there was already “a real groundswell of opinion” behind her.
Another, sent a week later, highlighted her national tour of constituencies, while a third sent last night said she had secured the 100 signatures needed to be a formal candidate. “I promise I won’t let you down,” she wrote.
A friend of the unnamed councillor who lodged the ICO complaint said: “He was concerned because there has to be a level playing field for candidates. “Where did Ruth’s campaign team get his email? “He has never met Ruth.”
Another Tory source said there were “widespread concerns” about her campaign. A third said several activists had complained to the party HQ in Edinburgh and received “incredibly defensive” responses.
Ms Davidson’s main rival for the leadership is Murdo Fraser who wants to abandon the “toxic” Scottish Conservative brand, and create a new centre-right party instead. His idea, which is backed by almost half the 15 MSPs at Holyrood and a third of Tory councillors, is disliked by the party hierarchy.
John Lamont MSP, Ms Davidson’s campaign manager, said: “We have collected email addresses from our activist base across Scotland. We also give people the chance to unsubscribe from the list.”
Asked how the campaign team had obtained the councillor’s private email address, he said: “It must have been one of our activists in his area.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Tories confirmed that a “query” had been received by Central Office about the issue of Davidson’s team and personal email, adding: “The member was told to go to the relevant campaign team
Ken Macdonald, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland for the ICO, said: “All organisations that handle personal data, including political parties, have a legal obligation to keep it secure.
It is also important to understand that most marketing emails require the consent of the recipient. we have received a complaint about this matter and will now make enquiries.”
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.
* Annabelle 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 Mundell’s criticisms of the Scottish party leadership.
But there was a problem. Annabelle had no authority over Mundell and it soon became evident Cameron backed him over any of the Scottish Tories, including Annabelle.
Rallying to her side, Murdo Fraser, deputy Leader of the Tory Party in Scotland stoutly defended Annabelle stating “Everyone in the party owes her a debt of gratitude for the steadfast leadership she has provided over the past 16 months.
The 2007 election was near. Ignoring internal squabbles mischievously created and fuelled by Mundell, Annabelle 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 constituencies 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.
Confidence renewed, Annabelle and the Tory Party in Scotland gained the respect of the Scottish electorate for their new found positive outlook at Holyrood and it appeared Annabelle had gained the ear of Cameron over Mundell (who continued with his undercover tactics always seeking to undermine the authority of MSP’s and Annabelle leadership).
Cameron then installed Annabelle 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.
It was circulated that 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 Annabelle) 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 Annabelle 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.”
In the period 2007-2011, (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 Annabelle 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.
Annabelle, 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.
But 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 Annabelle and her team and moves were afoot to replace her regardless of the outcome of the election.
Annabelle’s arch nemesis, Mundell, the sole Scottish Tory MP in the last Parliament, held on to his seat of Dumfries shire, Clydesdale and Tweed dale. 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 Annabelle) into the poor performance of the party in Scotland and subsequently supported recommendations 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 Annabelle’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 Annabelle. Cameron’s long held plans for Scotland did not include her as leader of Scotland’s Tories.
But Scottish Tories hit back at Cameron and Mundell
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, Annabelle 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 Annabelle 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 Annabelle 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 Annabelle 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, (working out of Annabelle’s office for nearly a year.)