Features

Ruth Davidson: on the campaign trail with Scotland’s top Tory

She's a Conservative moderniser's dream. But she swears she's not coming south

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

Unusually for a modern Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson seems to enjoy meeting voters. When I joined her on the campaign trail, she had been posing with a giant eagle in Kirkcaldy. Then she jumped on to a Harley Davidson in Stirling. Such props, she says, are a ‘springboard’ to talk about Scottish Conservatism — which, thanks to her, is no longer an oxymoron.

Davidson’s sparkling performances in the various debates stood in welcome contrast to David Cameron’s. Not once has she mentioned the ‘long-term economic plan’, or the other clichés issued from Conservative HQ. Her message is simple: thanks to a Conservative-led government, she says, Britain now has less pensioner poverty, more jobs than ever, and fewer children in workless households than ever. Such things don’t happen by accident: if you want them, you have to vote for them.

She considers herself a ‘good, old-fashioned’ working-class Conservative. ‘We used to have a lot of that traditional blue-collar Toryism in Scotland,’ she says. But it’s not her tradition: she joined the party seven years ago, when Scottish Conservatism seemed to be at its lowest ebb. ‘The party spent so long after the 1997 wipeout talking only to itself, it was apologising and wearing sackcloth and ashes,’ she says. ‘My job, as leader, is to fight campaigns where we can focus our vote so that people can see us winning again.’


Five years ago, she says, ‘We started every conversation with “I’m sorry, I’m a Conservative but…”.’ She has replaced this, she says, with: ‘I believe in X and if you believe in X, you’re a Conservative too.’

In some ways, Davidson, 36, is a Tory moderniser’s dream: the first openly gay politician to lead a party in Britain. Her sexuality is not an issue in Scotland — and nor does she seek to make it one. She’d rather talk about her hobby, kickboxing, which she says gave her a greater appreciation of the NHS, since she has broken nearly every bone in her body.

She has been hailed in London as precisely the sort of voice the Tories need in Westminster. But she flatly rules out following Michael Gove and Liam Fox into a winnable English seat. ‘Sitting on the backbenches in Westminster would be a bit of a demotion from the big job I’ve got,’ she says. ‘I love this job. Look at my campaign this year: I’m having the time of my life.’

Her ambitions are in Scotland: first to help the Tories replace the Liberal Democrats as the third force in Scottish politics, then replace Labour as the opposition. ‘I have no limits to my ambition,’ she says, ‘either for myself or for my party.’ The idea of a Conservative running the Scottish Parliament may seem unbelievable. But as Labour has found, unbelievable things are happening rather a lot in Scottish politics.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Shazza

    I wish we could clone her and bring her to England. Perfect heir to Maggie.

    She is terrific!

    • ally

      A surprising number of people in Scotland would agree with your first sentence, no matter how they vote. Approximately four people would agree with your second.

      Leaving aside for now the fact that she’d fight tooth and nail to stop it happening, I have a suspicion that in an independent Scotland she could be leading the second biggest party – Labour have lost it and have nothing to offer the liberal that the SNP doesn’t, and I do think there’s a natural small-c conservatism up here that struggles to see the light of day while Cameron and his like are talking to the nation like they’re running Downton Abbey and we’re the kitchen staff.

      Also, Davidson has a uniquely great “whose idea was this nonsense?” face in photo ops. Shallow I know, but hey.

      • Shazza

        When I compared her to Maggie I was not referring to policy specifically, but to character. She too, has a rod of steel for a spine and I get the feeling, fearless in the face of attack.

        I also feel, that she outdoes Maggie in the charm stakes.
        She feels real and honest (for a politician!) and not only that, full of fun!
        I wish her very good luck for a long and successful personal and political career.

        • David

          Seconded. She’s a star… and in time she will shine.

    • justejudexultionis

      ‘Perfect heir to Maggie’ = money-worshipping psychopath.

  • HJ777

    Far, far, more impressive than Nicola Sturgeon.

    • Fried Ch’i

      Did you have that assertion peer reviewed? By Booker or Brooker?

    • Closedshop

      lol.

      Is that why Ruth is even a bit of a nobody in Scottish Politics.

    • Closedshop

      Also lets see if the can get elected with out being top of a list. Just her name on the ballot paper.

      No, I can’t see that happening nor can Ruth.

    • Jambo25

      So impressive that she took Scottish Tories to their lowest ever General Election percentage of the vote in Scotland.

      • HJ777

        Still a far more impressive character because she doesn’t simply tell people what they want to hear and she doesn’t play the blame and grievance game.

        • Jambo25

          And still fails. Tories are still toxic in Scotland.

          • HJ777

            Popularity isn’t everything.

            At least she has principles which is more than you can say for the SNP which will adopt any position just to make itself popular.

            But as they will find out – the more people you deceive, the shorter the period you can deceive them for.

          • Jambo25

            You mean like Sturgeon who joined CND and the SNP at the age of 16 and 30 years later is still true to those principles.

          • HJ777

            If being in a party that will say or promise anything to get votes is considered principled.

            In plain English it’s called hypocrisy. Perhaps you think you have principles when all you actually have is hypocrisy and a synthetic grievance to nurse.

          • Jambo25

            So sticking by the principles which guided you from the age of 16 is hypocrisy. What do you call a party with the word ‘Unionist’ in its title that launches an anti-Scottish ‘dog whistle’ campaign under its Australian spin meister to get re-elected?

          • HJ777

            It is hard to imagine a political party more hypocritical than the SNP. It changes its ‘principles’ whenever it thinks it can get more votes by doing so.

            Even you have said that you think that Salmond really has centre-right views, yet he was happy to stand on a left wing policy agenda. Have you read the (laughable) SNP manifesto? Full of spending promises and not one word on how the money to pay for them will be raised, other than pretending someone else will pay.

            The Tory campaign was anti-SNP, but people like you like, (disgracefully) to try to present that as being anti-Scottish. That’s because creating resentment and division is what people like you are all about.

      • HJ777

        What amuses is me is that the SNP promised that they wouldn’t ever work with the evil Tories.

        Now the election is over they are demanding that the Tories negotiate with them.

        You couldn’t make it up.

        • Jambo25

          Its called being grown up. You should learn from it.

          • HJ777

            It’s called looking ridiculous and being hypocritical.

            Not something you need to learn.

          • Jambo25

            And my dad’s bigger than your dad.

  • Fraser Nelson q.v.

    For being unrepentant lesbian she does seem like a good sport and focused type. Pity her career will go no where in Scotland unless they become independent.

  • Auldreekie

    Ruth is happy because she suddenly got a well-paid job without effort and without having to have any experience or specialist knowledge. Just before her election as leader of the Scottish Tories, she was at a loose end, trying to sell herself to radio stations for voice-over work with a homemade tape –
    http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/RuthShortDemo.mp3 .

    And she was manouevred in place when the front-runner on the Tories’ Additional MSP list was curiously removed on the basis of a charge which subsequently proved to be unfounded, with the party having to pay him compensation. Her election as leader remains the only election of any kind she has ever won.

    So: replace the Lib Dems as Scotland’s ‘third force’? Quite possibly, but in alternation with them. Replace Labour as the ‘second force’. Not a hope, unless Labour’s status drops to the level of the Lib Dems. That would be when a regular 75-80% of Scottish votes are for the SNP.

    The British Tories – of which the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is part – are anathema to Scotland. They represent London domination, preferential status for England’s needs, values, attitudes, loyalties, aspirations. It is possible that some kind of right-wing party might play a part in Scottish politics in the future – but far into the future, and after independence, when the current pervading taint is history.

    • Gerschwin

      Tories on about 17% in Scotland right? Someone’s voting for them in Scotland. And as for Davidson, well clearly you don’t like her, presumably because she’s rather good at what she does so I reckon the Tories picked a thoroughbred in her. Didn’t Robert the Bruce murder John Comyn? Think Scotland will survive whatever put her at the helm of the Tory Party somehow.

      • Auldreekie

        Actually, I do agree that she’s good at what she does. She’s grown into the job, and argues passionately for what she evidently believes in. It’s just that it’s hopelessly and permanently disconnected from the lives and opinions of the vast majority in Scotland, and as such she and the rest of the 17% rank as oddballs. But she has maintained that percentage over the past few years – probably nobody other than Murdo Fraser could have done better.

        • M2

          There was a time when SNP got fewer than 17% of the votes in Scotland Were those voters oddballs?

        • JoeCro

          The conservative vote share ended up being less then 15% on election day.

      • David

        Indeed. She worries a lot of Nats because she’s tough as old boots and doesn’t fit their cartoon stereotype of a Tory. That’s why we see cheap shots fired about her voice over work. What was Nicola doing at that age? Making tea for Alex Salmond? Ironing his shirts?

    • justejudexultionis

      Well said.

      • Kennybhoy

        Utter caca mair like! 🙂

    • Kennybhoy

      “The British Tories – of which the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is part – are anathema to Scotland.”

      Nope. They, and until recently the SNP, a badly served by FPTP. Do some fracking research before hitting the keyboard ya loon! 🙂

  • Max Permissible

    Surely her first aim should be to actually get elected? Despite her winning ways she she’s just a Scottish Parliament “List MSP”.

  • SNP UPRISING

    2 Giant Pandas, 1 Tory MP………and after today ,

    2 Giant Pandas, NO Tory MPs.

    SNP landslide

    • Kennybhoy

      Frack off ya fascist loon! 🙂

      • SNP UPRISING

        ha….ha…… Feel the pain of the SNP landslide “Kidonbhoy”…………HH

        • Kennybhoy

          You reall have not been paying attention have you loon…? 🙁

      • SNP UPRISING

        Why don’t you just head off to George Square for a massed greet with your Union flag draped, loyalist, knuckle-dragging chums ?

        • Kennybhoy

          Hah! The Orcs can spot a Tim at twenty paces loon!

          • SNP UPRISING

            I didn’t know that we had any Tories Kenny….. No worries….. HH

  • justejudexultionis

    I can’t believe the title got past the sub-editor. It should read ‘Scotland’s only Tory’.

    • Kennybhoy

      For the umpteenth umpteenth umpteenth unpteenth (you get the idea) time…

      I Kennybhoy, being the Coffee House Returning Officer for Scotland, declare the votes cast in the General Election of May 6th, 2010 to be as follows.

      Labour: 1,035,528 votes = 42 seats
      Lib Dem: 465,471 votes = 11 seats
      SNP: 491,386 votes = 6 seats
      Conservative: 412,855 votes = 1 seat

      Under PR the division of seats would be…

      Labour: 24
      Lib Dem: 11
      SNP: 12
      Conservatives: 10
      UKIP: Maybe 1
      Greens: Maybe 1

      By way of comparison the same phenomenon exists down in Yorkshire and the Humber where a two per cent difference in electoral share gives Labour pushing twice the number of seats as the Conservatives.

  • ChuckieStane

    Ruth has indeed been more popular in Scotland than her party.

    Her declaration that should would continue in Scottish politics in the event of independence certainly set her apart from the likes of Teddy Taylor and Malcolm Rifkind who ran away to safe seats south of the border.

    However, it would appear she has undone all her good work with her disgraceful tweet today spreading misinformation in an attempt to influence the vote, despite the police and council confirming it to be false.

    • Kennybhoy

      “Ruth has indeed been more popular in Scotland than her party.”

      This would be the party which at the last GE secured 412,855 votes to the SNP’s 491,386 votes? A difference of 78,531?

      • ChuckieStane

        Kenny, Yesterday 1,454,436 against 434,097 and that massively aided by tactical voting.

        • Kennybhoy

          Touche.

          • JoeCro

            The conservative vote share went down. Not surprising given the English Nationalist rhetoric.

          • Kennybhoy

            P*ss off ya predictable loon! 🙂

          • JoeCro

            Less than 11% of the Scottish electorate voted Conservative.

  • SNP UPRISING

    ****** INVITATION *******

    ALL ARE WELCOME TO COME TO THE SNP VICTORY PARTY, TO BE HELD IN EVERY TOWN & CITY IN SCOTLAND !

    • davidofkent

      How kind.

      • SNP UPRISING

        You’re welcome

  • davidofkent

    ‘… gave her a greater appreciation of the NHS, since she has broken nearly every bone in her body…’

    Surely not!

  • Richard Young

    Let us all be clear here.412,855 Scots voted Conservative in the 2010 general election.16.7% of the total vote.And the warped arithmetic delivered 1 damn seat.And Nicola says we need to change our electoral process.Spot on girl go for it.On this one subject I’m with you all the way.

    • Closedshop

      The Tories or Labour will never agree to a fairer electoral system. Too many seats for life.

  • Closedshop

    No ends to her ambition, great, fair play Ruth.

    It is the well exposed limits to your ability that are the problem.

  • Closedshop

    If Ruth wants to have a real shot of being Scotland’s First Minister then she needs to look at merging the Tories there and the Scottish Lib Dems.

    Take them away from the toxic sludge of the “My daddy game me all this money” Tories at the top of the conservatives.

    A fresh start, a more central and traditional platform reflective of blue collar voters and SME owners rather than City traders.

    Push for full devolution, maybe even Independence and get with the Zeitgeist of the young rather than always defining ambition of moving up in to head office in London.

    Even a few Labour people who respond to that.

  • huw

    is she blowing into those pipes? or inhaling something else? hehehaa [:`¬)

  • Jambo25

    The ‘impressive’ Ms Davidson, who I do genuinely have time for, has, however, been caught out in a fairly massive porky today. She tweeted a claim, earlier , that Tory voters in Annan, Dumfriesshire had been intimidated at a polling station by “burly blokes” unknown (read SNP) without any checking or bothering to get any evidence of this. Both D&G council and the police denied this some hours ago. I’m still waiting to see Ms. Davidson’s retraction.

  • misomiso

    You guys have GOT to stop pushing this Pro Ruth Davidson agenda.

    Only an independent Unionist Party can compete for the soul of Scotland. The Scottish people are just NOT LISTENING to the Unionist parties.

    You must be independent of London to get a hearing, then they will vote for an independent Right of Center Unionist party.

  • JoeCro

    The conservative vote share went down. Less than 11% of the Scottish electorate backed the Cameron/Davidson ticket.

  • Kerrin Evans

    In this election the Tories in Scotland got under 15% of the vote. That’s lower than in any other general election ever. They won a single seat by a reduced majority. The previous Scottish Tory leader, Annabelle Goldie, got similar praise but was equally ineffectual.
    Davidson is certainly better than the rank amateurs populating Scottish Labours front bench but that’s about all you can say for her. She happened to be on the winning side in the referendum but the result of that had little to do with her contribution.
    The bulk of Scottish Tory voters comprise a rapidly dwindling band of folk old enough to remember VE day. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone is entitled to their view. However, don’t think this downward spiral to irrelevance and oblivion is going to change.

    • David

      As soon as Scotland gets fiscal autonomy, watch SNP votes fall like dominoes when the bill for Nicola’s utopia gets handed to the voters.

Close