Posts Tagged Conservatives

What will the “PM Cameron effect” be for the Tories in Scotland?

The “Cameron Effect” seemed to work for the Tories on a UK-wide level, delivering gains in England and Wales, and David Cameron into Downing Street, albeit in coalition and not, as he had intended, with a Conservative majority.  However the Tories struggled once again in Scotland, holding onto the only seat they had won in 2005 and winning nothing else.  In short, the Cameron effect stretched only as far as Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale and no further.

But, David Cameron is now Prime Minister.  So what impact will his Prime Ministerial role have upon Conservative fortunes in Scotland?  Will the slump that saw the party wiped out in 1997 and 2001 continue?  Or will a youthful Tory PM – with a new-born child in Downing Street – be the catalyst for Scotland to fall back in love (or at least, fall back into liking/ tolerate) with the Tories?

I think in some senses it is too early to tell – and that might be as much to do with time as it is to do with the cuts agenda.  David Cameron – and to an extent, George Osbourne – were smart enough to let the devolved administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff make their cuts now or defer them until next year, with both deferring (which was equally smart – it means that incoming administrations in May 2011 will have to deal with the fall-out).  So, in that respect, the full force of cuts won’t really be felt until next year – certainly in Scotland and Wales.

That, in turn, allows the Scottish Conservatives to campaign in May with a positive – their (relatively popular) man in government at Westminster without the focus on cuts, cuts and cuts.  On the other hand, Scots have tended to be more suspicious of the style over substance approach (even though we delivered Tony Blair a huge majority of Scottish MPs) and Cameron’s Eton background may not appeal to everyone.  Equally, while I – and I think, most commentators – have been fairly impressed with the way the Tories have gone about their business at Holyrood (engaging in budget debates, being constructive in opposition to a minority administration) there is a sense that they seem tired and in need of fresh impetus.  Perhaps the fact that they are in government at UK level will breathe new life into them at Holyrood, but I’m not convinced.

A Scottish Conservative yesterday...

I know Jeff has written in the past about the need for leadership change within the Scottish Tories.  While I really like Annabel Goldie and think she has taken the Scottish Conservatives further than I thought she could, I’m beginning to agree with him.  Nothing against Ms Goldie, but I think the party need a fresh look – and a change.  Several of the old guard – Bill Aitken, Ted Brocklebank – have already announced their retirement, though in contrast, Nanette Milne (68, Aberdeenshire West), Mary Scanlon (62, Inverness & Nairn) and Jamie McGrigor (60, Argyll & Bute) will all be standing in May and at least two of them are likely to return on regional lists.

So new blood is required.  I think the days are gone when the term “young Conservative” was seen as a oxymoron.  And perhaps that has been the impact of the Cameron effect.  However, the term “Scottish Conservative” looks like it is becoming like the lesser-spotted dodo.  If PM Cameron is to have an impact on the Tories in Scotland, some combination of the two – the youth and the Scottish – will have to emerge.  Otherwise, despite their good work in this third term of devolution (and that positive view of the Scottish Tories is debateable) I can see the party losing votes and seats come May.

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Not the only gay witch-hunt in the Westminster village

Ah, that hat.William Hague’s painful personal statement has failed to quell the media fascination with his private life, which is unfortunate but only to be expected. Sally Bercow and others are right to say that he was given duff PR advice, true, but that hardly justifies yet more prurience and three-way interviews between journalists.

It’s been rumbling on for days, after all, and there is no actual story here. The rumours about Hague started years ago, and all inhabitants or political bubbles love a chance to get old rumours off their chest, but there’s nothing that could be described as actual substance to them.

In fact, it’s almost Westminster’s favourite game, given the sheer number of politicians who’ve been the subject of sexuality rumours. For the egregious Paul “Guido Fawkes” Staines, and many others, even the Guardian – see the last line here – this latest effort again reeks of nudge-nudge wink-wink homophobia. They’re too well-dressed, see? It’s politics by way of Are You Being Served? No doubt the Tory machine will respond the way they know best, and the traditional Fawkes-hunting will be in full cry (Jeff insisted on that, by the way).

The specific allegations being made are also profoundly stupid. Imagine, hypothetically, you’re a senior cabinet member, you’re married but in the closet, and you’re having an affair with a special adviser. Let’s also assume you’re of above average intelligence, which the Foreign Secretary clearly is, baseball caps notwithstanding.

Do you get a room together? Really? Surely you’d get a nice double to yourself and have your lover come by to “discuss tomorrow’s campaign events”. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see the allegation doesn’t stand up. No-one in their right mind plans a happy love life around twin beds. That’s a room booking you only make when it doesn’t even occur to you that people would think anything of it.

Apart from utterly misplaced prejudice, it’s not clear why Staines and others have gone for the Eurosceptic Hague, but he’s certainly an interesting figure. Like John Swinney, he bounced back from an unsuccessful stint as leader and rebuilt his reputation on the front benches. Both men are now effectively the number two figure in their respective governments – apologies to Nicola and Nick. In fact, Hague may be the only coalition Minister who had been gaining in credibility in office.

Once the flurry of nonsense has passed, that trend will continue, and the empathy for his situation will be what remains of this story. Morus is right. If you like a flutter, it’s time to back Hague for next Tory leader, which might encourage comparisons with Salmond rather than Swinney. Just think how furious Redwood and Tebbit would be.

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