The number of Tory MPs under investigation for Electoral Fraud is now greater than the working majority in Westminster and escalating into an explosion of corruption. David Cameron is personally in a weakening position over Europe, largely because the result of the referendum will likely not put the issue to bed, especially as growing numbers in the Tory ranks become more enraged by the ‘Project Fear’ approach adopted by Cameron’s Remain campaign. The internal rifts are not going away – there is a fracturing on the right. The junior doctors strike has galvanised a big part of the population against the Tory government. They trust doctors many more times than the trust the government. They have been exposed on disability benefits cuts, and by the Panama Papers. Things are not going well with be economy – and as a result more people are beginning to grasp that austerity is an ideological choice.
The Tory party is in crisis. Though they are good crisis managers, it can get much worse. And that has real strategic implications for how we build an oppositional movement to Ruth Davidson’s Tories here in Scotland, and prevent any concessions to the right.
Ruth Davidson is aware of the toxicity of the Tory brand. Her election campaign literature majored on her as a personality and sought to harvest the No vote. Reports from hustings across Scotland showed time and again Tory candidates distancing themselves from Westminster. They failed to even turn up to a major hustings hosted by the Glasgow Disability Alliance focusing on disability rights, attended by hundreds.
They now have a very difficult task on their hands to prevent the overlapping of Cameron and Osborne et al onto their Scottish operation now that they are the opposition rather than simply a sideshow. Our job is to make that overlapping an inextricable political fact.
Every element of the Tory crisis in Westminster has to be laid at the door of Ruth Davidson’s new Tory cohort. Every toxic policy that comes from the Cameron cabinet must be put directly to the Scottish party in equal terms. If they fudge questions as they did during the Holyrood campaign – that is their choice. But it is a choice that results in opening another fault-line in the UK Tory party.
We can therefore get going right from the start by exposing the one trick pony they have deployed at this election. In doing so, we can add to the overall crisis that could engulf them in London.
This can be done in imaginative ways. Demonstrations and action to highlight the umbilical chord that ties Cameron to Davidson can raise awareness and develop a more entrenched and mobile anti-Tory movement. But we also require a relentless campaign intellectually, in the media and in alternative and social media that puts the Scottish right into the centre of the crisis and rifts in the UK party, as well as ensuring they are linked with the same intensity as the Tory Cabinet in Westminster with the brutality and injustice of the austerity programme.
The Scottish Tories have made a big mistake in their triumphalism and in their belief that they are the best standard bearers for the union. An oppositional movement that plants Ruth Davidson, Murdo Fraser, David Mundell and so on as part of the austerity machine has two consequences. On the one hand we can expose the Scottish Tories for what they are, and build the ideological left and anti-Tory, anti-austerity movement a result. On the other we can marginalise unionism by hoisting the Tories by their own petard. They have made themselves the poll of attraction for the Union – now we have the opportunity to explicitly bind Toryism and Unionism together in the coming years.
To achieve this we need to keep a close watch on Westminster, and not become parochial in outlook. Just as we need to integrate the Westminster Tories with the Scottish Tories, we need to be working with the anti-austerity movement in England to calibrate our own anti-Tory moves to best expose their key weaknesses. SNP MPs should be in action mode – but in both Westminster and Holyrood but that won’t be a given. In both circumstances extra-parliamentary activity is needed to show that there is mass support for left wing ideas and anti-austerity politics.
Just as talk of a Tory revival in Scotland begins to simmer, they will soon have to confront reality. That is a reality we can shape – and the strategic advantage we have is that our message that ties Tory corruption and austerity with Ruth Davidson and the Scottish MSPs is simple. It can be deployed both inside and out of the parliament, on the streets, in the press and on social media. That will entangle Tory strategists in Scotland who have spent a lot of time and money on trying to prevent an overlap. And as well as us making a big contribution to the struggle against the Tories and austerity UK wide, it can advance the cause of independence.