The Tory Rape Clause is a perfect storm of austerity, bureaucracy and misogyny, it exposes the punitive ideological agenda of Britain 2017, but it also exposes the biting hypocrisy of Ruth Davidson. She has been showered in plaudits by commentators for years and given a free pass as her own party mirrors her southern counterparts policy by policy. The Rape Clause brings this into sharp relief.
Davidson has risen to prominence in Scottish politics by an aggressive media campaign attempting to detoxify the Tory brand. Quiet on policy (whisper it their the same as Westminster) and loud on photo-ops (tanks are the chief motif) she has been extraordinarily successful in resurrecting the Scottish Conservatives. Aided admittedly by the collapse of Labour she has created this persona as a sort of Tumshie Thatcher; tough but essentially harmless.
This has only been possible with the surround-sound of a gaggle of Boy Fans, amongst them David Torrance at the Herald). Iain Martin at Cap X, and Fraser Nelson at The Spectator.
Martin famously wrote last year that:
“A second independence referendum is off the agenda for the foreseeable future, no matter what happens in the EU referendum”, whilst Nelson has written screeds about how the entire Indyref2 is a ruse to mask Sturgeon’s crippling popularity collapse. Torrance nurtures his trope that Scotland and England are basically the same in all aspects and attitudes, a message that is repeated religiously in his weekly column like a prayer mantra.
The myth of the Scottish Tory revival under Davidson (now completely debunked) could only be sustained by a combination of ecstatic prose and the deep ignorance of southern media.
No amount of cow photos, tank shots or football pics will do it. This is not just an episode of The Thick of It. Davidson and her allies have three problems.
The first is that it exposes her own personal hypocrisy and cowardice and for a politician who prides herself on ‘tough talking’ this is a real difficulty.
The second is that for the Scottish Conservative Party the myth of autonomy and of somehow being different from those bad Southern Tories is completely exposed.
The third is that, though no-one would admit it publicly, Davidson, surrounded by her cheerleaders, were working themselves up to her leading the next No campaign. As Chris Deerin put it:
“There are precious few heroes kicking around. Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown are off the scene and can only be bit players. Corbyn’s an unspeakable calamity. May’s a scary and stern southern Tory. Even David Bowie’s gone. In Scotland itself, Labour is abject, and languishes in third place behind the Conservatives. The only possible standard-bearer is Ruth Davidson. And for all that she’s popular, clever and effective, she is nevertheless a Tory, and still in the process of rejuvenating the party’s long-toxic brand.”
That looks extremely unlikely now as Davidson hides and tries to distance herself from the morally repugnant social policies her party embodies.
This is not however a constitutional question. It is a matter of decency, humanity and integrity, qualities that are lacking in the Conservative Party. This is why George Square will be full tonight with people of all parties and none.
Bella contacted Ruth Davidson to request an interview but have had no reply.