We are used to politicians engaging in habitual hypocrisy and being, what was the famous phrase, ‘economical with the truth’? But the scale of Ruth Davidson’s monumental misdirection in Glasgow yesterday is still staggering. As a leader of a party that has just being exposed with Windrush and the Hostile Environment and delivering the most extreme immigration policies in decades, and having presided over a party in Scotland littered with unreconstructed bigots the Conservative leaders latest repositioning as an enlightened social democrat is astonishing.
Ruth the Brand has long ago broken any connective tissue with the Scottish Conservative Party or the Conservative Government. She floats free from public accountability or rational discourse. Yesterday Channel 4s Ciaran Jenkins wrote: “Ruth Davidson is outlining her vision for the economy later in a speech at Glasgow Univeristy. I’ve been told I can’t interview or question her about it. Regrettable but important you know we tried”. This is a hermetically-sealed politician. She’s given not so much a free-pass by the Scottish press pack as slavering hagiography.
Witness Chris Deerin, fresh from fluffing his close personal friend Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission writing (‘Why Ruth Davidson is Heading to Westminster‘):
“I’ve met a lot of politicians in my time, old warhorses and young lions, and she is the genuine article, the real deal, a politician of surpassing talent. She is built for the big stage: charismatic, funny, as sharp as a shipyard put-down. She works for audiences in Scotland because she is ordinary and has a bit of patter, and she works in the southern shires because she has that recognisable trait of can-do, not-buggering-about, up-and-at-‘em spirit. She wasn’t in the Territorial Army for nothing: as Wodehouse describes Bertie Wooster’s love interest Honoria Glossop: “one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge.”
Strenuously avoiding the desire to veer towards a psychoanalysis of Deerin’s “commentary” – the political analysis is clear. “The Scottish Tory leader is too young, too talented, and too ambitious to sit on Holyrood’s opposition benches for much longer” writes Deerin oozing antipathy to Holyrood and deference to the Westminster machine.
As the writer Jamie Maxwell notes: “It’s not that the centre/centre-right commentariat don’t know about Ruth Davidson’s habit of pandering to xenophobic & racist elements in Scottish society, it’s that they don’t care. Publicly acknowledging the fact would upset their campaign to have her installed as Tory leader.”
Not only is Davidson’s speech wildly at odds with the government she claims to be influential in, its wildly at odds with her own stated position. On Good Morning Scotland (in May 26 last year) she defended Theresa May’s immigration cap, then said that Scotland needed to attract a higher share of migrants – before finally saying that the current level of migration in Scotland was “probably about right”. At best it’s incoherent.
Clearly this is a game, but what sort of game?
There are a host of very specific measures she could have backed that would have been genuinely interesting. Backing the devolution control of immigration being the most obvious, but also specific Scots visas, a post study work scheme, or an op-out for seasonal workers would all have been possible. There was nothing.
We’ve become used to this. But what is going on?
It could be that Theresa May’s government is even weaker and more shambolic than it appears, and that internal knives are being sharpened for a soft-coup bringing in a new series of ghastliest with Davidson as a sort of human-shield donned in a commando beret and clutching a large bottle of Calpol.
It could be a Blairite entryist attempt to take over her own party at a UK level and save it from its own toxic dysfunctionality.
But that toxic dysfunctionality is hugely popular and regularly returns a party riddled with nationalist fantasists to high office, and Davidson’s own actual power base is hugely over-played by her own supporters. More likely you’d have is a bold move to make a breakthrough for the Scottish elections of 2021. Her supporters dwell within a political-reality-bubble every bit as tightly defended and sealed as Scottish nationalists, in which “Davidson as FM in 2021” is a realistic proposition.
This would require self-deception on a mass-scale. It would be Trumptastic. Consider this statement for pure history-wipe:
“While it’s all very well for me, or other centrist politicians to espouse the merits of a market economy, how does that work for a teenager growing up in a pit town with no pit, a steel town with no steel, or a factory town where the factory closed its doors more than a decade ago?”
But then just when you think the Davidson-Gove conspiracy is a joke without credibility and she can’t possibly be thinking about a bid for office in England she say this:
“How does that feel to a member of generation rent, moving to London for their best shot, living in Zone 6, paying half their stagnant salary on a commute, knowing all the while there is no chance of saving enough to ever own their front door?”
Who is she addressing here? It couldn’t be clearer.
As Chris Deerin gushes in the New Statesman:
“I’d bet money, though, that Ruth Davidson will end up at Westminster. She’s too young, too talented, and too ambitious to sit on the opposition benches at Holyrood for much longer. She has the chops for the big offices of state, and, as has been noted by many, the kind of liberal instincts and personal charm that can attract voters from across the political spectrum. So, to my English friends: not now, not this decade, but soon. She’s coming. Prepare yourselves.”
The questions looms as to why such unsurpassed talent should be on the opposition benches and not in high office, but such issues are irrelevant in times of post-truth, Trumpism and media chumocracy.