You could almost feel some sympathy for Douglas Ross as a nation watches his political career disintegrate in real time. I say ‘almost’ because his malignant views over a range of topics make such sympathy impossible. Last night on Channel Four’s Next Leader of Scotland debate, on a set that wasn’t sure if it was a Quentin Tarantino torture scene or Dragon’s Den, Ross switched from his happy-chappy, yoof-friendly Campaign Guy to the desperate politician shouting across Nicola Sturgeon as the dawning realisation that he’s TOAST dawned slowly.
The debate was the first time for Channel Four in this most strange election campaign and was robustly chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy who swiped-down poor Anas Sarwar with the aside: “We are talking about the constitution. If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s fine, you can sit this out.”
But it was really Douglas Ross who was at the end of this tether as the life-blood of his short and disastrous reign of the Scottish Tories was drained from his palid body. Ross oscillated from the comically-grandiose (“It is the most powerful and successful economic and political union that the world has ever seen!”) to the meek and timid response to Guru-Murthy’s question: “Hands up anyone else who thinks realistically they will be first minister?”.
Reader, no hands were aloft.
This cycle is mirrored in the Unionist tone and messaging which moves through a merry sequence of telling Scottish voters:
You Don’t Exist
We Love You
I Will Destroy You
It’s just disconcerting to see these messages channeled through one individual on one tv show.
Ross increasingly looks like the Donald Crowhurst of Scottish politics. Crowhurst famously disappeared after hoaxing his way round the 1968 Round the World yacht race. Ross seems to be bluffing his way through this election campaign and not very convincingly. The two main questions that come to mind after last night are:
“How the hell did this guy become leader of a political party?”
“Who on earth will they replace him with?”
The Scottish Conservatives aren’t blessed with a very deep talent pool (!), so the candidates that routinely float to the surface like turds on an incoming tide are Murdo Fraser or Adam Tompkins. Tompkins is standing down so others will need to be considered, of more in a moment.
Guru-Murthy obviously hadn’t got the memo and was far more even-handed than Scottish-based journalists on other broadcast channels. This provoked outcry from poor Alex Massie who tweeted: “Not sure I’ve seen a non-Fox News debate moderator frame every question in such a one-eyed, partisan, fashion as is happening for far in this debate.”
The tweet was quickly deleted, but Massie later replaced it with the slightly more plaintive: “Sturgeon was the obvious winner, albeit in a debate largely framed in terms very much to her advantage.”
He didn’t elaborate on what exactly gave the FM such an advantage.
Massie’s fictional grievances aside, the idea of comparing multi-award-winning and respected Channel 4 News with Fox News is so risible it could only be considered if the Tories and the Union were facing annihilation and you couldn’t really cope with a very low bar of broadcast media.
In a week where the Tory “stench of sleaze” around Boris Johnson’s government was in everyone’s nostrils and after the letting “the bodies pile high” comments it was like shooting fish in a barrel for Nicola Sturgeon. But Ross’s Shouty Man performance was also risible. In a week’s time Ross is sunk as a political force. His campaign has been lacklustre and incoherent – talking tough then screeching backwards then trying to appear as an Atomic Kitten.
From his comments on gypsy travellers to gay marriage (“Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross would have voted against same-sex marriage if he’d been an MSP“) Ross comes across as repugnant, but his own self-inflicted problems aren’t the only challenge for the Scottish Tories. Like his predecessor Colonel Davidson he is forever tarnished by association with the government we didn’t elect. In a weeks time Ross will have overseen a discharge of Tory MSPs, losing somewhere between 7 and eleven seats.
What to do?
With the Unionist case essentially being reduced to just a threat, and with Adam Tompkins retiring disgracefully and the Colonel off to the Lords, there is only one man who can replace the unfortunate Mr Ross. It’s a man who was unjustly usurped – a man who’s boots proved too big too fill – a man who can surely resurrect the cause of, er, well anyway – only one man who can lead them to victory.
Jackson Carlaw must return to the fray. It’s time for re-building.
It’s time for #JusticeforJackson.