Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Boris Johnson has sent a troubling message to Scottish Tories

The sacking of David Mundell as Scottish Secretary has left Ruth Davidson’s Tories reeling. The response is not tribal or even ideological; Brexiteers and Remainers alike regard his replacement Alister Jack as a good sort. What most are still struggling to fathom is the thinking behind Mundell’s punting. Of course, he is an opponent of no deal — Jack, by contrast, has taken the pledge and says he could support a crash-out Brexit — but he was seen as hard-working and effective in the Scotland Office. He knew the brief, had the experience and was well-briefed in the tactics of the SNP. 

Scottish Tories are so unsettled by the move, I’m told, because Mundell had a more direct hand in the revival of the party north of the border than has hitherto been appreciated. A senior party source tells me:

‘It seems ironic that without David Mundell, there would never have been 13 Scottish MPs returned in 2017 and without the Scottish MPs, Jeremy Corbyn would already be in Downing Street. So, basically, there would not be a Conservative government for Boris Johnson to lead without David Mundell’s efforts and successes. Mundell is properly strategic, and Boris treating him dismissively could prove to be a real error.’

Davidson’s relationship with Mundell pre-dates even her election as an MSP. In 2010, when she was on a hiding to nothing as the Tory candidate in Glasgow North East, ex-BBC journalist Davidson volunteered to help Mundell with TV debate prep as well as some general bag carrying. This was not glamorous stuff: at one point, she found herself in the car park of a 24-hour Asda in Dumbarton, sewing kit in hand, after the shadow Scottish Secretary ripped his trousers en route to a campaign event. 

It was here — the campaign trail, not the car park — where Davidson came to value Mundell’s skill as a strategist and an organiser.

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