Isabel Hardman

Scottish Tories aim for serious Holyrood campaign

Scottish Tories aim for serious Holyrood campaign
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How can Ruth Davidson become the Leader of the Opposition in Holyrood? The leader of the Scottish Conservatives made her pitch to do just that this week, and also set out her own vision for tackling inequality in a speech last night. She has become a popular figure in political circles, respected by right and left not just because of her enthusiasm for the job, but her love of amusing photo shoots, including the famous tank picture, and her ability to look as though she is actually enjoying herself on programmes like Have I Got News For You.

But for this campaign, I understand that Davidson won’t be travelling about in any tanks or other amusing vehicles. That was partly a tactic to ensure that the Scottish Tories got a look in during the General Election campaign, which was largely all about the SNP driving a fleet of tanks repeatedly over Labour constituencies. This campaign needs to pitch the Tories as a serious party capable of holding the SNP to account in Holyrood. So no tanks, and more of a businesslike approach to the campaign to show voters that the party is worth backing.

That doesn’t mean that Davidson herself will be hiding away, though. All those tanks and quiz shows have built up a strong personal brand. The YouGov poll that put the Scottish Conservatives ahead of Labour on the constituency vote (19 per cent to 20 per cent) also asked whether the leaders were doing well or badly, with 40 per cent saying well and 36 per cent saying badly for Davidson. This compares to 24 per cent saying Kezia Dugdale was doing well and 37 per cent saying she was performing badly. She also received a net +14 satisfaction rating in Ipsos MORI’s Scottish Public Opinion Monitor (47 per cent satisfied, 33 per cent dissatisfied) in November. All of this means that Davidson herself will be a key part of the campaign because people tend to like her. It will be interesting to see which Westminster Tories are deemed helpful on the Scottish campaign trail.

As Alex says, this might not mean that the Scottish Tories are on course for a great revival. But Davidson’s tanks seem to be helping her party march forward with more confidence than it has had for a long time.

P.S. Not wholly serious, though...

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is author of Why We Get The Wrong Politicians.

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