Steerpike

Why Douglas Ross needs to smile more

Why Douglas Ross needs to smile more
Tory leader Douglas Ross on the Scottish campaign trail. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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An opposition struggling to hold the government to account. A leader failing to win over the electorate. Poll numbers going in the wrong direction. Not Sir Keir Starmer and Labour but Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Tories.

On the heels of Ross's badly-received performance in last week’s BBC Scotland debate, a poll for Ipsos-MORI shows further slippage in the Tory vote ahead of next month’s Holyrood election. The party remains in second place, ahead of Scottish Labour, but only just. On the constituency vote, it is on 20 per cent, down three points on mid-February, and just two points ahead of Labour. On the regional list, its vote is down one point to 21 per cent, three points over Labour.

The poll is even worse for Ross personally. His net satisfaction rating stands at -23, having suffered a swing of -5.5 since February. Just 25 per cent of Scottish voters are satisfied with him, compared to 62 per cent for Sturgeon and, stingingly, 27 per cent for Boris Johnson (though the Prime Minister’s negatives are higher).

By contrast, new Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has a net satisfaction of +26, just three points behind Sturgeon. Fully one-third of voters still don’t know him well enough to make up their minds but that’s maybe not surprising after only 39 days in the job.

Ross’s ropey performance in the campaign so far is causing concern. A Scottish Tory source says: ‘He needs to smile more. He needs to be upbeat and positive about all the good things he wants us to do.’

The insider adds: ‘Our strong opposition to any second independence referendum is well-known and baked in. What we need as the campaign builds is more of our positive vision for Scotland’s future.’

Mr Steerpike encountered plenty of loyalty for Ross but that loyalty will be tested if Labour overtakes the Tories in the polls, and especially if Sarwar manages to lead them back to second place on May 6.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk.

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