The Scottish Tories, by any criteria, are in deep trouble. They have one MP at Westminster, and his seat is now set to disappear. Without proportional representation in Scotland – which their Westminster party has recently venomously and successfully opposed for the UK – they would be in an even worse state, and Annabel Goldie wouldn’t have been their last leader. The party only has a UK Prime Minister courtesy of the LibDems, who are in worse trouble nationally than the Tories. David Cameron has suffered two major scandals in his year and a half in office, and has lost one key adviser and one minister.
Almost six months after the May 5th Holyrood election, they have still not managed to elect a new Scottish leader, are unable to reach a consensus on what party exactly it is that he or she will lead, and the campaign is dissolving into acrimonious anarchy and bitter recrimination. As Margaret Mitchell said recently in a televised campaign speech, they’re “down to the bare rump”. If they’re not careful they will also be gone with the wind. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
A party that likes to think that its defining qualities are loyalty and leadership is strikingly deficient in both. The Scottish Tories are in the shit, the merde, the deep, deep doo doo.
I don’t like the Tory Party or what they stand for, I have never voted Tory in my life, so I should rejoice. My schadenfreude should be unbridled – but it’s not. This has baffled some of my SNP contacts, who, in common with many Labour supporters (who knows what the LibDems think about anything these days?) look forward eagerly to the extinction of this endangered species, the Dodo of Scottish politics.
I must say that the unfolding Fox-Werrity scandal, as well as confirming all my worst fears about the corrupt nature of the UK Establishment, the military/industrial complex and the M.O.D. (covered at length in my blogs on defence) gave me cause to think that perhaps the UK and Scotland would be better off if this pernicious creed ended, not with a bang, but a whimper.
But I still think that Scotland – and England and Wales and Northern Ireland – needs a party of the centre right – and here is why I think that …
THE CENTRE RIGHT
The answer to my question – The Tories – does Scotland need them? – is answered in part by saying Scotland already has them, some 420,000 of them, perhaps even half a million. That is about the number of voters who voted for them. They voted for a party that espouses centre right values and a centre right programme. And the result is that in Scotland, they are almost disenfranchised.
Where exactly do those who look forward to the extinction of the Tory Party in Scotland think these voters are going to go, in the absence of a party to vote for that reflects their political views?
The answer is clear enough from politics in any country in the world – they will either go to parties with more extreme right wing views and programmes, or they will embrace non-democratic solutions, and there will be no shortage of these on offer.
That’s my view and that’s my answer, and it encapsulates my fears. But there is another answer, another scenario, and it is worth setting out.
A SCOTLAND WITHOUT A CENTRE RIGHT PARTY
Many SNP supporters and many Labour supporters dream the impossible dream – a Tory-free Scotland. They share this dream, as indeed they share almost all of their core social democratic, egalitarian values.
The only worm in the apple, a worm on the scale of The Lambton Worm of Penshaw Hill is the Labour Party’s doomed commitment to the Union – the great irony of an internationalist party of the common people locked into the rump of a faded colonial empire, one that ruthlessly exploited the peoples of the world, and in its death throes, continues to oppress them.
But if the Scottish Labour Party (and the English and the Welsh and the Northern Irish) manage to slay this worm, the shared dream would become a reality, in this scenario.
In a Tory party-free Scotland, the political spectrum would range from the SNP to the Labour Party, with perhaps token spear carrier roles for a tiny number of Greens and LibDems, squeaking entertainingly at the sides of the stage. There would be policy differences, but within a core social democratic consensus: no one party would dominate, although one might be the government, or there would be semi-permanent coalition government.
This impossible dream, this Utopian vision is attractive to me also, in the way that being thirty years younger, five inches taller, better looking and richer is attractive to me. But it’s no gonnae happen …
It also carries the very real danger of a drift to a one-party state, something I am diametrically opposed to.
The 420,000 centre right voters with nowhere to go are not going to suddenly see the light and vote SNP or Labour. They are not the Scottish Socialist parties – tiny, heroic and almost irrelevant. The centre right will demand a voice, demand that someone speak for them. In a democracy, they have a right to that. Deny them it, and the Scottish body politic will have potentially something malignant at its heart.
So I say to my SNP contacts – and to my Labour contacts – look around you at the people you know. Unless you are living in a sanitised bubble, a cult-like social enclave, you have family, friends, social contacts, business contacts, neighbours, and political opponent who have centre right views, are probably dispirited Tory voters – and are also decent, caring human beings who want the best for the families, their children and for Scotland.
Don’t deny them their political voice. If you do, then your ideals, SNP or Labour, are hollow and worthless.
I will continue to bait the Tory Party, to dislike its policies and its behaviour – but I make a sharp distinction between a political party machine, whether it is an SNP, Tory, Labour or LibDem machine, and the real people that offer it their often shifting and temporary allegiance.
And I say to those real people that their hopes of having their centre right voice and their values reflected in the new Scotland, in the best way possible, lie with Murdo Fraser and his vision, not with the three candidates who collectively represent the past. I only hope that my endorsement doesn’t weaken his case!