Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has savaged her coalition partners, saying the Liberal Democrats have “ceased to function as a viable party in Scotland”.
If yesterday’s joint event in Basildon by David Cameron and Nick Clegg was designed to relaunch the coalition in the wake of last week’s appalling local election results, the memo outlining the plan to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson seemingly got lost in the post.
“Ceased to function as a viable party in Scotland.”
Against a backdrop of results last week that saw the Lib Dems north of the border lose 80 councillors, reduced to a total now of just 71 right across Scotland, Davidson’s comments were designed as an attempt to woo Lib Dems to join the Tories.
“Having last year been reduced to a rump of just five MSPs and having now lost more than half of their councillors, being firmly relegated to fourth position in Scottish politics, the Liberal Democrats have to all intents and purposes ceased to function as a viable party in Scotland.
“My message to moderate, non-socialist Liberal Democrats is that there is a home for you with the Scottish Conservatives.
“By moving your support to the Scottish Conservatives we can together take forward our shared belief in freedom, local decision making, devolving more power from the Scottish Parliament to Scotland’s communities and defending Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.”
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Her remarks, however, were met with laughter from the Lib Dems, who noted the Tories themselves have just one Scottish MP in Westminster.
A Lib Dem spokesman responded:
“We all had a good chuckle at this.
“We don’t really know if Ruth Davidson really believes this nonsense, but with only thirty more councillors and just a tenth of the MPs we have got in Scotland she would do better looking at the state of her own party.
“There is a need for strong liberal voices in Scottish politics and the Tories are certainly not that.”
And for the SNP, MSP Chic Brodie observed:
“Why on earth would Lib Dem voters now want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire?
“Former Lib Dem voters know that it was the propping up of the Tories at Westminster which is to blame for the party’s dismal showing in the council elections.
“It is bizarre as it is ridiculous that Lib Dems would now want to defect or lend their vote to the party which their wayward leadership has so foolishly jumped into bed with.”
Meanwhile, over at the Herald today, political columnist Ian Bell has advice of his own for the Lib Dems, namely that it is time to leave the government altogether.
In his column, he concludes:
“If Clegg wants to salvage his party he must walk, and walk now. It’s not for me to save the Liberal Democrats from themselves: after the last couple of years, I’d supply the whisky and load the revolver. Dispassionately, though, there is clear evidence that if Westminster’s vaunted third force does not extricate itself from the morass, the heirs to Liberal tradition will be sucked under.
“Mr Clegg could, if wise – but let’s not push our luck – make a virtue of dissolving the Coalition. There are plenty of Tory choices he could, or should, find intolerable. He could make something or other an issue of principle, look doleful, and invite Ed Miliband round for coffee. The ensuing election would be miserable for the LibDems, but it would at least present a route back to self-respect.
“Judging by the leaks ahead of today’s Queen’s Speech, there are no signs of such a thing happening. Instead, Mr Clegg’s faction wish only to “differentiate” themselves, just a bit, from their symbionts. So it falls to LibDem activists, such as remain, to ask a simple question. Why is their party being destroyed for the sake of a Coalition that has failed, even on its own terms?
“Could it be that the only person still saying: “I’m with Nick” is named Clegg?”