Ruth Davidson is lighting up her party – but how high can she climb?

The Scottish Conservative leader is one to watch and, maybe, to fear


A female Conservative leader, loved by the grassroots and doing quite well for her party and for herself.

No, it’s not Theresa May, but Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who will today speak to the party faithful in Birmingham just ahead of the Prime Minister.

Having been elected as an MSP in May 2011, by November 2011 she had won the leadership of her party following elections to the Scottish Parliament which saw the Conservatives lose 5 seats and the SNP secure an outright majority. At that point, the Conservative brand  in Scotland was tainted to say the least.

Davidson properly registered on many people’s radars in May of this year by achieving the unthinkable, picking up an extra 16 seats to overtake Labour as the second largest party at Holyrood. She did so largely by galvanising and uniting the anti-independent vote behind her, capitalising on Scottish Labour’s difficulties in coming to a clear view about its plans for Scotland’s constitutional future.

By the time of the EU referendum, her performance in the final big TV debate on the BBC, especially her ability to take on Boris Johnson with real effect lead many to ask the question – was she a future leader of the UK wide Conservative Party?

Speaking at a fringe event at this week’s party conference Davidson made it clear that her ambitions know no bounds. She declared that the run up to the next elections to Holyrood will be a period of positioning the Conservatives as a credible alternative Government north of the border. Such ambition, drive and indeed energy has been her hallmark and it would not be a surprise at all if a move to Westminster beckoned for one of the Party’s most effective communicator.

But why has she done so well? Simply put, it has been about being her own woman and begin prepared, when needed, to put clear blue water between her and the party in London.

It is, for example, curious that on the one hand she has called for the SNP to stop stoking grievances between Holyrood and Westminster having herself failed to provide anything approaching enthusiastic support for Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

On policy as well, it takes a special kind of person to be able to attack George Osborne’s planned changes to tax credits and oppose any idea of grammar schools in Scotland while also remaining the darling of Number 10.

Quite simply, Ruth Davidson is different. Quick-witted, articulate, prepared to be her own person and, dare I say it, normal. All these qualities, together with her electrical success in what was once a no go area for the Conservative Party means she really is one to watch and watch closely.

As Ian Leslie, in his extensive profile of Davidson for the New Statesman concludes:

“We like to think that the best politicians will somehow find their way to power – that talent will rise to its appropriate level. But Davidson has only two paths to high office open to her: becoming first minister, or quitting Edinburgh for Westminster. Both are exceedingly steep. If she cannot or will not take either, in decades to come she may be remembered as we now recall her performance at Wembley: a firework show, lighting up the landscape without changing it.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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7 Responses to “Ruth Davidson is lighting up her party – but how high can she climb?”

  1. Alasdair Macdonald

    The fulsome encompasses for Ms Davidson by the new Labourites of the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, Prospect, Left Foot Forward, the membership of Scottish Labour indicates that the self proclaimed ”moderate left’ are displaying their true colours. Ms Davidson’s ‘gains’ in the Scottish Parliamentary elections was substantially on the back of large numbers of Labour voters voting for the Conservatives in seats where they were closest to the SNP, and the sole (union flag suited) Scottish Labour MP, owes his election to well heeled Morningside voters voting tactically for him against a pretty feckless SNP candidate.
    Mr Corbyn has a difficult task to reestablish the Labour Party as a distinct voice in England standing up for the working poor, and expressing humane values.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald

    Sorry, unnoticed autocorrect problem: for ‘encompasses’ Please read ‘encomia’!

  3. RolftheGanger

    The headline answer is – at least as high as a nice safe seat in a southern constituency!

    Interesting to see the pattern of this publication following the same course as the New Statesman.

    Writing laudatory “Laud a Tory” articles

    So that makes it clear. When push comes to shove, maintaining imperial dominion over Scotland trumps Leftist leanings or commitment ot the Right to Self Determination of Small Nations that Labour and the Left used to champion, back when they had such oldfashioned things as principles.

  4. RedGrouper

    Ruth Davidson is articulate, a gifted communicator and an excellent politician. She has been clear to show distance between herself and the
    IRA sympathies of Corbyn and his pals – which is ballot box poison Scotland. There is no future for Labour in Scotland under Corbyn. When you see great Scottish women politicians like Nichola Sturgeon and Davidson – it makes the state of English politics look all the more dire.

  5. Scottish Scientist

    The Tory MSPs led by Ruth Davidson betray the Scots, by supporting the tartan-Tory fiscal framework stitch-up between the SNP government and the Tory UK-government which prevents the Scottish government borrowing another £10 billion a year to invest in Scotland’s economic future.

    That fiscal framework treachery of Sturgeon’s and Davidson’s against the Scottish economic interest is never commented upon by the league of dishonourable TV pundits we see paraded on the likes of the BBC’s “Scotland 2016” and STV’s “Scotland Tonight”.

    A “parcel of rogues in a nation” at Holyrood, yes.

    But TV politics has its own version of a “parcel of rogues in a nation”.

    The “Fiscal Framework Fading Future Fiasco Flattering Flunkies”.

  6. Scottish Scientist

    Here on “Left Foot Forward” I should also stop to critique the failing leadership of Kezia Dugdale who prefers to bang on about “use the powers” whereas the reality is that Holyrood and the Scottish Government do not have the macro-economic borrowing powers to invest for growth in the Scottish economy.

    Kezia Dugdale’s political attack should be as per my previous comment, against the tartan-Tory stitch up fiscal framework deal with denies proper borrowing powers.

    Being a lawyer by training and not a mathematician, accountant or economist, Dugdale is scared of anything to do with money and numbers and she wouldn’t want to oppose influential fiscal conservative elder statesmen within the Labour Party, such as Gordon Brown.

    So Scottish Labour will continue to struggle with the “use the powers” approach.

  7. uglyfatbloke

    The tories came second at Holyrood because Labour did so badly, that’s all.

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