Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tinkering Tories

The Sanderson review of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party was published last week.  Another investigation into why the Scottish Tories didn't win more seats at the last general election and only managed to cling onto the one they already have.

The bluntness of the review suggests that the Tory peer and his colleagues understand the depth of the hole the party is in and the major changes needed to haul the organisation into the 21st century.  It also notes that 'many people outside the party believe that Scotland needs a strong centre-right political force'.  I too agree with that statement because it would create a healthier balance in the Scottish political scene.  The SNP, Labour and Libdems are all fighting for the centre-left ground and any serious probing of government is non-existent.

While many people may concede that a centre-right party is needed, the trouble for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party is that people don't think it should be the Tory party.

The review undermines the current leader, Annabel Goldie (pictured), by calling for a leadership contest after next May's Holyrood elections when they will decide who should be handed control over the range of power bases that current exists.  It rejects proposals to change the party's name or logo, concluding the real problem was the 'failure to convey clearly and consistently what it believes in and stands for'.  I don't think that's the problem at all.  The problem for the Tories is that people don't like what they stand for and believe in.

No matter how much they try to break through into the modern Scottish psyche, the damage was done years ago.  For me, the final nail in the coffin for the Tories in Scotland was watching Michael Forsyth, the then Scottish secretary, solemnly walking up the Royal Mile behind a piece of stone, which was resting on a velvet cushion and borne by a glass topped limousine.  To top the ludicrous event, Forsyth later, in Edinburgh Castle, gave a speech in which he implied that if all Scots weren't grateful for his goodwill gesture of returning the Stone of Destiny, then hell mend them.

Now the Tory party want a 'distinctly Scottish leader' who must have the power to appoint the Scottish party chairman, a job currently in the gift of UK party leader David Cameron.  But, despite arguing that the party needs to put Holyrood front and centre of its daily business, the review says the leader need not be an MSP.  How they intend to have a leader who may be unable to represent the party within the Chamber is beyond me.

Also recommended in the review is a radical overhaul of its candidate selection, financing, membership recruitment, policy formation and relations with the UK party.

This is all too little too late I feel but my suggestion would be: disband the present Tories, build another centre-right party which has no affiliation to any UK party and drop their determination to be a unionist party.  Many tories vote SNP in this part of the world, possibly because we have an excellent MSP but also because they do believe in Scotland taking charge of her own affairs.  Any tories who feel they cannot support an independence party can move to Labour or the LibDems.

The Tory brand is toxic in Scotland and no amount of tinkering will make them less so.  Better to cut and run then rebuild with policies more akin to Scotland's culture.  There have been other attempts by former Tories disillusioned by the party to create a new home, but with little success.  The Scottish Democratic Alliance does not intend to select candidates for any election until Scotland is independent.  The Tories could do worse than look at their vision for Scotland.


Dubbieside said...


One of my favorite memories of Forsyth was when he was standing in, I think Coldstream to welcome the stone back home.

His aim was to be live on the evening news welcoming the stone back to Scotland.

The stone was held up by a bomb scare (while not condoning bomb scares in any way) his coupon was priceless as his moment of fame slid away.

It did highlight just how shallow the torys were, and still are, we Scots should swoon with gratitude at this magnanimous gesture by our English overlords. A modern day version of giving gaudy beads to the grateful natives.

subrosa said...

Dubbie, I'd forgotten that. Thanks for reminding me and putting a smile on my face.

What I do remember is coming in from work and watching the news only to see this bloke in full highland wear actually parading behind a piece of stone with such reverence. Honestly, I couldn't stop laughing. To think that he walked all the way up the royal mile as if he was our benefactor come to give back our belongings.

Fool he was.

Mr. Mxyzptlk said...


Annabel Goldie probably hasn't been tinkered with for a very! very! long time.

It isn't the Torys who are toxic it is the Policy's and the vision of the 'Nation' they believe in.

The overwhelming majority of Scots reject both they do not want nor wish for the social and economic policies based on failed right wing theories.

Anon said...

"Disband the present Tories, build another centre-right party which has no affiliation to any UK party and drop their determination to be a unionist party."

I agree.

Scottish Tories should look at the success of Singapore, Norway or Switzerland.

- Aangirfan.

Tcheuchter said...

It is quite possible that the stone carried to England by Edward I was a fake. There is a tradition that the monks of Scone Abbey hid the Stone and replaced it with a fake. I seem to remember hearing once that the Westminster stone was offered to Scotland some time before the Reformation, but that the monks refused it.

William said...

"build another centre-right party which has no affiliation to any UK party and drop their determination to be a unionist party."

Aye, very good. "See all that stuff that make people vote for you - just drop it and become something else, it's for the best." Presumably the SNP should drop all that 'independence' stuff to become more palatable to Unionist voters.

At the General Election, the Tories polled just 70,000 fewer than the SNP. If the Tories should disband on the back of that then perhaps the SNP should as well.

The Tories need more charismatic leadership, stronger personalities and more coherent policies.

subrosa said...

Very witty Niko. :) I think even the word Tory is toxic Niko.

subrosa said...

They should indeed Aangirfan, but they're so blinkered and think they're being radical.

subrosa said...

It is very possible Tcheuchter, in fact very very possible. Hence my extreme amusement at Forsyth's 'favour'.

subrosa said...

No William, I didn't make that suggestion without consideration. There are many tories where I am who do vote SNP and they say it's because their own party insists on being a branch of Tories UK plc.

Charismatic leadership? Not a lot of that around. Annabel's kept the show on the road at least.

Apogee said...

Hi SR. Can I suggest that a party which is right wing, anti EU and anti union would do very well.
If a poll in the Express is an indication, the first two would do,for a great majority of the people, anti union would be the icing on the cake .

Dioclese said...

I thinks it's time that the Tories admitted - like or not - that Scotland is it's own country and the sooner they get down to some policies which meet the requirements of that nation, they might start to get somewhere.

Edinburgh is a long way from Westminster - and looks like being even further the way things are going.

I'm an Englishman, but can see clearly that a Scotsman is not the same as me, nor does he live in the same country.

Anonymous said...

First rate post SR.
I know you favour Mr Brownlie, but I maintain that Goldie does a brilliant job in parliament, given the fettering she gets from London.

She went into the job determined to make her party, third in pecking order, a valid voice to be heard.

She’s done that. She’s had more influence on the country’s policy than the two fools we have had from labour in that time. And as for the Liberals, their two leaders have vied for the title of joke of teh year.

You can see the fact that the FM respects her. His answers to her sensible questions are respectful, mocking where necessary, but by and large an effort to actually explain the answer to her question. His answers to the fool who leads Labour are as confrontational as the stupid party politicking questions that Elmer asks.

They don’t need to get rid of Goldie. Even people who loathe the Tories have a sneaking regard for Auntie Annabel. They need to get rid of Cameron. Given the choice who would you rather have in charge?

Clearly Niko knows the feeling of not being tinkered with for years... and it’s made him bitter.

William says that they need more charismatic leaders, stronger personalities and more coherent policies. He’s summed it up. They need a new party.

Quad erat demonstrandum.

subrosa said...

That's a popular choice too Apogee, although I think the Scots are less against the EU than the English. Maybe they've just not wakened up to what happens so far away. Someone needs to do some sums to show them.

subrosa said...

Indeed Dioclese, there's a different attitude towards politics up here. The EU is just one example.

subrosa said...

I would agree with you Tris about the influence she's had compared with Gray and Scott and replacing their figurehead isn't going to do anything for them.

Scotland needs a new centre-right party to take on Labour.

William said...

SR, I'd speculate that anyone who votes SNP cannot seriously call themselves a Conservative. Even if the Tories were to abandon Unionism - one of their core policies - simply to win over these faint hearts then they would simply lose the votes of hardened Unionists. So what would be the point?

The Conservatives in Scotland lack conviction, lack confidence and this comes through every time. They allow themselves to be bullied (cf. Cameron apologising for the Poll Tax) and are too meek.

subrosa said...

Well William, not all Tories are right wing fanatics you know. Some do support independence and therefore vote SNP (here at least).

That's why I suggest another centre-right party for those who are of that persuasion. There are plenty other parties for unionists to join. Many would say the labour party is now more right wing, in certain areas, that today's Scottish tories.

Anonymous said...

William: With respect I know many people in the SNP whose political sympathies are on the right of the spectrum. At least one that I can think of was a councillor for the Tories.

Most are juts centre right, but one or two are pretty far to the right. They support the SNP because they see it as the best way of getting their country back from Britain. Maybe if there was a Scottish centre right party rather than one run from London by an upper middle class Englishman who understand nothing of Scotland (or most of England as it happens), they would vote for it.

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