It’s happened again. Ruth Davidson has escaped genuine scrutiny when appearing on BBC Scotland.
The Scottish Conservative leader appeared on Good Morning Scotland on Friday.
Despite nearly twelve minutes within which to quiz the de-facto leader of Scotland’s British Nationalists on issues she is weak on, the interviewer failed to land a single telling blow.
On Friday, Good Morning Scotland managed to persuade Davidson to appear on the programme [She’d already dodged an interview during the local elections]. They needn’t have bothered. Listeners sat through twelve minutes of one of the most inept interviews they’ll ever have heard.
In the clip above, the first one minute and forty seconds of the interview is essentially wasted asking Ruth Davidson about the tone of the election campaign. The interview then moves swiftly, linking the Manchester terror attack to immigration, then immigration to Brexit.
Over four and a half minutes into the interview and Ruth Davidson hasn’t fielded one difficult question. She has though made a claim relating to student numbers, stating there is no limit to the number of international students allowed into the UK. It’s a claim that is easily challenged as the headlines below show.
But Davidson isn’t challenged. Indeed it’s fully five minutes before Ruth Davidson is actually posed a genuine question. Laura Maxwell asks the Scottish Conservative leader to put a figure on the number of immigrants she [Davidson] would want to see coming to Scotland.
Ruth responds by making two more claims. The first is that Scotland attracts a “very, very small proportion” of people coming into the UK. A figure is subsequently placed on this “very, very small proportion”. The figure is four per cent. Incredibly both Davidson and Maxwell cite this figure.
But is it accurate? The image below shows a headline published by the BBC the day before Ruth’s interview. Beside it is an excerpt from an article published by The Scotsman newspaper.
The figure for migration into the UK is 248,000. Four per cent of 248,000 is 9920. Excluding those who came from the rest of the UK, The Scotsman reports that migration to Scotland in 2016 was actually 22,900 people, which is over double what Ruth Davidson claims.
Davidson also claims that Scotland is “the highest taxed part of the UK”. Is this true? The answer is no. Looking at all forms of taxation, Scotland is not the highest taxed part of the UK.
It’s now six minutes into the twelve minute interview. Ruth Davidson has faced one mildly challenging question. She has made three very specific claims, neither of which has been challenged. There is reliable evidence to prove each claim is in fact false.
Also, despite bringing up the Manchester terror attack, the interviewer has refused to press Davidson on the biggest single criticism of Theresa May following the atrocity. Namely that as Home Secretary she reduced police numbers in England by almost twenty thousand.
Following Manchester, May deployed troops onto the streets of England because there weren’t enough police officers. It’s a major issue down south as this BBC ‘fact check’ article makes clear. Videos of May accusing the Police Federation in England of scare-mongering have circulated social media.
Into the second half of the Good Morning Scotland interview and Ruth Davidson is gently pressed on immigration into Scotland. However once again the Scottish Conservative leader is effectively let off the hook by Laura Maxwell who refuses to persist with the line despite Davidson having said she thinks the numbers coming here are just about right, but then says she also agrees with her party’s Westminster policy of drastically reducing immigration overall.
Nine minutes into the twelve minute interview and Davidson still hasn’t been pressed in any meaningful way. Long pre-scripted answers have dominated the interview. So comfortable with the way things are going that a relaxed Ruth Davidson allows herself a huge belly laugh when the issue of Theresa May’s campaign slogan is mentioned.
Here we again see very poor interviewing from Laura Maxwell. In contrasting May’s ‘Strong and Stable’ slogan with the actuality of May’s Prime Ministership, Maxwell refers to the PM’s U-turns and incredibly lists … only one. The decision to call an early election.
The biggest and most significant U-turn is of course the ‘Dementia Tax’ debacle that saw Theresa May change a key policy in the Tory manifesto days after its official launch. The U-turn was dominating news last Monday until the Manchester attack knocked it off the front pages.
As far as U-turns go, it was an utter disaster for Theresa May. Yet it wasn’t even mentioned in the interview.
The last two minutes saw Ruth Davidson make yet another claim, telling the interviewer that child poverty across the UK has fallen since 2010. The claim, as can be seen from the headlines below, is false.
The remainder of the interview was a stroll for Davidson who was let off the hook again when, despite having herself raised the issue of pensions, wasn’t questioned on her party’s policy of removing the triple-lock.
All-in-all it was a dreadful interview from a presenter who appeared to be very poorly prepared. Ruth’s answers on immigration and tax in Scotland had already been well-rehearsed. A competent interviewer would have anticipated these scripted answers and would have immediately challenged Davidson on points of fact. Instead the Scottish Conservative leader was allowed to warble on unhindered.
The biggest issue surrounding the Conservatives in Scotland has been the so-called Rape Clause. Neither it or the aforementioned ‘Dementia Tax’ merited a single mention in the interview.
Other issues Ruth avoided being questioned on include the removal of the pension triple-lock and means testing of pensioners for winter fuel payments, something she apparently opposes in Scotland. There is also of course the issue of racism and bigotry and the suspension of two recently elected Scottish councillors from her party.
If you wanted to protect a political leader during an election campaign, whilst trying to give the impression of pursuing them, this is how you would do it.
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