She’s the most popular political leader in Scotland – according to the Scottish media that is. Ruth Davidson can do no wrong. The Queen of the Unionists is on a high.
I can’t recall such fawning over a Scottish political leader since the over-confident Wendy Alexander was touted as the saviour of Scottish Labour. Alexander’s tenure was a disaster, with gaffe after gaffe coming to a halt only when someone in her own party leaked details of illegitimate donations to her leadership campaign.
Ruth Davidson has similar abrasive qualities. However with no prospect of the Scottish Conservatives ever replacing the SNP as the major power at Holyrood, Davidson’s success as a leader has been measured against a lower bar.
She hasn’t been without her own gaffes. Who can forget the ‘line in the sand’ that marked her opposition to any further powers for the Scottish parliament? Then in 2012 Ruth infamously claimed that only 12% of Scottish households “make a net contribution to the economy”.
Perhaps her most widely known gaffe came courtesy of the indyref campaign when Ruth couldn’t resist using the EU card to maximum effect. Appearing in a TV debate Ruth argued that only by voting No would Scotland ensure its EU membership. Brexit of course has blown that one back in her face.
Or so it ought to have. The thing about Ruth is that she has an unerring ability to find herself at the centre of political gaffes that never seem to damage her. Within the last two weeks there have been three alone.
Her party’s attempt to stop the SNP from holding a consultation on people’s views on independence was thrown out by the Electoral Commission before the ink had dried on the paperwork. When last I looked Tory MSP John Lamont was seeking to have the exercise stopped on a legal technicality.
As far as I am aware this blundering attempt to prevent the public from engaging with the party of government in Scotland hasn’t met with a media outcry.
There was worse of course when her party’s press office indulged in what the Scottish Greens called “casual racism” with the statement that attacked French born former MSP Christian Allard. Despite the matter having been raised during First Minister’s Questions, followed by a letter from the First Minister and then another letter from the Consular Councillor for French Nationals, Davidson has yet to apologise. There is, as yet, no sustained pursuit of the Scottish Tory leader over this unsavoury episode.
Then this week at First Minister’s Questions, Davidson chose to attack Nicola Sturgeon on the issue of the NHS. There was one thing wrong with Ruth’s chosen line of attack. The ‘meltdown’ she was demanding the SNP address wasn’t the Scottish NHS, it was the English NHS.
It was a massive blunder from the Queen of the Union. So much so that an SNP MSP, Clare Haughey, drew it to the attention of the Presiding Officer during a later point of order. Note the reaction of Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh who rather worryingly dismisses the point of order, describing it as a ‘debating point’, which it wasn’t, it was a point of fact that Davidson had blundered.
To appreciate the full extent of Davidson’s blunder I commend this article published on Wings Over Scotland.
In between the xenophobic attack on Christian Allard and the ‘NHS meltdown’ blunder there was another embarrassing gaffe in the form of a tweet from Davidson. On Thursday the Scottish Conservative leader posted a tweet claiming there had been a record number of racist attacks on the English in Scotland.
The tweet was hastily deleted after she realised that the story was over four years old. Worse than that, the story was in fact completely false and was exposed as such at the time.
Davidson is of course the Unionist’s great hope at the moment so it’s no surprise that her blunders aren’t being exposed. I recall a similar approach by the media when Jim Murphy first became Secretary of State for Scotland.
Murphy’s gaffes, and there were plenty, were never highlighted – indeed some never made the media at all.
All leading Scottish Unionist politicians enjoy a ‘blind eye’ approach from the traditional Scottish media. Most of course, given the party’s domination of Scottish politics then its place as the main Unionist opposition to the SNP, have been from Labour. Ruth Davidson has inherited the mantle of ‘Unionist saviour’ and with it the ‘media privileges’ that come with it.
Unionists need Davidson to be star. Her Labour contemporary is an acknowledged failure, UK Labour are in open civil war and Brexit is about to become an open-sore. So she’ll be portrayed as a star.
If the Scottish media can push a line that Ruth Davidson is the most popular leader in Scotland, they can push anything.
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