Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A farewell to the McTories?

Murdo Fraser MSP is one of the Scottish Tory Party's showmen.  His announcement that, if elected leader, he will seek to disband the toxic reactionary quislings and replace it with a centre-right party, competing with Labour for this accolade in Scotland, is eye-catching and very interesting.

Since 1997, First Past The Post has ensured that the Tories have not been able to elect more than one MP in Scotland (and indeed in the Blair hysteria they were wiped out completely), while the AMS system used for Scottish Parliamentary elections and STV for local councils has kept the party on life-support with a steadily declining share of the vote.  The Scots have long memories, and there is unlikely to be any forgiveness of a party that treated the country as an appendage for experimentation with such lovely flowers as the poll tax and the impact of deindustrialisation. 

The SNP's outstanding result in May was not just a function of the competence of their previous minority administration, but a reflection of Scottish distrust of the Westminster machinery.  Salmond peddled a delusional spin that the wider economy would not impact upon Scotland's public services, a variant of his previous elevation of economic successes in Ireland and Iceland as paradigms for Scottish economic growth.  Whereas the UK Coalition has a muddle-headed and wrongly-implemented agenda for reducing government spending, not significantly different from the one that Labour would have implemented had they won in 2010, Scotland has been behaving like a startled toddler hoping that the problems go away.  They won't, and the SNP faces cutting budgets and services with more immediate and draconian impact than the Westminster government.

At this stage, Murdo Fraser's intervention seems to be even more quixotic.  Labour have not managed to regroup in Scotland, and the Liberals have been reduced to impotent maundering from the Northern Isles.  The Tories were therefore well placed in terms of offering a critique of the SNP's machinations, but appear to be much more interested in their own internal blood-letting. 

The idea that a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Movement could outperform a Westminster-based party is possibly true, although there is unlikely to be a large pool of talent in the party - bright Scottish Tories will repeat Labour's chicken run to London as they are unlikely to find themselves wielding power in Holyrood.  However, Labour are the de facto reactionary force in Scotland, and they won't give up the territory without a fight.

One weekend's headlines do not make a strategy.

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