Ruth Davidson: Replace Boris Johnson to restore ‘moral authority’

RUTH Davidson has said that replacing Boris Johnson could restore some of the “moral authority” lost in the recent spate of Westminster scandals.

The former Scottish Tory leader, who last month warned the Prime Minister was “drinking in the last chance saloon”, today went further and suggested getting rid of him altogether.

Baroness Davidson, who was never hidden her dislike for Mr Johnson, even after he ennobled her, raised the prospect of a new Tory leader in a Daily Telegraph article. 

Cautioning against growing calls for a breakaway Scottish Tory party to escape the fallout from the chaos of Number 10, she wrote: “It is well known that I have clashed with the Prime Minister over the years, backed almost every other candidate in the leadership race, and stepped down as Scottish leader a few weeks after Mr Johnson took office (for a combination of policy and personal reasons). 

“So it is perhaps not surprising that I believe a change of leader could restore some of the moral authority lost over such debacles as the Downing Street parties or addressing the CBI unprepared, and riffing on Peppa Pig instead of the challenges of rebuilding after Covid.

“But even with the current incumbent in office, I urge colleagues to hold their nerve.”

In the 2019 Tory leadership contest, Ms Davidson backed Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt through the various elimination stages, but never Mr Johnson.

After the Tories lost the North Shropshire byelection in December amid a wave of scandals connected to the PM and his Downing Street operation, Baroness Davidson floated a list of possible successors, but said the decision on the PM’s future lay with Tory MPs. 

The party’s bencher were “looking for a bit of bloody grip to be exerted”, she said.

Her latest intervention came as she warned that splitting the Scottish Tories from the UK party to avoid being damaged by Mr Johnson and his woes would not work and could prove “a short route to electoral suicide”.

The former Scottish leader admitted many members north of the border were in despair at “how rudderless and shambolic” it had become in Downing Street.

But she urged colleagues to hold their nerve and not succumb to “mid-term jitters”.

It followed former Scottish party chair Peter Duncan calling on Sunday for a breakaway party north of the border to escape the “continuing chaos” in Downing Street.

The former MP said the fallout risked costing the Scottish Tories seats in May’s local elections, and many councillors felt like fall guys for “incompetence” by Number 10.

He said it had made the long-mooted idea of a separate Scottish party “much more likely”.

He said: “The omnishambles of recent months confirms that there is, indeed, nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

It prompted West Aberdeenshire Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who quit as a UK party vice-chair in protest at the recent Whitehall scandals, to denounce the proposal.

Writing in the Times, he said he could see the appeal of a separate Scottish party “when times get rough”, but as it would never withdraw its support for a Tory PM, it was a pointless exercise.

“To the Scottish electorate, we would remain ‘the Tories’, which would defeat the object,” he said.

Baroness Davidson, whose rejection of a breakaway party helped her win the leadership in 2011 when it was proposed by her main rival MSP Murdo Fraser, echoed Mr Bowie’s argument in the Telegraph today. 

Predicting a grassroots revolt over a new party, she wrote: “I still believe that divorcing from the UK party, rebranding, but keeping largely the same people and prospectus, while pledging to support Conservatives in forming the UK Government would be seen by voters as both hollow and cynical – a bunch of moaning minnies either afraid or ashamed to call themselves Conservatives in case it costs them seats, but propping up a UK

“Tory government anyway, just with reduced influence over it.

“Using these mid-term jitters to disavow nearly 200 years of party history or – worse – splitting off one part of the party forever, is not a route to guaranteed success. 

“Conservatives in Scotland and beyond must, yes, demand better – much better – of the people in No10 (or change them). But they must also remember that Conservative values, clearly articulated, resonate with voters everywhere, including Scotland and the Red Wall.”

She also ridiculed Mr Duncan’s plea for change before May.

“It takes a great deal longer than four months to establish and register a political party, recruit candidates for every council ward in the country, create a unified prospectus and launch it on the public consciousness – it is a bad idea and one that is, in itself, a short route to electoral suicide.”

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