The Disunited Kingdom?

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories: no fan of the new PM

From The Independent, The New Statesman, The Times, Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian and The Week:

Boris Johnson professes to love the United Kingdom, said The Independent. He extols “the awesome foursome” and speaks of the UK as “the most successful economic and political union in history”. But how can that be squared with his readiness to countenance a no-deal Brexit? The very idea is anathema to the Scots who opposed quitting the EU in the first place: 62% voted Remain in the 2016 referendum. And if Scots are given a second chance to vote on independence, they might well now choose to sever their 300-year-old ties with their neighbour to the south. When Johnson visited Edinburgh this week, he was loudly booed as he arrived at the official residence of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and chose to leave by the back door. Johnson’s stance on Brexit represents the “most lethal threat” to the union since the partition of Ireland in 1922. Without an abrupt change of course, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom could also be its last.

It doesn’t help that Johnson is at loggerheads with his party’s best-loved figure in Scotland, said Chris Deerin in the New Statesman. “Charismatic, funny, outspoken, smart and brave”, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, has turned around her local party’s fortunes. Indeed, the 13 Scottish Tory MPs returned to Westminster at the last election are now vital to the Government’s survival, said Euan McColm in The Times. But Davidson, a convinced Remainer, is no fan of the new PM: in the leadership election she voted for three other candidates – anyone but Boris. And the mutual antagonism grew yet more intense, said Alan Cochrane in The Daily Telegraph, when Johnson last week sacked Davidson’s close ally, David Mundell, as Scottish Secretary. Growing demands for the Scottish Tories to break away from the UK party may prove irresistible. But Johnson is fully aware of the need to soothe Scottish sensitivities.  His concern to appease local opinion is the reason he deliberately chose Scotland as the place to announce a £300m investment in “Growth Deals” for the devolved nations.

It’s not just the pursuit of a no-deal Brexit that makes Johnson unpopular with Scots, said Tom Devine in The Guardian. “Foppish, rich, incompetent, xenophobic,” he is for many the embodiment of the archetypal right-wing English Tory, a figure utterly out of sympathy with their “social democratic” attitudes. Even before Johnson moved into No.10, the polls were suggesting that almost 50% of Scottish voters backed the independence cause. With him in power, there may now be an absolute majority. Of course, it’s the PM who has the power to decide whether Scotland should hold a second referendum, and Johnson won’t be in a hurry to give his approval. But if it ever does come to a vote, the nationalists may find that Johnson is their best “recruiting sergeant since the days of Margaret Thatcher”.   (The Week 3 August 2019)

It would be ironic if the Tories, led by Johnson, caused the breakup of the United Kingdom.  I would remind readers that the official name of the Tory Party is the “Conservative and Unionist Party”, that is union with Scotland and Northern Ireland. Latterly, their more accurate name might be the “Reactionary and Disunity Party”.  When I was a young adult I seriously pondered (for a week , or something) the idea of going into politics on behalf of what was then a reasonable, principled Conservative Party.  The follies of youth……

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