New Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw will be lucky to see out 18 months in the job
In an analysis piece, Daily Record Political Editor Paul Hutcheon says party insiders see Carlaw as "prickly" and a "stop gap" leaderby Paul Hutcheon, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/paul-hutcheon/
THE Scottish Tory leadership contest between MSPs Jackson Carlaw and Michelle Ballantyne wasn’t even close in the end.
As the election entered its final lap, Carlaw’s supporters talked up their rival’s chances in a bid to make his inevitable victory look even better.
The spin worked: 76% to 24% was a hammering. Carlaw will lead his party into the next Holyrood election.
But he faces the same electoral hurdle that would have dogged Ruth Davidson, who bailed out last year.
His party’s staunch unionism will guarantee the Scottish Tories second place in 2021, but voter hostility to conservatism means winning the election is virtually impossible.
Although he has placed great faith in a policy review - using it as an opportunity to dump unpopular measures - the exercise will likely reinforce negative perceptions.
He talks of an income tax gap between Scottish and English taxpayers, but closing it would result in a huge handout for middle Scotland.
He also has signalled a rethink of his party’s support for university tuition fees, a u-turn that would benefit kids from better off backgrounds.
As leader, Carlaw will continue the age-old Conservative tradition of ensuring policies are skewed towards the haves and have mores.
Other than support for the Union, it is hard to think of a single Scottish Tory domestic policy since 1999 that has landed positively with voters. They are more of a pressure group than a political party.
The Eastwood MSP is likely to be a solid and dependable leader. He is good at the fundamentals of politics - messaging, communication - and was effective at grilling Nicola Sturgeon about Derek Mackay.
But the contest also confirmed a flaw in his character. When Ballantyne legitimately criticised the general election campaign he led, Carlaw’s response was laughably over the top.
MSPs are aware of how badly he takes criticism. On two occasions at First Minister’s Questions, he lost his cool by making off-colour remarks about Nicola Sturgeon’s hair and past career.
“He is prickly and thin skinned,” said a Tory MSP who backed him against Ballantyne.
Party insiders see Carlaw as a “stop gap” leader. He will record a respectable result next year, but never come close to winning or becoming FM. He will then hand on the baton to a younger generation who believed this time was too soon.
David McLetchie was Scottish Tory leader for six years. So was Annabel Goldie. Davidson was in charge for nearly a decade. Carlaw will be lucky to see out eighteen months.