Jackson Carlaw has failed his first test as Scottish Tory leader
Our Political Editor Paul Hutcheon says the MSP tried to dodge the Dominic Cummings scandal but got forced into a humiliating u-turn.by Paul Hutcheon, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/paul-hutcheon/
Perception is crucial in politics and Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw is giving the strong impression of being weak.
Ruth Davidson’s successor was at the front of the barricades in April demanding the resignation of Catherine Calderwood as Scotland’s chief medical officer.
The medic had breached Government lockdown rules by going on a family trip to a second home in Fife.
“There cannot be one rule for the bosses and another one for everyone else,” Carlaw pronounced.
He was right.
Calderwood had been lecturing the public about their behaviour while at the same time doing as she pleased. Her resignation was justified.
However, by being so vocal about Calderwood’s transgressions, Carlaw set a precedent that would inevitably test him at some point.
That moment arrived on Friday when it emerged Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s top aide, had also broken lockdown rules by travelling 250 miles from London to Durham.
As the clock approached midnight, Carlaw was curiously reticent. His shyness continued into Saturday and he seemed to have a digital detox well into Sunday.
It was at this point he released one of the most weaselly statements of the year.
Instead of calling for the swift exit of ‘Classic Dom’, he dodged offering a view on whether the controversial adviser should go:“I’ve heard what the Prime Minister has said and it is a situation for him to judge.”
He sounded like a politician who believed there was one rule for Tories and another for everyone else.
Carlaw, it should be recalled, had already promised to be constructive with the Scottish Government in the early days of the pandemic.
“It is not the time for opposition parties to exploit our situation or to use partisan and pejorative rhetoric against the efforts that are being made.
"As both the Prime Minister and the First Minister have said, we are all in this together. This Conservative party, in this Parliament, will stand together with the Scottish Government," he claimed.
His initial stance on Cummings exposed these noble words as being empty and showed he could not stop playing politics.
Carlaw’s colleagues then showed him what a backbone looked like. Shadow cabinet members like Murdo Fraser, Adam Tomkins, Graham Simpson and Donald Cameron all urged Cummings to go.
Douglas Ross also quit his UK Government Ministerial post in protest at Cummings’ actions. It was only after these interventions that Carlaw u-turned and called for the aide to walk.
Brave of him.
Carlaw has had it easy so far as leader. He appointed a shadow cabinet and has performed fairly well at First Minister’s Questions. He excels at comfort zone politics.
But real leadership is about making tough decisions and standing up to people, not hiding behind colleagues. This was his first big test in the job - and he fluffed it.