The Scottish Conservatives won 31 seats—seven more than Labour—in Thursday's Scottish Parliament electionsby Sophie Brodie / May 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
“She’s the brightest and best thing to hit the party in years,” said one leading Scottish Conservative to me in 2011. Ruth Davidson had just announced she was standing for leader of the party. I was a foot soldier in what seemed an ageing, dwindling band of Scottish Conservatives fighting against an overwhelming Labour force. But I saw exactly what he meant. Ruth had something that no other candidate had: courage.
Other factors have helped, but she has been the key to achieving last week’s stunning Scottish election result. The Conservatives won 31 seats—seven more than Labour, and 16 more than in 2011.
Before Ruth appeared, Scottish Tories were mostly middle-class pensioners and landed gentry in rural parts of the country. Their common characteristic was extreme loyalty to the party in the face of successive defeats. Even when, in 1997, the Conservatives failed to win a single Westminster seat in Scotland, these small pockets of dogged resistance vowed to fight on. In the wilderness years that followed, they never gave up hope. They were, however, dying off.
I first had a stab at local elections in 2003, when I was a 25-year-old journalist. I felt my community in Ayrshire faced many problems that no one seemed to be doing anything about. So I joined the cheerful Conservatives running a highly efficient campaign HQ in my town of Ayr—the same team who backed Ruth for the leadership eight years later.
They were driven and committed, operating from a basement akin to a Mittelstand factory. Machines whirred, phones rang and volunteers bustled in to pick up stacks of leaflets for delivery. They took my photograph, put my election literature together and pointed me in the right direction to deliver it. Back then, I took all this for granted. Only later, when I stood in a general election in England, did I realise how rare and precious it was. Our supporters were generous donors but they were few in number and…