The Dying of the Light

What went wrong with the Tories? There was a time when it was respectable, normal even, to regard the Conservatives as having the answers to running the country. They represented grounded common sense, economic competence and a patrician concern for the less fortunate. They embodied the Britain my parents’ generation fought for…principled and tolerant.

It sounds naïve of course. The boss class lorded it then just as it does today. Even mighty Tory figures could be smeared with avarice. Ted Heath’s finances were handled by Slater Walker whose corporate raids were the 60’s and 70’s equivalent of sub prime mortgages, ending in a Bank of England bailout that shook the financial sector. They secured Heath spectacular 60 per cent returns on investments. Say no more.

The Tories gave us Profumo and Establishment spies and the bonds of class solidarity among themselves that still stifle social mobility and talent today.

Yet the Tories I knew, or at least many of them, were finely attuned to their role in public service. And in Scotland they had a taste for small ‘n’ nationalism if they deemed it appropriate. London may try to insist, but it was they who were entrusted to know best Scotland’s national interest. Sometimes they made that clear. Make that often, in the case of George Younger. He had successive run-ins with Margaret Thatcher and claimed that on particular Scottish issues, she would defer to him. He took her on over Ravenscraig – along with other Tories such as Michael Hirst. He made the case that after a damaging series of closures from Linwood to Corpach, putting out the furnaces at an iconic industrial site would harm both the economy and the Tories themselves. She relented, again, and there was a six-year stay imposed.

By keeping up a running commentary on his activities, Younger was playing his Scottish card to the voters, saying he was not afraid to stand up for them.

Too little, too late, you say. But he was playing the game of politics by publicly siding with the people against his government in London, something I don’t believe David Mundell has done once. I find this not only a sign of contemptible weakness in Mundell but an abrogation of responsibility to his Scottish party. It is a time-honoured aspect of Unionist politics to be seen standing up for Scotland against the powers in Westminster. Even Sturgeon does it and she has no Unionist boss to answer to. Couldn’t Mundell even fake a row with Theresa May in which he’s allowed to take Scotland’s side and pretend to win?

John Mackay, who also entered the Lords, was another who understood the hard realities of Scottish Toryism. In 1989, as we approached the tenth anniversary of Thatcher’s election win, the party was in the doldrums. John was by this time Chief Executive of the party in the north and I suggested to him the anniversary celebrations would be a boost to the Tories. He gave me a withering stare. ‘You must be joking,’ he said. ‘It’ll just remind them all of how long she’s been in charge.’

He was an intelligent and engaging character who constantly made cracks at the expense of those colleagues whose family fortunes contrasted painfully with his own modest means. ‘He doesn’t care if he loses’ he said of a well-known party aristo. ‘He doesn’t need the money.’ Everybody who knew him was fond of John and I felt for him when he was pushed aside – almost literally – to make way for Michael Forsyth who commandeered his desk from him as the Press looked on. In his obituary, the Guardian said, accurately: ‘Widely popular, he did not seem to fit wholly in with the new, increasingly right wing and Europhobic regime’.

I think too of Alick Buchanan-Smith, whose gentility was reminiscent of an 18th century gentleman MP. His home was dotted with momentos of empire acquired byancestors. His endearingly warm personality concealed a man of total conviction. He believed in Scottish self-government within the UK and took constant punishment for saying so until eventually resigning over the issue. As did Malcolm Rifkind. I think of them as significant figures with a firm grasp of Scotland’s importance.

Michael Ancram wrestled with the conundrum of fitting Scotland comfortably inside the Union. A nuclear disarmer, he argued for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He is of course, the Earl of Ancram, or is it the Marquess of Lothian? He was an open host when I followed him for a day in Belfast when he was Northern Ireland Secretary and again when I turned up at the ancestral home – one of them – Monteviot House at Jedburgh. I was to interview him but brought the kids with me. ‘Just take them into the nursery,’ he smiled. They were delighted when it turned out to be more like the Museum of Childhood, a huge space filled with rocking horses and toys of every kind.

There were others, among them Adrian Shinwell, Tory and British and yet undeniably committed to their version of Scotland. They were experienced and mature. They were people – it seemed to me – of stature in public life. And they could debate, as Hansard attests. Jousts between Rifkind and Dewar for example are comprehensive and biting examples of the art.

My personal dealings with such characters produces a jaundiced view of today’s crop. I can think of no active representative Tory who carries anything like the credibility of their predecessors. Styles change of course and the landed gentry and posh boys are out of fashion, rightly so. But class is no marker of stature. Where are the outgoing, avuncular, open-minded Tories today? What is their vision for Scotland? Is there one?

Even those who a year or so ago I genuinely regarded as being the right stuff, have descended into a small-minded antagonisms. Are we to believe that every one of those Tories at Holyrood truly supports the rape clause? Because I don’t buy that. When policy making from London gets that socially vicious, common sense tells you that sane people are inwardly rebelling. If the Scottish Tories did issue a denunciation, who would be hurt? Surely what the old Tories understood was that there was a Scottish viewpoint and, at times, it was their duty to reflect that, even if it miffs Central Office or Downing Street. I was astonished to see Jackson Carlaw chortling that it was ‘only one page’ to fill in and that the SNP should ameliorate the effects of the policy, missing entirely the inhuman element. I usually find that experienced politicians get the key point and can separate the instant reaction for the media from the considered longer view of the public. Not in this case.

Murdo Fraser always had my respect because he could communicate a sensible undogmatic message. What happened to him? Not so long ago he was championing the idea of reinventing the Tory Party and was a serious prospect for leader. Now his Twitter account is juvenile, bitter and unfunny. The stature he was building as a distinctive figure, different and to some extent at odds politically with his leader, has evaporated.

I considered Liz Smith a class act. Blunt, level-headed, no nonsense, she has simply vanished from the scene. Are the Tories only allowed one female at a time? Don’t tell me she approves of the rape clause. And yet she sits silent.

And, whatever her value in being a ‘Tory that is different’, I fear the fake bonhomie and bully boy antics of Ruth Davidson would make the heavyweights of yesteryear reach for the scotch. Where once there was a semblance of poise, there is now decay. It is a decay of quality and content, a paucity of composure. The pointy, angry tone and one-dimensional messaging buries any softer sound of compassion or even potential governmental competence. There was a moment when she took on Boris Johnson during the EU referendum, that I thought I would have to reappraise her. She was taking a Scottish pro-EU line against big hitters in the party. That was briefly worrying territory. But it wasn’t to last. As soon as the new leader took up the Brexit baton any thought of a differentiated approach was thrown overboard for die hard loyalty.

In truth it may be that Ruthie is the embodiment of modern Scottish Unionism – cold, strident, increasingly desperate as history overtakes them. Still they will be able to bask in small-scale glory in the coming elections no doubt as Labour drains away. It will sustain them a while longer but I see no policy initiative that suggests there is strategy at work or any alternative programme for government. They are a last-gasp protest group and, devoid of the kind of talent they used to produce, they cannot reach beyond the hysterical No Referendum rabble. Just as Scotland needs a genuine party of the Left, so it needs one of the Conservative Right. But it requires intellectual foundations and people to articulate it and neither is currently available.

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64 thoughts on “The Dying of the Light

  1. The Tories are currently not fit for opposition never mind government. They’re trying to drag the UK back to the dark ages of my youth. Some commentators have compared their current manifesto to that of the BNP in 2005 and found that in some areas the BNP were actually more left wing than 2017 Tories!

    Scotland needs to send a message to the Tories in the General Election that their despicable policies are not wanted.

  2. Another thoughtful piece, Derek. Thanks once again for writing so eloquently what so many of us feel.

    • I agree with Andrew. You have a talent for articulating what many, many people feel, but who don’t have the talent that you have in spades, Derek. Spot on, mate!

  3. Spot on Derek

    I may not have agreed with the Tories but I could at least respect people like the late George Younger. Tories of his kind may have spoken with a southern PR accent but I never once doubted that he saw himself as a Scotsman whose commitment to the British state was conditional upon securing what he considered to be the best deal for his country.

    The present mob (and mob is the politest collective noun I can find) give the impression that their answer to “Should Scotland be an independent country?” would be “I support Rangers”

  4. Thanks as always Derek. I used to vote Tory but it was for the compassionate caring conservatism which at least seemed to prevail at that time. Now, I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole. And you have to be right. Surely not every Tory in Scotland is comfortable with the rape clause. Surely not. You’re right too in indicating that we do need to reestablish Scottish left and right leaning parties. That will come after independence.

    One thing I have to say, with JockG in mind, is that I remain a Rangers supporter. That was my father’s team and I will always support them. But my support has absolutely NOTHING to do with that awful group of Union flag waving numpties. Please don’t tar us all with that brush!!! While I support that team, my reply to JockG’s question would be an unqualified and unequivocal YES.

    • Apologies if my post came across as a dig at Rengers supporter. if it did it was ill made. My point was that the current Tories seem to represent a ‘no surrender’ style of Unionism which treats opposition to independence on ideological grounds irrespective of how demonstrably bad the Union is.

      • Jock I’m a Rangers fan but yes through and through, we are out there trust me. The thing is I can’t deny the hardcore support will just never come round to it and will fight it with any weapon in the arsenal they can muster. I saw a poll on wos I’m not sure if they conducted it themselves or not but it was a while back but it asked both gers n tic supporters bout Indy. It turned out it was roughly 60-40 no for gers fans, 60-40 yes for tic fans. I was slightly surprised so many tic fans were no just as much as I was that amongst the gers there was for yes. I think obviously there will be lots of tic fans doing OK for themselves maybe working for government or something but I know lots of gers fans that are not blinded by the union. I’m not saying this because I’m a gers fan but pre 2014 I was a federal supporter but it was never really on the table and I like so many others are more determined to see Indy now than I ever was. I guess I’m trying to say there is still enough protesting protestants about in the spirit of old like the covenanters or the original opposer’s to union in the first place. It still saddens me though that what club you support in Glasgow should determine your thinking I just don’t know how humans can give away the real difference between us and animals, our intelligence and our ability to ask and challenge.

  5. That articluates so well what I have been saying for some time. How has it come to this that Mundell is the best that once-proud party can muster? I remember listening to him at hustings in Peebles in 2010 and he was stammering, inarticulate and unimpressive. The contrast with the Big Beasts of the past is painful. If he’s all they’ve got, God help all of us.

    • practice sometimes is a waste of time and futile for a lot of people Mundell being one of them , Christ even google spell check gets confused by his name , most of us are just confused by him , whats he for ?

  6. “They represented grounded common sense, economic competence and a patrician concern for the less fortunate”

    I am 53, and never, ever in my adult life has this been true.

    Have a look at this clip. It’s from the 1980s- a generation ago- and any of the present generation of Tories would not look out of place in it. You could argue that the present generation are even nastier:

    • I honestly think Derek was talking about an earlier time, a time I only barely remember, the 1960s and before.

      • Indeed that was my impression also. A time when the Conservatives polled very strongly in Scotland. In fact I think they were the last party in the UK to gain a genuine majority of the popular vote in Scotland – in 1955, I think?

        • I think that was the predecessor party, the Scottish Unionists (the union in question was between Britain and Ireland, rather than Scotland and England).

      • Many of the Tories in the original article were in office more recently than you might think. These ones are all from the Thatcher/Major years:

        Alick Buchanan-Smith: Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (May 1979 – June 1983);

        Michael Ancram: Minister of State for Northern Ireland (January 1994 – May 1997);

        George Younger: Secretary of State for Defence: (January 1986 – July 1989); Secretary of State for Scotland (May 1979 – January 1986);

        Michael Hirst: Member of Parliament for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (June 1983 – June 1987);

        John Mackay: Minister of State for Social Security with special responsibility for War Pensions (July 1995 – May 1997).

        I don’t look back on their time in office with any great nostalgia.

  7. “Are we to believe that every one of those Tories at Holyrood truly supports the rape clause? Because I don’t buy that.”

    They voted for it. Doesn’t matter whether they believe in it or not. At best, it makes those who may not believe in it cowards.

    As for the nature of today’s tories in Scotland? After the past five years especially, I don’t have a good word to say about any of them. When they’re not trolling the Scottish electorate on social media, they’re backing, without question, some of the most toxic legislation the general public has ever seen.

    They delight in telling you how bad things look for you. They gush over telling you how shite your country is, how deluded you are to have aspirations above your station. They are after all Conservatives.

    I neither forget, nor forgive their actions before 2014, during the indyref of 2014 and certainly not any action they’ve taken since 2014 toward us, our representation and the wider populations of the UK. Not once did they offer any olive branch in the post indy vote period. No effort at all was made, or even intended, to approach the YES voter and come to any concilliatory closure. They were too busy gloating over the pain and loss of others to give a shit about what they had done to the psyche and self esteem of near half a nation. They were too busy doling out punishment and scorn. They were too busy demanding respect from others. A respect they had yet to earn and from what we have witnessed to date, will never earn.

    They are greed and Darwinism in living colour. They are top down, dog eat dog, selfishness writ large.

    The Conservative party are state and establishment order before people. A party that believes people owe the state service, loyalty and a living.

    I happen to believe that the state and the party politician owe the people service, loyalty, a duty of care and the ability to live with dignity. The basics for all our requirements at point of need.

    Politicians, government is simple. It’s about meeting our needs. Putting food on our table. Keeping us safe and well.

    Cared for.

    In exchange we pay taxes to meet those needs and pay our public servants accordingly to administer and manage those needs.

    Right now some of our political class, as I’ve already mentioned, are taking our money to shit on our democracy from a great height. They’re taking our money and using it to publicly abuse our population. They’re taking our money and our vote and using both to underwrite abuse of our rights.

    The Conservatives want people to send a message to the SNP…

    I have a message in mind, but its not one any Tory would want to hear.

    • Thank you, Macart, I agree with every heartfelt word.

    • Well, Macart, you didn’t miss and hit the wall! I completely agree with every single word. I cannot stand the sight of them, especially those sitting in the Scottish Parliament. I cannot bear to hear them and their vile, arrogant utterances. They are poisonous.

      • Exactly what I feel. What are they doing sitting in OUR parliament that we campaigned for so long and hard, and which they despise – only to spit their bile at us? Their fat backsides paid for by our taxes? I didn’t mind Annabel Goldie or David McLetchie but this lot of cynics….

    • Another belter, Macart.
      I have a sense that Derek has had an attack of the Prousts, hence this ‘A la recherché du temps perdu’ piece.
      His warm fuzzy recollections of benign Tory Grandees is anathema to me.
      I was a young man in 1973 when the ‘confirmed bachelor’, organ playing, yachtsman Edward Heath was Premier.
      There was an oil crisis, inflation was rampant, wages were falling way behind, and if I recall rightly, Mick McGachey spearheaded the workers’ revolt against the Ruling Classes. The NUM voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, demanding a, wait for it, 35% increase in wages.
      So began the Three Day Week. It did what it said on the tin.
      Businesses could only operate 3 days a week. The Telly shut down at 10.30. I was the first member of our tribe to become an owner occupier; a wee flat in Old Kilpatrick, all electric. The heating was by way of a three bar ‘coal effect’ electric fire.
      ’73-’74, the Winter Of Discontent. We had to get by on 3/5ths of our normal take home.
      We sat and shivered by candle light. We were young; it was a bit of a laugh. I am 69 now, crippled with OA. Nowadays I would probably have died of Hypothermia. I’m sure many of the elderly succumbed, but it was not reported anywhere.
      Cue today’s pensioners sucked into the Bedroom Tax. The choice in the 21st century for thousands is between heat and eat, or pay the rent to avoid eviction because the New Shiny Ruth Davidson Tories have cut Pension Credits Housing Benefit by 27% to award JK Rowling another 5% tax break.
      I digress.
      Heath eventually went to the country on a ‘Who Governs Britain?’ slogan and lost.
      Wilson limped along with a minority Government, called another election in the autumn, was returned with a workable majority, awarded the miners impossible wage increases of 35%, then another 35%, and as the storm clouds gathered, in 1979, Thatcher emerged from the pack, and the rest as they say, is ‘Orrible History.
      I share none of Derek’s fondness for the Old Tories.
      In 1988, Glasgow held the Garden Festival, on the old site of Princes Dock, which had lain derelict, an embarrassing testament to the Tory deindustrialisation of the Clyde. Thatcher was in full swing by then, and we were exhorted to ‘tell Syd’ that the Tories were selling off the ‘Crown Jewels’, as the Grand Old Tory Harold Supermac MacMillan ruefully dubbed the sell- off of Britain.
      That darling young Royals couple, the Will and Kate of their day, Charles and Di, opened the event, and Malcolm Rifkind, as SoS attempted a rousing speech from the Grandstand, and was roundly booed.
      If I recall, the Bootleg Beatles followed. They were brill. ‘Can’t buy me lu-uve, no,no, no, no!’
      It was promised that when the Festival closed in September 1988, the land would be used to build housing,. Aye, right. It didn’t happen of course. It took nearly 20 years for the pile of rubble to be used, oh irony of ironies , as the new homes of BBC Scotland and STV.
      You may recall the elder statesman Rifkind getting caught in a newspaper sting, along with Jack Straw, peddling his name to a bogus Chinese Company for ten grand a day, and idly boasting that as a politician he only worked Tuesday to Thursday, and the long week-ends were spent walking and reading, freeing up plenty of time to lobby for a Chines Communist Regime company for cash.
      I have no fond memories of Rifkind.
      I doubt that Michael Ancram will ever invite me to tea on his country pile.
      Our paths would never cross; not if he could help it.

      My humble background and deep seated political, moral, and social principles, rightly or wrongly, call it social conditioning, or left wing brainwashing if it gets you through the night, leads me to conclude that a top tier of land owning belted earls, the ‘filthy rich’ as Lord Mandelson called them, a media entirely owned by an Iron Heeled Oligarchy, and a political class, the Blue, Red, and Yellow Tories, who will do anything, say anything, threaten anything, to perpetuate the status quo, and destroy Scotland’s civic society to ensure that the wealth of those who already have will increase, are the enemy of the people.
      Meanwhile the Hoi Polloi scratch about trying to put food on the table.
      Ruth Davidson and Murdo Fraser (Really, Derek!) are no different from the Old Brigade.
      Unflinchingly they defend the Rape Clause, robbing the poor to pay the rich, and even usurp democracy Up Here via a compliant BBC/ ITV/ Dead Tree Scrolls Unionist Propaganda Machine, arguing that if the SNP only return 40 plus MPs out of 59, they will not have a mandate to call for another Referendum on Self Determination.
      Every year, my sainted mother used to sit by the telly, her hands clasped reverentially as though in prayer, watching the Queen trooping the colours, in black and white.
      My parents ‘knew their place.’
      When one of her sons pointed out that Lizzie was a woman like every other woman and put her knickers on one leg at a time, and that Royalty was just a big Establishment con, she was, as she would have said, ‘vexed’ that her sons could be so disrespectful.
      My father passed away at the age of 66, kicked out of shipbuilding during the UCS crisis; he had ‘blanket cancer’. Decades of working with asbestos, arsenic used to harden metals, and a diet of sowbelly, had taken their toll.
      No tea with Ancram for him, then.
      We are in the 21st Century, Sam. There is no place for the privileged few in modern Scotland.
      Sorry, Derek, where you view a benign Tory past through rose coloured glasses, I perceive it through a glass, darkly.
      Sorry for going on a bit.

  8. Gavin C Barrie

    “What went wrong with the Tories?”. I propose a rephrase, “What has gone wrong with Unionist politics?”.

    And my view is the internet. Way back then,sitting in isolation at home reading the Herald, and fuming over a biased pro-Union article, and knowing it would be pointless to write a letter of complaint to the newspaper. Same too with BBC. We we’re fed Unionist bias by the media. Nowadays lots of alert people can post opinions, information,critique of politicians directly and publicly. And credit to you Derek,and others, you provide us with invaluable thought provoking articles. Topical articles the media are unable and/or unwilling to provide, and so consequently the media’s determined control of content and comment, is causing their demise.

    Regards benign Tory politicians – how about Ian Lang who,sneaky boy, proposed the fictitious GERS publication to Thatcher,as a means to wrongfoot any credible case of Scotland’s revenues?

    But it’s not only Tories. Donald Dewar re-aligned the Scottish/English sea border with his boss Blair, to England’s advantage.

    Following the debate over the Rape Clause at Holyrood, is the spouted 33% support for Tories in Scotland credible? The Tories discomfort in the debate was much more than “awkward” as Jackson Carlaw termed on TV, it was an awful spectacle, a Cringefest.

  9. I fin myself in total agreement with you Derek, and it is a point I have made to friends and family many times. Often this has been when I’ve been defending my decision to vote for Thatcher in 1979, the one and only time I’ve voted Tory. Like many of my contemporaries, the decision was made much easier due to the qualities which you have so eloquently described.

    You haven’t mentioned Teddy Taylor in your list, but he was a very much respected MP her in Cathcart before having to seek pastures new.

  10. I wonder what Harold Macmillan, Rab Butler and Ian McLeod would think of today’s bunch of scoundrels.

    • Yes, indeed. As I get older certain figures from my early years seem more and more benign – especially compared to Thatcher and her cronies and the current crop, all of whom had their social consciences removed at birth.

      The Atlee Labour government was surely the most revolutionary, in social terms, we’ve ever had, and until Thatcher it was accepted on both sides that the post-war settlement would be honoured as it was undoubtedly for the benefit of the greatest number. Thatcher and her successors, including Blair and Brown, knew differently. They knew that greed could triumph over altruism for the benefit of the fewest, and would stoke the aspirations of the would-be greedy and in so doing buy votes to keep them in power so long as they pandered to the greedy the aspirational greedy and all their small (and great) prejudices.

      I’m afraid we’re stuck with this kind of politics until the people rise up and institute a people’s democracy and, like the moneychangers, throw out the politicians.

      • This is very true. A sentiment once written by John S Warren during the 2014 campaign has stayed with me. He was pointing out that the unwritten British constitution served the country well enough, got her through an Empire, two World Wars, its dismemberment, a Cold War.. basically because the ruling Oxbridge class, while woefully blinkered, a vision-free zone in many ways, at least had a strong sense of what is done and what is not done. That is what held this bizarre polity together, since people have no rights on paper and are not even sovereign.. Until Thatcher arrived and made clear that the Constitution is exactly what the Prime Minister says it is, so long as he/she has a working majority in Parliament. And dogmatism and greed took over. She killed this country as a functioning union.

  11. A very enjoyable read and a reminder of how the Tories used to be regarded , the part about John Mackay was priceless ,
    The people you mention some long gone brings to mind Allan Stewart in my opinion a real gentleman who sadly i believe was the victim of circumstances before his death .

    Which brings us to the current sorry crop , Mundell how would you describe this article ? i think you have covered him and described his whole use and benefit to most Scots quite well
    ,
    Ruth with the sharp elbows who more or less gave us an incite into her character or lack off , With her comments to a Tory gathering down south , regarding the way Scots were normally viewed by the English , uncouth, thieving ,vandles more or less covered it . she took on the guise of the village idiot and succeeded wonderfully .

    My impression of Ruth is , she is the rabid out of control guard dog ,who is only tolerated and in place for the time being until they find a more palatable successor , i cant imagine the good ladies of morning-side find her anymore appealing than we do , you know the quiet majority . Who Annabel Goldie represented

    • I think the ladies of Morningside like her very well. I live there and I’m not picking up disapproval. There are also a new crop of young fogeys (all from George Watson’s) for whom she is an idol.

  12. Bill McDermott

    I received my missive from Ruthie this morning intoning me to vote for her to stop a vote for a referendum. Everything but everything that the Scottish Tories are campaigning on is down to one single strategy. As you say they are the ‘No Surrender’ brigade.

    My sense is that Ruth has overreached herself this time and she has luxuriated in her friendly relations with the Unionist MSM. If the 45% or so of us who are solid in our desire for independence go to the Local Election ballot box determined to place the Tories last in the STV list then it is game over for the kick boxer.

  13. I agree with you to a point. The Old Tories were certainly in another class. I also agree that there is a level of desperation in the current crop both north and south of the Border, in terms of their rhetoric and appeal to what remains of British imperialism (‘this precious union’).

    But I don’t agree with your conclusion that the New Tories, being of an inferior mould, will wither naturally on the vine. My fear is that they will be promoted and do much damage.

    Neither do I believe that British imperialism is fated to die a natural death. My fear is that it will be fanned back into life and be succoured by international crony capitalism and allowed another crack of the whip, and will remain firmly in the saddle, crushing all democratic dissent before them.

    I also fear that the people, well controlled by the media and terrorised like a heard of sheep back into their bleating corrals, will buy it.

    No, I can’t take anything positive from this. We are fooling ourselves if we don’t see that we have the fight of our lives to oust them from power. They are becoming more powerful, twisted and monstrous by the day.

    An old pal of mine (died 1999) commented ruefully that ‘the working man in Scotland, can be bought with a pie’ recollecting a time when a strike was called off when management agreed to fund the men with pies during their break.

    • Sadly I agree with a lot of what you say and hope that we’re both wrong, that there might be in the ocean of public opinion, a turning of the tide not yet detectable – but I fear that it might be wishful thinking. Might have something to do with where we are both located. I am in the SW of Scotland while you are in Edinburgh.

      Your friend’s observation could be amended to, the working man could be bought off with buying his council house. Thatcher, who understood these insticts too well, set all that in motion and unfortunately, she was vindicated in her belief that that was all it took to turn the tide in her favour. She successfully turned Labour voters into right wing mortgage owners and created a division in the working class between house-owners and house-renters. As someone close to me said at the time, it was the Mary Baker cake mix for making Tories. It has had a generational effect, helping to push the electorate ever rightwards, with opportunistic and unscrupulous Tory politicians as cheerleaders eager, like proverbial school bullies, to exploit any division.

      Later, again with the help of a co-opted media, Labour carried on dividing their own voters into ‘ hard-working families’ and – sinisterly – the ‘underclass’. So we have Labour voters now apparently able to consider voting for Tories – and very right-wing Tories at that. We seem to have a generational divide between the disadvantaged young and the entrenched older generation – and so it all begins again.

      • The Tory revival is real – I’ve seen it, here, on my doorstep. They aim to crush us. Miles Briggs MSP (now prospective Westminster candidate) held a packed meeting the other week in a local church on a Friday night (when the rugby was on too), about what could be done to stop a second indyref. And they weren’t all white heads either but there was a fair quotient of young fogeys, products of local George Watsons College.

    • Sadly, I agree with this. The Tories are again employing Lynton Crosbie who focuses on a two slogan blanket strategy to win campaigns. It has been proved effective and you have only to listen to voters when asked a question parrot their reply without realising they have been brainwashed.

      The Tories are also using Big Data to target voters on social media and feed them messages, making them receptive to whatever Ruth and Theresa want to push.

      It’s not just politicians, whether Tory, Labour or whatever, who have changed, it’s also the way elections are fought and won.

  14. The first General Election I recall was that of 1959 when Harold Macmillan was re-elected. The Tory agent in our constituency of Edinburgh South paid a bunch of us kids to march round out corporation scheme carrying placards in support of Michael Clarke Hutchison, the local MP. Impossible to imagine that happening nowadays. I first voted in 1970 and, inspired by Winnie Ewing’s win in Hamilton, I would have liked to have voted SNP but reckoned they had no chance so I voted Tory. That said, Clarke Hutchison would have been viewed as too left wing for the Blairites in today’s Labour party. In those days the Tories’ main plank was building more council houses than Labour.

    Nowadays I view a vote for the Tories as akin to a vote for the BNP and I cannot imagine voting for them in any circumstances this side of independence. They are a party of vicious pigmies, particularly the current Scottish crop. From Ruth Davidson downwards I can’t see anyone with a single redeeming feature. I find it incredible that anyone who isn’t a rabid, die hard Unionist would be prepared to vote for them.

  15. It is a lack of ability or talent, which leads to political parties behaving as the Tories do. When Ruth tries to defend the shameful rape clause, I see ‘inexperienced careerist clown promoted above ability’ writ large. All mouth, nae thought. She has a vaulting ambition, as William Shakespeare would have it, which overleaps itself. And it shows.

    As for their unionism, i do wonder just how strongly some of their predecessors would have stood up for this tawdry union. It makes no sense, and is NOT in Scotland’s interests. Perhaps in the past by now Scotland would have been offered a REAL third way, devo max/lite, whatever you choose to call it. Their predecessors would have realised that the status quo just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sadly, such cognisance is not to be found within the current Tory crop.

    The world has moved on, Scotland has progressed by leaps and bounds, and their ‘no surrender’ style of unionism is for the neanderthals and knuckle draggers. Barely evolved beyond pond scum, their defence of the abhorrent rape clause is not something borne of intellectual rigor.

    That aside, many of those same flaws exist within Labour. Sadly, it really has no intellectual heavyweights – if it ever truthfully did.

    Both Labour and Tory locked solidly to a past Scotland that no longer exists.

  16. I am hearing more and.more Scots saying: “See that Ruth Davidson, she’s getting too big for her boots” – and they don’t like that one wee bit.

  17. Sheryl Hepworth

    What the tories seem to have forgotten, IF they ever thought, it is that THEY are supposed to work FOR US!!! Politicians of all hues are public servants!! How did we allow them to make it the other way round???

  18. I don’t remember the rose-tinted Tories of yesteryear and I’m in my early 60s. I remember them as over-entitled snobs looking down their noses at those of us who lived in council houses. I don’t remember John MacKay of Argyll as an engaging character but as a malicious small-minded nasty little man who personified Toryism for me in the 1980s. His views on Gaelic-speaking people reminded me of how the District Commissioners viewed the blacks in the colonies. He wasn’t that different from the vacuous Rape Clause fans of today.

  19. You are far to kind Derek to the patrician Tories of yesteryear. Tories are vile now and they were vile then. Arguably they had better manners then so were able to hide their vileness but vile they were, irredeemably vile. Deluded Unionists and Brexiteers may very well give the Tories an electoral dead cat bounce in the forthcoming local and national elections but the tide of history and remorseless demographics are against them. The Tories will deliver the hardest of hard Brexits and this will cleanse the ground nicely in advance of Indyref2. In the interim we must endure the Britnat flag fest when the ludicrous carriers sail away from Rosyth and Mrs May might even throw in a hot war as a last throw of the dice, but independence is coming.

  20. You are right about George Younger. When I was creating mayhem in the Tories over the closure of Gartcosh George Younger spoke to me several times making clear he supported my view and urged me to keep going. The lesson I learned during that time was that the whips were more powerful and they peeled a number of Scottish Tory MP’s away from supporting Gartcosh and Ravenscraig. The honourable exception was Anna McCurley MP who refused to buckle and even met the Gartcosh Marchers outside the Commons to show her support.

  21. Great post, Derek. Much enjoyed.

  22. You make a good point there. I was discussing this the other day with a friend – we were recalling that once there were Tories who were honourable and you could trust even if you disagreed with their policy.

    Now it’s just lies and spin, and grind the peasants down.

    The old Tories understood that if you want a horse to run, you had to feed it.

  23. You are wrong – it is the dying of Labour – Corbyn should have stood up after May had made her announcement and said – quite simply, without fuss ” There is no way I will ever go into a lobby and support a Tory motion or a Tory government ” End of story . Had Corbyn had the gumption to say those few words, May would have had no where to go – game over !

    • Agree entirely. I’ve read very little criticism of Corbyn’s craven capitulation. He could have made it a point of principle, that the fixed term parliament legislation would be emasculated by voting with the Tories – (though that’s a habit Labour have got into in recent decades). It might as well be torn from the statute book now, as it is useless. And as their reward for feeding May’s disgraceful egomania they will be consigned to an electoral bottomless pit.

  24. Kind of getting the impression Ruth Davidsons only task at the moment is to get Londons strategy message across of no second referendum .

    No policy suggestions, no emphasis of a team, no stand out spokes people- just pictures of Ruth Davidson.

    Pictures of Ruth Davidson thinking it’s funny driving a mobility scooter down a set of stairs.
    Just pictures of Ruth Davidson defending the rape clause ( a consensual start to quote BBC Scotland)
    Just pictures of Ruth Davidson on your local election flyers saying vote no to a second ref , despite local councillors having no influence on any Indy referendum, no mention of local councillors or what they would try to do for your community, nothing.

    So its not even ‘ modern Scottish unionism’ it’s the Ruth Davidson Party.

    • yes and a living nightmare ( her words ) quoting Joan Mc Alpines view of what the whole country will experience if the Tories are again elected as is forecast . happy days are on their way yippee .

  25. I remember a TV documentary from years ago which in part examined the ‘communitarian’ aspects of Scottish society. Malcolm Rifkind told an anecdote against himself illustrating it. He had an elderly woman constituent who wanted something done about the sky high rates on her pile. After the ‘community charge’ has he still insisted on calling the Poll Tax was brought in he rang her to ask if she was happy. ‘No’ quoth she, ‘why did you have to do it so it hurt the poor people?’

    She wanted something done but not at the expense of folk who had less than her, less ability to pay. Naive perhaps, tax has to be paid by someone, but it is illustrative and that Malcolm Rifkind would tell that anecdote on camera did him great credit.

    I’m no sort of Tory voter and shall never be, but it is yet another example of the vanished type you describe Derek.

    That up to 30% of people in Scotland will vote for the modern Tory party is nothing short of a disgrace.

  26. Great piece of writing Derek , I thought it was just me that had these thoughts , being of an older generation . I do remember the men from years gone by that were Tory in Scotland , and I always regarded them as honourable men , protesting when they thought Scotland was getting a bad deal and being listened to . No such honour now , this right wing Tory government has no place for anything other than total radicals ,scorching everything in their path that they think is not in keeping with their ideals . Such governments are dangerous and that is where we are falling down . With no English opposition to them (forget Lab. etc..) I can’t see us get out of this for years to come . As for your remarks on the current band of Tory MSP’s , they are Tory first and last , they will always tow the party line regardless of what they might think privately , in other words , cowards .

    • agreed and the thought of paying for the privilege of seeing them thumping the desk tops and nodding in agreement every word from the current mouthpiece is really bloody annoying , the majority of tory msps were rejected by the electorate (ie) list msps and we cant remove them if one falls by the wayside , instant replacement is assured it’s like those pop up dolls hit one and another one pops up .
      From a party who never wanted the reinstatement of the scottish parliament to being the ones who think it’s theirs to keep and abuse at their leisure ,breathtaking hypocrisy dosnt come close .

  27. The (relative) rise of the Conservatives in Scotland is probably a natural phenomenon, no government stays popular for ever and people seek change. It is interesting what an impact the loss of MPs has on a party – had there been no Holyrood and list MSPs, the Scottish Tories would probably have gone into the darkness, as the London party would have forgotten about them completely, rather than just mostly. Labour in Scotland will probably go the same route, a kind of flickering half life.

    Effective opposition for either will need a Scottish party – like the old time Scottish Unionists. Who were in fact so independent minded that elements of it ended up helping set up the Scottish National Party…

    As for the public figures of yore, they do seem to have been better public speakers and debaters. Westminster still seems to be better than Holyrood in that regard – less reading of scripts – but the media seeking and being satisfied by soundbites alone has reduced the level all round.

    • Use your eyes more. The reading of scripts is widespread in Westminster, more so than by MayBot.
      The lady who cannot think out of the script, so to speak!
      Do not let the faux rhetoric and faux debating declamations of meaningless hear hear fool you.
      It is all show to deceive, to create the illusion of timeless pomp and antiquity. It is to impress oiks.
      Like the monarchy, now your place and see, we are still in charge in the HoC a d the House of Relics

  28. Johnny come lately

    Don’t see why so many are becoming despondent over this so called Tory resurgence. All that is happening is the unionist vote has gathered under the one banner – The Tories.
    This is the 30 % who will never vote for the SNP or independence, deadwood so to say. The tactic of the unionist parties when the SNP first won power was to polarize the electorate in order to isolate and attack the SNP and its support, which has paid limited dividends.
    Problem is that the unionists have now isolated themselves under the banner of the no surrender Tories. Worse case scenario will be 30 % against the majority 70 % who don’t vote Tory. Give it a short period and the largest chunk of that 70 % will view the Tories as extremists, nutters and bigots.

    • the STV debate highlights the total farce of politics in scotland these Unionist parties in their defence of their union they are one party acting in Unison .The SNP should be given double the time to present their arguments , but then again the Union comes first and always will .

  29. I’m a relative social conservative who also believes in redistribution and a sensible level of public/collective involvement in the economy and society. I’m an SNP supporter in Scotland but could have been, in the past, a leftish Tory of the old ‘One Nation’ type. That party no longer exists however and I get the feeling that many people on that older centre right no longer have any kind of political home to go to.

    This article is so good on the death of a certain kind of ‘honourable’ Consevatism that it should be taken up by a Tory publication such as ‘The Spectator’ and reprinted there.

  30. Apparently our much loved PM the one who has just surpassed all records and has been given an approval rating of 60% the highest ever , well done her eh .
    According to the bbc website she has made a visit to Rural scotland ! exactly where who knows .
    Well arent we privileged no doubt with that sort of support we can expect crowds ten deep to welcome her .
    No doubt tomorrow’s papers will show proud scots , Hundreds of them giving her a wellcome ,
    What we will actually see is a concocted piece of theatre , a total contrived deception meant to fool the public , propaganda at its best , this of course is the defence of the union in action , a threat is perceived so drastic action is called for, lying is just part of the show , no harm is intended and its for your own good .
    We are trapped in some kind of weird parallel universe , where things just dont add up , like this tory revival , now that really is taking the Piss a step too far , the only way for them to win is by lying and cheating they wouldn’t do that now would they ? .

  31. anyone who has access to u/tube or the BBC I-player should look at Teresa Mayhems attempted defence of nurses having to use food banks she was nailed to the wall by Andrew Marr on his program , this robot was totally rattled , if she had access to a gun i believe she would have used it , well done Andrew Marr .

  32. Good points. However, was Rifkind not caught in a sting where he was going to get “paid” for being useful when he was in the HoL?
    He certainly showed his true honesty
    I think Straw was caught at same time!!
    The Tories are on a life support scheme through injections from yoons, ageing ones,(present blogger excepted) from other upon groups.
    With May, subterranian, what next?

  33. philip maughan

    I think the major difference between the period when Derek’s Tory ‘big beasts’ roamed Scotland and today is that in the past, Independence was a fringe issue with very little traction. So they could stand up for Scotland, indeed needed to as there was no other voice. Today, with the rise of the SNP and of course the Scottish Parliament, all has changed. To ‘stand up for Scotland’ by criticising UK Government policy as a Unionist could be construed as supporting Independence, while the role of Scottish Secretary is much diminished due to the Scottish Parliament.

  34. Robert Graham

    OK , last comment on this post , honest .
    The light finally came on , it came on while watching Ming the Merciless on TV , then it dawned on me , they are out of Ammo , out of Ideas , out of time , in 2014 the Union side expended all its Ammunition they predicted armageddon, pestilence ,Plague of Locusts etc , if we voted YES , and surprise surprise we are well on their predicted route to hell , But it was because people here voted NO who encouraged these events to take place , people who voted YES tried to warn them what would happen .
    OK better together still want to present that view ? ha ha this will be interesting .
    Come on give it your best Shot , oops oh you have , oh dear never mind , how sad .

    • Yes, they are out of ammo, but there are still those who think, or say they think, we’ve got the most devolveveved whatsit in the whole galaxy, perhaps even the universe. Some of them were on the comment pages of the National yesterday. It’s profoundly depressing that there are Scots who’d rather have the truly vile Tories ripping everything apart for the benefit of their rich chums than have a Scotland in charge of its own affairs. And some of those are former Labour voters, possibly even Socialists.

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