DCSIMG

Tories have their 'coronation' as Goldie becomes leader unopposed

Key points

• Murdo Fraser steps aside to allow Annable Goldie to take over Scots Tories

• Fraser gets deputy leadership with speculation he might take over in 2007

• 'Coronation' causes discontent as party members not given a vote

Key quote

"There was a sense that the party felt it was a time to come together, to unify quickly and clearly behind a new leader and also not to distract attention from the UK leadership contest at the same time." - Source 'close to Mr Fraser'

Story in full ANNABEL Goldie emerged unopposed as the new leader of the Scottish Conservative Party yesterday, giving Tory managers the "coronation" they wanted.

Miss Goldie, 55, became David McLetchie's successor when her main rival, Murdo Fraser, withdrew from the contest, leaving her as the only contender.

She was given the full backing of the Conservative group at Holyrood and is now assured of the leadership when nominations close officially next Tuesday.

Mr Fraser, 40, was given his reward for bowing out of the race: he will become the deputy leader of the party - a perfect position to go for the leadership himself at some time in the future.

There have been some suggestions that Miss Goldie might stand down a year or so after the 2007 elections, allowing Mr Fraser the chance to assume the leadership in the next few years, but she gave no hint yesterday that she was considering limiting her ambitions.

Asked whether she represented the "older generation" and was standing in the way of the younger generation, she replied: "I am a 55-year-old matron, or at least that is how I have been described in some sections of the media. That is how I am. I am not going to have an image makeover or pretend to be anyone else."

Miss Goldie also hinted that she might be prepared to adopt some of Mr Fraser's radical policies, such as big tax cuts and even fiscal autonomy for Scotland.

"I think you might be surprised just how our thinking is viewing the future, but it's not for us to disclose details of that at this time," Miss Goldie said.

Her accession to the Tory leadership came after a private meeting with Mr Fraser yesterday morning. She insisted afterwards there had not been a "stitch up" between the two.

However, some in the party wanted a leadership contest so party members could have the chance to decide the political direction of the party through debates and a final ballot.

After yesterday's meeting, Mr Fraser stood aside, but it is understood that he received an assurance that he will able to pursue the sort of radical, right-wing policies he has championed for some time.

The rivals had taken soundings from colleagues and activists and came to the conclusion that the party at large did not want a full leadership campaign.

A source close to Mr Fraser said last night: "There was a sense that the party felt it was a time to come together, to unify quickly and clearly behind a new leader and also not to distract attention from the UK leadership contest at the same time."

The source stressed that there had been no pressure from London on the Scottish party to avoid a leadership contest.

It is understood that Mr Fraser would have contested the leadership had Mr McLetchie continued on to the 2007 elections before stepping down, as had been planned, but that his resignation this week had come too early.

Mr Fraser said: "I took the view that this party would be better served without a contest now. It was better that we united around a joint leadership platform."

 
 
 

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