MICHAEL Gove has declared that the “Scottish Conservatives are back with a bang” and will win three seats north of the Border on 7 May with the help of tactical votes from Labour and Lib Dem supporters.
Mr Gove, the Tory chief whip, spoke to The Scotsman while campaigning back in his old patch of Aberdeenshire, where he grew up and began his career as a journalist.
The undoubted star of the referendum campaign north of the Border has been Ruth Davidson. She has given two stellar performances in the leaders’ debates and people across Scotland and beyond have recognised she’s a political starMichael Gove
He claimed that the party was now “closing the gap” on Labour in the polls in Scotland and was poised to win West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine off the Lib Dems, as well as Lib Dem former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore’s Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat while holding on to David Mundell’s constituency in the Borders.
He told The Scotsman: “I think the Scottish Conservatives are back with a bang.
“The Scottish Conservatives are back and winning and I am looking forward to congratulating [West Aberdeenshire candidate] Alexander [Burnett] on his victory and giving him his first three line whip.”
He insisted that the reason for his confidence was the leadership of Ruth Davidson and noted that in the latter weeks of the referendum she was chosen ahead of Labour and Lib Dem politicians to front the Better Together campaign most notably in the BBC’s televised debate for 16- and 17-year-olds.
He also dismissed criticism by former Tory Scottish Secretary Lord Michael Forsyth that the focus by the Conservatives on an SNP-Labour alliance in the campaign could undermine the UK.
He said: “Michael Forsyth couldn’t be more wrong. The people who are undermining the UK are the SNP and the Liberal Democrats and Labour who have failed to rally their supporters and aren’t capable of fighting effectively against the separatist argument.”
He described Labour and the Lib Dems as “sinking ships” in Scotland and said “the momentum is now with the Scottish Conservatives.”
He said: “I am very confident. I think there are a number of factors. The undoubted star of the referendum campaign north of the Border has been Ruth Davidson. She has given two stellar performances in the leaders’ debates and it has been striking the way in which people across Scotland and beyond Scotland have recognised that she’s a political star.”
He pointed out that a recent YouGov poll showed the almost 50 per cent of Labour and Lib Dem supporters in 2010 had switched to the SNP, while six in seven Lib Dem voters now back other parties.
He claimed that Labour’s policy during the 1980s and 1990s of claiming that a Conservative vote was “anti-Scottish” had now been turned back on them.
He said: “The Scottish Labour Party in the 1980s and 1990s used to attack the Conservatives for having what they called English origin policies. The truth is that instead of fighting a left/right battle they fought an English/Scottish battle and now they are reaping the consequences of doing that.”
He added: “I think one of the problems the Labour Party has is that it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between Scottish Labour and the SNP. They are preparing to support each other in the event of a hung parliament.”
On potential gains, he said: “We are in poll position in Mike Moore’s seat and we are also in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine in a two horse race and the Liberal Democrats aren’t at the races.”
Discussing the issue of tactical voting he argued that the SNP threat was boosting Conservative support.
He said: “It’s Alexander versus the SNP and I’m convinced that not just natural Tories but a number of other people who don’t want the SNP will vote for Alexander. Certainly that has been what I have found today. I was talking to one guy who has been a Labour supporter in the past who is voting for Alexander. I was talking to a lovely lady in Banchory who was a Labour supporter but behind us. Also a woman in Westhill who voted Liberal Democrat in the past but was backing us.
“They will have been won over by Alexander showing that he will be a highly effective local MP. But of course at the back of everyone’s mind will be that if you have got a choice between the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP the Scottish Conservatives are a safer bet.”