Is Ruth Davidson likely to ditch Holyrood for Westminster?

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If Theresa May thought that securing a Brexit deal last week would end seemingly relentless speculation about her political future, she is sorely mistaken.

An interview in the Spectator with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has again sparked the Westminster gossip machine after the Lothians MSP intimated a willingness to stand for a seat in the UK parliament in the future.

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: TSPL

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: TSPL

While Ms Davidson stressed that her ultimate aim is still to win the keys to the First Minister’s office by beating the SNP nationwide at the 2021 Holyrood election, it was the clearest sign yet that she wouldn’t be averse to using her rising UK-wide profile to facilitate a change of scene.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson hints at Westminster switch

It comes after the former journalist was a star turn at Conservative conference earlier this year, and agreed to a number of party events, including in the constituency of Tory grandee Nicholas Soames.

We look at whether a move to Westminster is viable for Scotland’s main opposition leader, and some of the potential stumbling blocks.

Plan B?

Ms Davidson was remarkably, some would argue deliberately, candid in her interview with the right-wing magazine.

She made clear, however, that her first choice remains to one day become First Minister, the first Conservative to hold that office since the onset of devolution nearly 20 years ago.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson slams Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit deal response

One of the major things that could prevent Ms Davidson moving to Westminster is the realisation of her political dream.

It might seem unlikely, but the Conservative leader has made clear that the ultimate denouement of her party’s revival is winning control of the Scottish Parliament.

Only failure to achieve that goal, Ms Davidson insists, would see her try and switch parliaments in advance of the 2022 General Election, provided there isn’t another snap poll.

Rivals

Ms Davidson might be willing to move to Westminster, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in Westminster would be willing to welcome her.

With her rising profile in the party, and her standing among the grassroots activists, some of her potential leadership rivals might try and put the kibosh on her moving to the House of Commons.

Allies of frontrunners like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg can’t stop Ms Davidson from standing in, or winning, a seat in Scotland, but the Conservative party is no stranger to briefing and backbiting, something Ms Davidson has managed to avoid being the target of, for now.

A dose of being the subject of queries about her ability in the right-wing press might persuade the Lothians MSP that the slightly more collegiate inter-party atmosphere of Holyrood is still preferable, no matter her ambitions.

Conversely, that could also inspire Ms Davidson to fulfil her ambitions, and join the more august surroundings in London.

Time

If a week is a long time in politics, then four-and-half years is virtually a lifetime.

Ruth Davidson’s plan, presuming she doesn’t become First Minister in 2021, comes to fruition in 2022, and anything could happen in the intervening period.

Standing in any by-election that arises in the intervening period would reek of opportunism, meaning the Scottish Tory leader will have to be patient.

By then, given the unpredictable nature of politics in recent times, we could have Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and a resurgent Donald Trump halfway through his second term.

Ms Davidson may yet find herself in Westminster, but a snap Holyrood election could alter her plans, as could the collapse of Theresa May’s government, currently relying on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Brexit also looms large over all political plans, and while Ms Davidson was an ardent remainer, she has spoken of the need to embrace the opportunities of leaving the EU.

Any major change in circumstances, political or economic, as a result of Brexit, could alter the landscape for any Conservative politician, and the Scottish Tory leader is no exception.

As it stands, it would be a shock not to see Ms Davidson eventually in Westminster.

In politics, however, it is often the most shocking outcome that comes to pass.