Scottish Tories should split from party of Rees-Mogg and Boris – Kenny MacAskill

The Scottish Conservatives should be inspired by examples of “nationalist unionism” around the world and split from the UK party, given the divide between them and right-wingers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Every political party’s going to pay a heavy price for the Brexit debacle. The electorate’s contempt will be taken out on all come the next election. For some, that’ll be unfair as they’ve been marginal figures but for many it will be justified, as the leadership has been deplorable.

A recent poll carried out by Lord Ashcroft confirmed why, as it’s clear that old political loyalties are breaking down and not just on the centre ground. On left and right, patience is wearing thin and new allegiances are being considered.

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Labour have already seen some fracturing and it’ll get worse, but it’s the Tories who have the furthest to fall and from a position where they’ve exercised an ascendancy over British politics for so long.

Scottish Conservatives like Ruth Davidson have little in common with Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. (Picture: John Devlin)
Scottish Conservatives like Ruth Davidson have little in common with Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. (Picture: John Devlin)

Nick Boles’ resignation statement was scathing of Brexiteer lunatics who have taken over the asylum that is now the Cabinet but also Remainers who have been cowardly and vacillating in watching it happen.

May’s call for national unity rings hollow when she can’t even maintain it in her own party. If she presides over the debacle of a no-deal Brexit, the disaster that’ll unfold will see the Tories rightly held to account for years to come. But, as she delays further, the chasm in her party simply widens.

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It’s hard to see how the Tories can stand together even though they’ll hang apart, as the saying goes. The divide is too deep and the hatred, not just distrust, too great.

Even Sir John Major has called for a Government of national unity, which by implication is a repudiation of the current Prime Minister.

As things continue to disintegrate in the Tory Cabinet and as May departs, it’s hard to see how Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke can stay in the same room, never mind the same party as Johnson and Rees-Mogg, a party that has dominated in the country and indeed in Europe for so long.

I’ve never been a fan but always had a grudging respect for the ability to adapt to retain power. However the decency and one-nation Toryism of Major and Boles has long since been supplanted by the charlatanism and chauvinism of Johnson or that preposterous “wee bauchle” Mark Francois who wants to fight everyone. There may be a way back but it’ll be a long time coming and the brand itself will be irreparably tarnished.

Many years ago, I recall meeting a Baltic politician who was remarkably impressive. A polyglot speaking nine languages, distinguished and brave, having withstood Soviet pressure, he was an altogether admirable man. Yet, he admired Thatcher, who I detested, and described himself as a British Conservative. Some of that was understandable, given the Cold War, with the British PM’s leading role along with Reagan and his understandable perception of socialism.

He’ll long since have passed away but no more will European conservatives look to Britain for leadership. That opportunity has been blown and even the special deals with the EU, negotiated by Thatcher, will be lost. Now I don’t feel admiration but contempt and it’ll be the same at home as abroad.

The Scottish Tories, who’ve wrapped themselves in the union flag and meekly accepted any bone or insult flung at them, would do well to go their own way.

They’ve no more chance of stopping BoJo as leader than they had with having pleas on Europe listened to. There’s a space in Scottish politics for a right-of-centre party and going it alone needn’t mean supporting independence.

There’s a long history of “nationalist unionism” over the centuries, wrapping themselves in the saltire but seeking to remain part of the union. Whether in Northern Ireland or indeed in Quebec, examples exist. The Tories as we know them are going to split apart and their Scottish wing would do well to go their own way.

Alternatively, like my Baltic hero, they could realise that it’s a different economy and society, decline overtures for any new improved superstate and go for independence. Unlikely I know.