Ruth Davidson accuses Tory colleagues of ‘giving up’ over EU vote

Ruth Davidson has hit out at Conservative MPs who are failing to campaign ahead of next week’s European elections, accusing them of giving up on the party and admitting failure.

Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The Scottish Conservative leader said it was “pretty disappointing” that some of her colleagues appeared to be “sitting this one out” in the face of diving poll ratings.

Speaking at the launch of her own campaign north of the border, she also pleaded with former Tory voters thinking of backing Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party to return to the fold.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Arguing that it was time for “people to start walking back to the middle” on Brexit, she said a vote for the Tories was a vote for leaving the EU in an “orderly manner” rather than embracing a no-deal outcome.

Several Tory MPs have said they will not be campaigning ahead of the vote on 23 May and might not even vote for their local party candidate.

Maria Caulfield, the party’s MP for Lewes, said last week she “fundamentally disagreed” with holding the elections and may even vote for a Brexit Party candidate.

“I won’t be campaigning for them. Why should I campaign? We promised people that we wouldn’t be holding these elections for an institution that I voted to leave,” she told the BBC.

Ben Bradley, the MP for Mansfield, also said his local association did not want to spend money campaigning in an election they did not want and that he would not be “forcing” them to do so.

But the Scottish Tory leader said they should “reconsider” this position, arguing they had a “duty” to get out on the streets and put forward their case.

“I would say to some colleagues down south who are perhaps choosing not to campaign that that’s pretty disappointing,” she said.

“I think that as Conservatives and in the privileged position that we are, to be elected to Parliament and be in a leadership position, it’s our job to lead.

“Just because the fight’s harder – that means that you have to fight harder, it doesn’t mean you give up.”

Ms Davidson insisted she would be campaigning with “vim and vigour” despite the Tories’ falling ratings, with two opinion polls at the weekend showing voters deserting the party in droves.

One put the Tories in fourth place at the European election with only 11 per cent support, compared to 34 per cent for the Brexit Party which is now well in the lead.

The Scottish Tories have six candidates at the election – Baroness Nosheena Mobarik, Iain McGill, Shona Haslam, Iain Whyte, Andrea Gee and Michael Kusznir – but has produced no manifesto.