Ruth Davidson has criticised the “identity politics” and “absolutism” associated with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Brexiteer wing of her party.
And she warned a backlash is looming against the divisive politics of Brexit Britain, which is “not serving the country well”,
The Scottish Tory leader made an impassioned appeal for a return to the centre ground in civic life in an appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival with Olympian Katherine Grainger last night.
Ms Davidson, who has clashed with Mr Johnson over Brexit, said she hopes he is a success as Prime Minister and believes he will be judged on his performance in the role.
But she raised concerns over the divisive state of political life across the UK.
“The UK, Scotland, is more divided and fractious. Politics is at a higher temperature, there is more heat than light at the moment – certainly from when I started,” she told a sell-out audience.
“There is a lot of discussion of where that’s come from and what the drivers of it is, whether it’s a legacy and a kind of hangover from the global economic crisis that people have become more insular. There’s a lot of discussion about the way people are consuming information, so it’s no longer curated by an editor of a newspaper or the editor of a news bulletin on the television – it is misinformation coming from social media etc.
“But I don’t think that it can continue indefinitely to get worse in that sense because we have seen it throughout history. If you take a really long view of history, you’ve seen mobs and riots and martyrs and all the rest of it, and there has always been a backlash against that sort of fundamentalism. And there has always been, certainly in this country, a demand from the electorate to modify parliamentary behaviour and to have people operating at a certain level.
“I think there will come that backlash in the United Kingdom as well. You simply cannot get things done if you believe in absolutism.
“Compromise is so much a dirty word these days and it shouldn’t be, because nobody wins elections for ever. You have to work with people across the aisle if you want to get stuff done. And if you refuse to work with them now, when you are in opposition, you cannot expect them to work with you when you’re in government and you cannot get things done. We have to get past the identity politics.”
Despite previous differences with Mr Johnson, Ms Davidson insisted she believes he can be a success.
“I genuinely believe that if the prime minister does well the country does well, so I genuinely want him to do well. I want him to land a [Brexit] deal and any background that we have, I think, is completely irrelevant to looking out for the national interest and I will always endeavour to do that to the best of my ability and for what I think that it is.”
She added: “I think that most fair-minded people will judge Boris Johnson not on what he was like as a journalist or as a mayor of London or as a foreign secretary but on what he is like as a prime minister and I will judge him on what he is like as a prime minister and you cannot tell from what has gone before what will come next.”