Election Freeze for the English Tories; BIG GUNS ARE TOLD TO STAY AWAY FROM HOLYROOD CAMPAIGN

Daily Mail (London), January 25, 1999 | Go to article overview

Election Freeze for the English Tories; BIG GUNS ARE TOLD TO STAY AWAY FROM HOLYROOD CAMPAIGN


Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

SENIOR English Tories will be told to stay away from the Scottish parliamentary election campaign because of fears they will scare off voters, it emerged yesterday.

The Scottish Conservatives are determined to fight May's elections as a distinctive party and believe the arrival of Tories from England would do them more harm than good.

Members of William Hague's Shadow Cabinet will be told to stay clear of the Holyrood election trail.

High-profile figures such as Ann Widdecombe, Michael Howard, John Redwood and Peter Lilley will therefore not be able to throw their weight behind the Tory cause north of the Border during the campaign battle.

Scottish Tories are sensitive to the need to appear as a homegrown outfit, not the northern end of a London-based party.

They have tried hard to define their Scottish identity distinct from London, and want to nurture that image, even if it means telling senior figures from the party they are not welcome.

The Scottish party has spent more than a year trying to persuade voters that it now enthusiastic a l l y embraces t h e concept of devolution and wants to make the parliament work.

But twice in the last six months senior English Tories have publicly questioned the party's commitment to devolution, undermining the efforts of their colleagues in Scotland.

First, Shadow Social Security Secretary Ian Duncan Smith declared there was still time for Scots to reverse the devolution process, earning him a sharp rebuke from Scottish Tory leaders.

Then l a s t week Mr Hague warned of the dang e r s o f d e v o l u t i o n , putting himself at odds with the Scottish party.

A growing number of Scottish Tories believe the majority of English Conservatives have not come to grips with the party's new policy on devolution and would be a liability on the hustings.

Mr Hague is likely to m a k e o n e o r t w o appearances in Scotland during the campaign but will not take a leading role. …

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