Why Tories Should Give Up the Ghost

Daily Mail (London), September 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Why Tories Should Give Up the Ghost


Byline: by Ted Brocklebank Former Conservative MSP

IHAD to rub my eyes to be sure I wasn't seeing things. But there it was, the number two item on Sunday night's BBC national TV news - the Scottish Tories plan to launch a new party.

For that one headline, Murdo Fraser, the leadership hopeful who proposed this radical solution to his party's problems north of the Border, deserves the gratitude of all Scots of a Rightof-Centre persuasion.

At last, Scottish Tories are talking seriously about the future and somebody out there might actually be listening. Mr Fraser's 'own goal' or 'master strike', depending on your choice of reading matter, made headlines not only in Scotland but throughout the UK.

If, predictably, the doom mongers still seem to be in the ascendancy in Scotland itself, that's no surprise, given the defeatist cancer that has paralysed Tories north of the Border for a generation.

Clinging to nurse for fear of something worse is the only thing that unites Tory Lords Forsyth and Sanderson with Mr Fraser's Scottish leadership rivals, Jackson Carlaw and Ruth Davidson, in their condemnation of the current deputy leader's initiative.

With customary modesty, I can reveal that I put forward proposals very similar to Mr Fraser's back in May in The Mail on Sunday, following the Tories' worst-ever election result in Scotland.

Strangers who held similar political views but hadn't voted Conservative for years called to offer support and leading business figures contacted me to ask if my proposals were taken seriously at Tory HQ.

It's good now to see respected business figures such as Jim McColl and John McGlynn already rallying to Mr Fraser's cause and I'm aware of others prepared to offer support.

Until the weekend, I didn't believe any of the current leadership contenders had the courage to admit the Scottish Tory party was incapable of shaking off its toxic image and that a new party of the Centre-Right in Scotland was essential. I congratulate Murdo Fraser for proving me wrong.

Delusions I recognised that the game was up during my time in the Scottish parliament.

It was obvious that Tory politicians at Holyrood were every bit as able as their counterparts but it became clear that the song they were being asked to sing was no longer one the Scottish people wished to hear. Conservative candidates have had to learn that hard lesson at election after election.

It is understandable that old warhorses such as the nonagenarian Sir Albert McQuarrie still pine for a return of the Tory glory days. But shame on those younger 'fearties', including Miss Davidson, who prefer to prop up the old guard in their delusions rather than facing up to the reality that their party is going down the tubes.

Mr Fraser's critics ask: 'Why can't we change the song but still keep the name?' But changing the song, or the party's essential message, would surely be worthless without its name or brand also changing. …

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