“Your automobile can be any color you want, as long s it’s black.”—Henry Ford, launching his Model T
The candidates for the vacant post of PM made the obligatory brief stop in the colonies when they attended hustings in Scotland and Northern Ireland on August 16th and 17th respectively. Given that there are barely 600 members (0.37% of their UK total) and no elected representatives in Northern Ireland, the latter looks like a fool’s errand or gesture politics. Or both. That the “unionist” part of the “Conservative and Unionist” parts refers to Ireland, and not Scotland, is all the more bizarre. It was demonstrably unsuccessful, as the Republic flew the coop exactly a century ago and shows zero inclination to return to the fold. As for the fragment that remains:
“Tories are becoming the England Nationalist Party…Choosing between Rishi and Liz is Hobson’s Choice”—Conservative and Unionist party members in NI
The hustings held in Perth were less pointless, as there are 11,000 members (6.8% of the UK total) in Scotland. Tories provide the Opposition in the Scottish Parliament and still send six of Scotland’s 59 MP’s to Westminster—the same number as a century ago.
While they may clash on details of Tory policy, they are pretty much united when it comes to dealing with Scotland. Neither Sunak nor Truss has waivered on what is now a firmly entrenched Tory position—it is not the time for a new independence referendum. Truss has modified her earlier undiplomatic statement that she would “ignore Nicola Sturgeon”, so that both now want to deal firmly with her government to benefit the union as a whole. As for real issues affecting mainly Scotland, little was said beyond the ritual dirge condemning the SNP-led Scottish Government that has been the Scottish Tories leitmotif since Douglas Ross became leader.
“What people in Scotland want is… to see their governments, Scottish and UK governments working together”—Rishi Sunak
It is a nice sentiment, but we reckon Scottish people probably know more about what people in Scotland want than Sunak. This disconnect is highlighted by his comment during the hustings that the idea of another referendum was “barmy” hardly acknowledges that this is a policy of the majority of the Scottish Parliament with a better democratic mandate than his own party at Westminster.
Sunak used his past to pitch himself to unsure Tories. He bragged about his various achievements in government, such as the furlough scheme and support for business during Covid. The sense was of someone losing the room during a job interview. But With Truss still soaring ahead in the polls, he came across slightly desperate.
“We’ve had several decades of low growth across the United Kingdom.”—Liz Truss
We have indeed. But who has been steering the ship for the last 12 years? Why, her Tories, with her an MP for the entire time and am influential government minister for half of it
“I was worried about disruption, disruption didn’t take place.”—Liz Truss
Talking about why she didn’t initially back Brexit, Truss said she was worried that it might end up disruptive but has been reassured by its implementation. To that we can only wonder what version of the UK she has been living in, because it certainly hasn’t been the same one as we have.
Truss came across tired and complacent, as if bored of the sound of her own voice. In contrast to Sunak, her pitch was geared to the future—promising Scotland free ports and smoother whisky export opportunities.
“Tory front-runner Liz Truss playing the populist card getting into the gutter in Perth in front of the party faithful. Says she will legislate to allow the Rwanda one-way deportation scheme to be expanded to other countries. Nasty, toxic Toryism trafficking in vulnerable people.”—Gerry Hassan
Neither contestant had more than warm words to address today’s burning issue: the cost of living crisis. Nor did they explain how their various promises were to be funded under the burden of over £2 trillion on debt, nor explanation/remedy why the UK was being hit harder by inflation and probable recession than any other G7 country.
Polling shows that Truss is out in front with Conservative voters in Scotland, in line with the UK as a whole. More interestingly, it also shows around one quarter of voters will be more likely to back independence, regardless of who wins the race to replace Boris.
In truth, it will make little difference to Scotland who becomes PM because the arrogant attitude towards Scotland’s differing opinions will continue. The truly frightening thought is that it may be worse than these three years under Brexit Boris, whose boisterous antics at least had some entertainment value.