Samantha Jackson argues that, despite her talents as a rising politician, Ruth Davidson won’t be running for Prime Minister any time soon
Politics has never been a particularly strong nor stable affair, but leadership challenges used to come about in a somewhat regular fashion. Pre-Brexit, pre-Tump, pre-2008 financial crash, political parties in this country would shuffle and change maybe once every General Election. With a few notable exceptions, leaders would come and go with reasonable regularity and rhythm.
This has changed in recent times. Corbyn has had to face a bombardment of mini-votes of no confidence and resignations to hold on to his place at the wheel of Labour (something the party is no doubt grateful he survived). The SNP lost teddy bear-faced Salmond in 2014 to bravehearted Nicola Sturgeon after the Scottish Independence Referendum, and UKIP had such a kerfuffle with their leadership that they had a poor woman suffer Vi Coactus. Let’s not talk about the Liberal Democrats.
The biggest mess in British politics in terms of leadership, as we all know, has come from within the fantastically consistent Conservative Party. David Cameron called the European Referendum in an attempt to stop Tory infighting. It was Theresa May who emerged, wrinkled and shaky, from behind the embattled 52%. There are many who think she should be struck down, especially after she lost her party 13 seats.
Among all this doom and gloom, however, stands the positively glowing Ruth Davidson. She managed to give her party their best result in Scotland since 1983- 12 seats up, not down. The 38-year-old powerhouse represents everything the Tory party is desperately trying to steer towards: charm, diversity, youth, and strength. She is, in other words, everything Theresa May is not. The party has noticed.
Davidson insists that she is not a fundamentally ambitious person, and is quick to point out that May has her “full support”- but there is a kind of electricity in the air around her. She is ridiculously good at interviews, she isn’t afraid to say what she is thinking, and she possesses something only one in fifty politicians seem to comprehend, let alone have- a sense of humour. Ruthie is also very down with the “kidz”. She tweets. She even faced a minor pre-holiday scandal after posting a somewhat suggestive photo of actress Gillian Anderson in stockings and black heels with the caption, “Right, I’m off for a fortnight.”. She is also, unfortunately, Scottish. When asked, however, if a Scot could become leader of the Tory Party on the Marr show she was firm in her answer: “Absolutely. Without a doubt.”.
Essentially, Ruth Davidson has never given anyone any reason to hand her a P45 mid-speech. Quite frankly, very few people would have the balls to. She performed remarkably well at the Tory conference, unlike her English counterpart. Theresa May, on the other hand, has done nothing but flounder. She had to publicly reassure Davidson that there wouldn’t be a compromise on gay rights after forming a coalition with the DUP. Ruth is set to marry Jen Wilson later next year.
May comes across as incredibly disconnected. Her reaction to the Grenfell Tower fire, for example, showed just how different in class and how lacking in empathy she was to the victims of the disaster. It didn’t help that the crisis was caused, in part, by Tory cuts and lax legislation.
This disconnection is something Davidson does not suffer from. Often described as a working-class kickboxing lesbian, she is much better at listening to her community and seems dedicated to the service and “duty” of politics. It should be noted that she gave up kickboxing years ago, and is more middle class than working class- but she is still worlds away from the Etonian poshness that the Conservatives are too often associated with. Thatcher was famously accused of ruthlessly using Scotland as a testing ground for policy. Through her down-to-earth Scottishness, Davidson displays herself in sharp contrast to the Iron Lady.
May’s bad leadership, however, doesn’t equate to no leadership. There are a few candidates, including Davidson, that have the potential to be better leaders. This doesn’t mean that they should be- yet.
Calls for a change of management mark that we have become too used to political turmoil. Davidson knows that now is not the time. She has repeatedly stated that her basket is full enough until 2021 and that she does not underestimate the challenges of her role in Scotland by any measure. This is wise. There is too much which could go wrong in the coming years, and if Davidson wants to keep her cheery image she cannot be seen as too involved in the Brexit mess. Would she make a better leader than our current Prime Minister? Yes. Does that really matter at this moment in time? No.
It is now, hopefully, five years until the next General Election. During this period, the ticking time bomb of Brexit will blow up. Davidson should (and probably will) stand back, let it explode, and -if the socialist revolution does not occur – clean up the mess afterwards.
Featured image: Wikimedia