Neil Findlay: Ruth Davidson failed to speak against the worst extremes of Tory policy

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay looks at the political legacy of Ruth Davidson after she resigned from her party's leadership last week. 

As politicians in a parliament where no party has a majority all MSP’S build relationships and have dealings with members of other parties, some even develop lasting personal friendships. This does not prevent fierce political debate and disagreement from taking place and neither should it. 

Last week Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson announced she was standing down as leader of her party. Now I have no personal dislike of Ms Davidson, just as I have no personal dislike of Derek Mackay, Willie Rennie or Alison Johnstone (I have good relations with each of them) or many other Parliamentary colleagues but where I do part company with a number of the tributes paid is in the absence of political criticism aimed at the departing Ms Davidson. 

To her credit the electoral fortunes of the Tories north of the border markedly improved during her time in charge, but rather than that being the result of some radical shift in policy to a more compassionate form of conservatism as her friends would have us believe, it has been on the back of a string of harsh and regressive policies designed to attack those trying desperately to stay afloat in the economic deep end, and a single note old school hard unionism that pays no attention to the serious reforms that need to be made to reform and democratise the British state. 

Davidson spent years trying to foster the image of a clubbable, chirpy, cheery modern leader happy to climb on tanks and cavort with livestock during elections - this was of course all a deliberate ploy to avoid attention being paid to her consistent support for the regressive polices of Osborne, Cameron, May et al. 

Let us not forget her support for the Bedroom Tax, for cuts to disability benefits, ending housing benefit for young people, extending sanctions, privatisation of Royal Mail and the East coast rail line, tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor, the rape clause, the trade union bill, turbo charged austerity, the hostile environment, massive cuts to public services and of course the disastrous EU referendum. 

The reality is Davidson is a committed, right wing Tory who believed in all of these policies, irrespective of the impact on so many families across the country.

That Tory legacy Ruth Davidson supported or remained silent about is one that ruined lives, it is one that saw a massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich where far too many of our fellow citizens and their families have been driven to food banks and destitution and where diseases like rickets returned.  

Davidson had been touted by some as a future Conservative leader; the antidote to the Cameron and May malaise but from where I am standing it is difficult to see any real political difference between them. The one saving grace is her clear dislike and distrust of the current Prime Minister – in that she is far from alone.

Ruth Davidson might want to be remembered as a principled politician who could not stomach a Boris Johnson premiership, but the reality is she could have spoken up in opposition to the worst extremes of Tory policy – she will have to live with the fact that she didn’t.

In her resignation letter Ruth Davidson highlighted the issues affecting her as a new mum – these issues are very real and affect many women and families juggling children, work and earning a living. I wonder if she has now spared a thought for the low paid mums suffering under Universal Credit, or the young disabled family who have lost £30 per week, or the refugee children told to get out of the country by the Home office? I hope she has. 

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