Davidson backs Forsyth and warns Tories against cheering SNP…
Yesterday, we reported on Lord Forsyth’s disloyal but accurate attack on the way that Tory strategists have been building up the SNP in order to damage Labour.
The distinction this veteran Scottish Conservative appeared to make, in the words of our editor, is that “while Labour is an opponent, the SNP is an enemy”. Lord Tebbit has called for Tories to vote Labour where it will keep the SNP out.
Now Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has also taken to the airwaves to warn her fellow Tories that no matter how sweet the schadenfreude at seeing Scottish Labour humbled, a Nationalist victory is far worse.
Naturally she couched it in terms closer to those of the national Conservative message – making certain to align herself with the Prime Minister’s well-publicised fears of the impact of a Lab-Nat pact.
Nonetheless she explicitly endorsed the former Scottish Secretary’s preference for any unionist MP over a nationalist: “One of the things I do agree with Lord Forsyth about is that the Tory party shouldn’t be welcoming the idea that there is going to be a lot of SNP MPs at Labour’s expense.”
Other unionist commentators, such as Alex Massie, have long been stridently critical of what some construe as tacit pact between the Conservatives and the Scottish Nationalists to wield each other as bogeymen to scare voters on either side of the border.
Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives have also hit out at the Scottish Liberal Democrats after claiming that a voter on the latter’s leaflets, purporting to be a Tory supporter switching to the Lib Dems, in fact stood for election under Nick Clegg’s banner only three years ago.
The Scotsman also reports that polling company Survation has distanced itself from polls the Lib Dems are putting on their leaflets in their eleven Scottish constituencies.
The polls claim that the party is best placed to beat the SNP in every seat – even in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, where Lord Ashcroft finds the Tories ahead.
The party has only published the actual data for one of the eleven polls, and Survation stressed that they were not responsible for designing the questionnaire used.
…as Davies claims to have no interest in the party’s general election manifesto
Wales Online bears the startling news that the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the upcoming general election is of “no interest” to the leader of its Welsh wing.
Andrew RT Davies, who leads the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, described the document as “not the one I launched” and urged voters to attend instead to the Welsh manifesto, which he launched with the Stephen Crabb, the Welsh Secretary.
He describes the party’s UK manifesto as “the London one”, and claims that Conservative candidates in Wales are running on his manifesto.
This has come to light because for some reason the two documents appear to have ended up taking different positions on the question of further powers to the Welsh Assembly – with the ‘London one’ attaching certain conditions which the ‘Cardiff one’ (as we should presumably call it) does away with.
Despite this, Davies claims that there “isn’t a cigarette paper” between himself and the Westminster leadership on such issues – which calls into question the need for so dramatic an assertion of difference between the two documents.
His local rivals have pointed out that Davies now joins Nigel Farage in the rather small club of party leaders who have denounced their own manifestos.
NI Conservatives launch manifesto and dismiss claims their candidates are ‘blow ins’
The Northern Irish party also launched its manifesto this week, as did the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists.
Speaking at the event Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, had to fend off charges that the party was fielding carpet baggers, according to the BBC.
Taking up the blue rosette in Ulster are candidates such as Adamdeep Singh Bhogal who, despite being energetic and eye-catching, do not hail from the province.
Villiers argued that, as a party that “believe in the Union”, the Conservatives are entirely comfortable with candidates from Northern Ireland standing “anywhere in the UK and vice versa”.
However, nationalist opponents are keen to point out that the party is only contesting 16 of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats – avoiding two that are the subject of a ‘unionist unity’ deal between the DUP and UUP.
In 2010 the revelation that the Tories had formally struck a similar deal did much to undermine the party’s core message in the province about offering a distinct, economically-focused offer from the traditional headcount.
Returning to the launch, Villiers added that the principle themes of the party’s manifesto for the province were similar to those of the ‘London one’ – cutting taxes, tackling debt, and restructuring welfare to reward work.
The latter point is especially significant in a part of the UK where Sinn Fein brought the devolved administration to the brink of collapse in an attempt to block the Coalition’s welfare reforms.
Meanwhile the other Northern Irish parties have also set out their manifestos, with the DUP leaving themselves open to an arrangement with either Labour or the Conservatives although, as I have outlined elsewhere, the latter increasingly looks like the more realistic alignment.
Sinn Fein meanwhile intends to secure an additional £1.5bn for the province without their MPs taking their seats at all.