Scottish Tories ‘plot to keep Johnson out of Downing Street’

The Scotsman reports that senior Scottish Conservatives are “involved in a plot to keep Boris Johnson out of Downing Street” over fears that his ascendancy might undermine the Party’s recovery north of the border.

Apparently internal polling suggests he could give Labour a much-needed boost, threatening several of the Westminster seats the Tories picked up last year and making it impossible for Ruth Davidson to become First Minister.

“Organisers of the Scottish ‘stop Boris’ campaign hope the message his leadership could cost the party votes in Scotland – and damage hopes of winning a general election – reaches grassroots members across the UK”, the paper adds.

However, it isn’t clear at present how widely this attitude is shared amongst the 13-strong caucus of Scottish Conservative MPs, several of which have proven more than willing to defy Edinburgh’s attempts to create a ‘Scottish bloc’. Ross Thomson, the outspoken Brexiteer who represents Aberdeen South, is a high-profile ally of the former mayor and had a front-row seat at his ConservativeHome speech at conference.

Johnson also seems to inspire warmer regard amongst another key part of the Government’s unionist coalition, with Arlene Foster of the DUP praising his “positive” vision for Brexit and softening her party’s earlier opposition to his preferred ‘Canada’ model.

Bradley retains May’s confidence as she takes action on salaries

Theresa May has gone on the record as saying that Karen Bradley is “doing an excellent job” in the Ulster brief after the latter was criticised for her lack of knowledge on key issues, the News Letter reports.

“What matters is the job Karen has been doing”, the Prime Minister added, in the same week that Bradley set out the Government’s “wholehearted belief” in the Province’s totally collapsed devolution settlement. This sets her at odds with its Democratic Unionist allies, who have been calling for direct rule for some time.

Bradley also finally set out plans to start cutting MLA pay, giving local politicians a more acute, pecuniary interest in striking a deal. Until now neither she nor James Brokenshire, her predecessor, have shown any willingness to ‘put a bit of stick about’ in pursuit of a restoration of devolution.

In other news, three Conservative MPs who favour reform of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws took a trip across the water this week. According to the News Letter Anna Soubry, Huw Merriman, and Nicky Morgan spoke to “midwives, doctors, politicians and lawyers challenging the current regime in the courts.”

This is significant because any move to govern Ulster directly from London would almost certainly be accompanied by strong pressure from MPs to bring its social legislation in line with the mainland.

Blue-Green coalition a possibility as Price wins the Plaid leadership

Another of Wales’ glut of leadership contests has come to and end – and the result could mark a serious shift in the political landscape in Cardiff Bay.

Leanne Wood, the stridently left-wing leader of Plaid Cymru, has been decisively booted out in favour of Adam Price, a right-winger whose economic policy could create enough common ground for a deal with the Welsh Conservatives.

Despite being the most personally popular politician in Wales, Wood suffered what Roger Awan-Scully called a “humiliating end” after losing in the first round of a three-way contest. Nationalist members felt a change was necessary after she failed to translate a higher personal profile (courtesy of the TV debates) into serious gains in seats.

Price is widely recognised as one of the more able members of the Welsh Assembly, albeit one with a tendency to self-aggrandise, but his challenge is a steep one. Despite being roughly tied with the Tories in the Assembly (due to the latter’s failure to interest hundreds of thousands of their Westminster voters in devolution) the Nationalists’ machine and activist base are in dire need of an overhaul.

Then he just needs to sell them on a possible coalition with the Tories, the only possibly combination with any chance of ousting Labour from power at the next election.

Scottish Labour in ‘crisis’ over Dugdale legal fees

The Herald has got hold of leaked WhatsApp messages which show Labour MSPs clashing over the party’s treatment of Kezia Dugdale, its former leader.

According to the Daily Record, Labour dropped financial support for Dugdale’s legal fight against Stuart Campbell, author of the nationalist blog ‘Wings Over Scotland’.

He mounted a £25,000 defamation case after she alleged in a Daily Record column that he had sent ‘homophobic tweets’. The paper originally offered to cover her legal costs, but apparently Labour stepped in to say it was their business – and then cut off support. The Record has now stepped in.

Dugdale has pointed out that the big thing which has changed since she was offered support by Iain McNicol in the past is that he has lost his job to Jennie Formby, a Corbynite, adding that the Labour leader himself has not yet responded to her calls for support.

In the Herald’s WhatsApp scoop, pro-Corbyn MSPs are seen defending the Scottish Labour leadership (helmed by left-winger Richard Leonard) against more moderate colleagues who want stronger support for Dugdale.