Boris Johnson’s allies might have spent the past 24 hours trying to paint Douglas Ross as a ‘lightweight’ figure, but that hasn’t stopped the leader of Scottish Conservatives from stealing the headlines.
With the support of what looks like most of his MSPs, if not all of his parliamentary colleagues, the MP for Moray has been the first over the top, calling for the Prime Minister to step down after he confirmed in Parliament yesterday that he did indeed attend what turns out, to his apparent surprise, to have been a garden party.
Johnson’s woes have, inevitably, been latched onto by those who take any and every opportunity to push for the Scottish party to go its own way, this time with the unfortunate if presumably unwitting assistance of Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Splitting the party remains, of course, as much a tactical and philosophical nonsense as it was when the membership resoundingly rejected it by electing Ruth Davidson in 2011.
But it seems especially strange to try and draw the conclusion from this week’s events that the Scottish Tories would be better off going their own way.
After all, if you believe that it is important (both to Scotland and to Britain as a whole) who the Prime Minister is, surely it is better to have a real say in the decision rather than standing on the outside, safe but impotent, striking pious poses against a distant bogeyman?
Even if you ignore the wider national dimension (and as a unionist, you shouldn’t), it is difficult to see how Scotland would be better served if Ross and his colleagues operated in the House of Commons in the manner of the Democratic Unionist Party, tucked away with the ‘Others’ and too often, on national issues, resembling Theodore Roosevelt’s “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.
After all, the Democratic Uinonists have more MPs than the Scottish Tories, but nobody is canvassing their opinion on Johnson’s future.
From the devocrats, a change of tone on Covid-19
Mark Drakeford has not previously been shy about contrasting Wales’ performance at combating the pandemic with England’s. Yet all of a sudden, as Charlotte noted yesterday, the First Minister has been keen to impress upon journalists just how difficult such a comparison is.
Little wonder. Although there are lots of variables at play, the data does suggest that Johnson’s decision to allow both Christmas and New Year’s Eve to proceed as normal has paid off. Restrictions were always about preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed, and with ministers apparently confident that the peak of Omicron is behind us it has held up.
Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon is facing mounting criticism for the Scottish Government’s decision to impose new restrictions, which some advisers have suggested might not be lifted until April or later. And if that isn’t enough, the First Minister apparently envisions Scots continuing to endure policies such as masks for years to come, under her unusual definition of ‘living with Covid’.
Yet is the Government banking any credit for having saved Christmas and started charting a path back towards what we’ve started to call the ‘old normal’? Alas, no. ‘Partygate’, and the toxic suggestion that the Prime Minister ignored his own guidance, has naturally eclipsed it.