Whatever else the history books will make of UK politics in 2019, it can at least acknowledge some impressive feminist credentials, with women leading parties right, left and centre. And although the BAME and LGBTQ+ communities are rather more invisible at the top levels of command, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and her openly gay lifestyle (she is happily familied with partner Jen and baby Finn) has persuaded many that even dyed-in-the-wool-Tories can embody 21st century values of inclusivity and diversity.
The poster girl for the acceptable, modern face of Conservatism
Almost certainly helped by the facts that she’s young (ish), smiley (ish) and looks as though she could drink you under the table at the Annual Kirk Caber Toss and Ceilidh, Davidson has become the poster girl for the acceptable, modern face of Conservatism. She faces constant calls to ‘come down to Westminster and sort them all out’ and legions of supporters testify to her easy charm, the appeal of her no-nonsense accent, and her refusal to be less than she is. Even my SNP-voting cabbie talked of her in the warmest terms as being ‘real’.
So, what did we learn In Conversation with…? Well, this may have proved an interesting enough hour for those eager for a whistle-stop tour of her early grapples with sexuality and mental health, her move from journalism to front-line politics, and her recent motherhood. But there proved scant time to get to grips with the really big stuff, and Davidson appeared – probably very wisely – to be determined to stay ‘on message’ throughout.
Whilst there were laudable verbal commitments to staunch the flow of job losses, salve economic downturn, improve the Scottish drugs crisis and boost educational services, Davidson was not to be drawn on the present incumbent of Number 10 or the general health of the Tory party. Such focused responses will undoubtedly play well with Caligula and his horse in Downing Street, but anodyne replies at a time of such national turmoil seems somewhat at odds with the rapidly rising blood temperatures of those on all sides of the Brexit debate.
Davidson is clearly a natural peacekeeper rather than warmonger, and has an admirable interest in engaging across religious, political and professional divides to work for the greater good. But whilst commendable, it would have been reassuring to see this ‘good egg’ crack with a little more righteous indignation and determination to make things better.
Ruth Davidson could seemingly have the written the manual on 'Keeping Calm and Carrying On', but one cannot help but wonder if such a resigned bedside manner for such a very sick patient will be enough in the coming months.