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16 September 2018

Ruth Davidson ruling herself out highlights the Tory leadership problem

The difficult truth for the Conservatives is that their best candidate is in a shed in Witney somewhere. 

By Stephen Bush

Ruth Davidson has given a brave and candid interview with the Sunday Times in which she talks about her struggles with mental health, her history of self-harm and in which she says in no uncertain terms that she will ever seek to become Prime Minister.

It’s still all too rare for a serving politician to talk so frankly and at such length about any health issue and it’s a shame that the attending Conservative leadership trauma will likely crowd the importance of that out.

But the interview will deepen Tory angst over their leadership woes. The blunt truth, as I’ve written before, is that the obstacles to exchanging Holyrood for Westminster were always politically and logistically formidable and none of the “Davidson for PM” pieces in the commentariat really ever grappled with (or even acknowledged) those problems.  But as Patrick notes, the call for Davidson to become the party’s leader has always been reflective of a deeper Conservative problem: that Tory MPs look at their current leader, who they find inadequate, and then look at her possible replacements and find them almost as unpalatable.

The big Conservative problem has always been that their post-David Cameron options just aren’t as good as David Cameron was at selling the Tory party and acting as the party’s centre-forward. (Park for a moment the question of what Cameron actually did with his political abilities.) The path for Davidson to actually become the next Conservative Prime Minister has always been essentially implausible but its existence allowed Conservative MPs to ignore that they lost their best political asset on 23 June 2016 and they have no way of getting him back.

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