Confidence in Davidson plummets amongst Tory supporters

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By a Newsnet reporter

The ToryHoose website, with a readership of Scottish Conservatives, carries out regular surveys of Conservative MSPs’ popularity amongst grass roots Tories.  In the website’s most recent survey of 300 Scottish Conservatives, support for new party leader Ruth Davidson has dramatically collapsed.  In the last survey, Ms Davidson enjoyed an approval rating of 82.1%, however in the latest poll of Conservative opinion, her support has fallen to just 4.8%, a drop of 77.3%.

According to the website, the figures show that Ms Davidson’s “honeymoon is over”.  She is now one of the most unpopular Tory MSPs amongst Scottish Conservative supporters.  

By contrast, leadership rival Murdo Fraser’s support has increased to 80.4%, up 37.1% on the last survey.  Mr Fraser is now the most popular Conservative MSP amongst Scottish Conservative members.

Mr Fraser ran his campaign promising to re-establish the Scottish Conservatives as an independent party distinct from the Conservatives south of the Border.  Although he enjoyed the support of many high profile Conservatives, he narrowly lost the leadership election to Ms Davidson, who enjoyed the support of figures such as Michael Forsyth, the Thatcherite former Secretary of State for Scotland during the 1990s.

Ms Davidson’s attempts to restore the fortunes of the ailing party have so far not seen much success.  She was newly elected to the Scottish Parliament in the May elections last year, and some within the party fear that her lack of experience is now showing.  

On the vital constitutional issue, Ms Davidson promised during the election campaign that the Scotland Bill was a “line in the sand”, however her position was undermined by party leader David Cameron who promised to consider more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote in the independence referendum.  

During the Scottish Conservatives’ leadership contest, some commentators expressed their fear that a victory for Ms Davidson would be a disaster for the party.  Writing in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper on 25 September 2011, Kenny Farquharson wrote:  “I have a theory and it boils down to this: if Murdo Fraser loses his fight to be leader of the Scottish Tories, Scotland will become an independent country by 2016.”

Ms Davidson’s backers in her leadership campaign also see a significant fall in their support in this latest survey.  John Lamont, who was a key figure in Ms Davidson’s leadership campaign sees his support fall by 22.5% to 42.4%.  Jackson Carlaw, who stood against Ms Davidson but was appointed Deputy Leader after her victory, sees his support fall by 10.3% to 54.6%.

Ruth Davidson’s plummeting ratings amongst Tory members indicate the confusion her position on devolution has left her party in, says SNP MSP Mark McDonald.

Mr McDonald, MSP for North East Scotland, said:

“What a shambles the Tory Party in Scotland has become under Ruth Davidson, these figures will be really embarrassing for her.

“Ms Davidson’s claims that the Scotland Bill was a ‘line in the sand’ were totally undermined by her Prime Minister’s panicked reaction to the SNP referendum consultation.

“Now she has been bounced into backing the concept of further devolution, which she opposed when campaigning in the Tory leadership ballot.

“Indeed it is clear that the Tory membership is now openly questioning whether they made the right choice for leader and whether they were sold a false prospectus.”