A Scots-born Tory explains why she chose to fight a hopeless seat

27
8590
Mhairi Fraser and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson

Scots-born Tory hopeful Mhairi Fraser left home in Surrey to fight the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill seat for her party. She explains her motivation to Craig Todd.

The General Election last month provided results we previously thought unimaginable: the SNP wiped out Scottish Labour, the Shadow Chancellor lost his seat and we got a majority Conservative government.

For others this year’s election was about standing up to help others. Some were “fired up” by the Independence Referendum last September which wakened a roaring lion in Scotland in the process. However, do not be fooled into thinking it only fired up a support for the SNP.

Mhairi Fraser: Scots born financial services worker now living in the English Home Counties
Mhairi Fraser: Scots born financial services worker now living in the English Home Counties

Mhairi Fraser stood as a candidate for the Conservatives in the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill seat, once the safest seat in the United Kingdom, usually dominated by the Labour Party. This year it saw a swing of over 36% to the SNP’s Phil Boswell.

For Fraser and the Tories, Scotland was to prove a bag of mixed fortunes. The Conservatives cemented themselves as the third party here gaining 22,000 voters from 2010, finishing well above the Lib Dems and UKIP, yet kept one seat, but saw their vote percentage drop.

Ms Fraser said: “It was always one of my main aims to finish above the Lib Dems in the constituency, so I was really pleased that we managed it.

“The Lib Dem vote suffered nationally, but I – along with my incredible band of dedicated volunteers – campaigned as much as possible, and because of that we didn’t suffer as much from tactical voting as we thought we would.

“One of the SNP volunteers at the count also told me that I finished above Labour in one of the areas in the constituency, which was an achievement I’m really proud of.”

Fraser is a parliamentary researcher at Westminster and previously a financial journalist, and admits politics was more exciting than derivatives and bonds.

Despite being from Surrey she chose to be a candidate in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill – 420 miles away – which would break up close contact with constituents. So why did she stand there?

“Because of the No result, and the fact that the Scottish Conservatives are the most pro-Union party in Scotland, I really wanted to stand in Scotland and be a pro-Union voice up there,” Ms Fraser said.

“Where I live is a naturally Conservative-voting area; I wanted to stand somewhere where I could try to swing a few unlikely voters my way.”

She did manage to change at least one mind. She acknowledges a tweet that was sent to her by an individual who voted Labour all of his life, but was voting Conservative for the first time.

The SNP’s Phil Boswell managed to swing a majority of over 20,000 voters from the long standing Tom Clarke to boast his own majority of 11.501.

Despite the area voting Labour for more than 80 years, Coatbridge proved to be part of the SNP whitewash, but an email sent by a constituent to Fraser shows not everyone shares the ideals and principles of Labour or the SNP.

In an excerpt from the lengthy email, the voter says: “Labour and the SNP think they are championing social equality by spending money we don’t have shoring up benefits.

“The reality is they have abandoned large sections of my community to a life of dependence and poverty.”

The email also displayed that they believed a vote for the Conservatives in favourable SNP and Labour constituencies was not “a waste,” and backed Fraser for the seat.

Ms Fraser said: “The email was incredibly touching to receive – as the man who sent it said, he’d managed, through sheer hard work, to give his family greater opportunities and a better standard of living than he had been born into. A Scots-born Tory explain why sh

“He saw Conservative policies as those which could help others do the same, and so he had given his vote to me at the polling station that day.

“I’ll keep that email with me forever; it really reminded me why I do this in the first place.”

Fraser additionally praised the impact Ruth Davidson has had in Scotland since she became leader of the Scottish Conservatives in 2011.

In particular, during the General Election broadcast debates Davidson was praised by various neutrals for her performances, with some tipping her as a future Conservative leader.

“Ruth Davidson has been a great modernising voice for the Scottish Conservatives,” said Ms Fraser.

“She’s been able to rebuff the (false) assumptions people sometimes make about who Conservatives are and what they stand for.

“She’s also incredibly down to earth in the way in which she communicates and shows her sense of humour, which I think people appreciate – what you see is what you get with Ruth.”

At the moment in women represent nearly 35% of Holyrood, whilst Westminster now has women holding 29% of the seats after the election.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have aided this in the past by using all women party lists to select candidates, and the SNP are proposing to also do so from 2016.

The Conservatives have yet to introduce any quotas regarding gender, but Fraser believes they do not need to.

“I think people are seeing more women standing for Parliament because there are more women in the House of Commons than there used to be, and other women are seeing that it can be done.

“There still aren’t enough, but I’m completely against quotas or all-female shortlists; I think that women are capable of competing against men for candidacy, and should.

“The more we act like we need special treatment, the more we’ll be perceived as needing help, and I don’t think that leads to equality in its truest sense.”

She points out groups like Women2Win and Conservative Future Women help women gain confidence to enter politics, allowing them to network and provides training to develop their skills.

She believes that held her in good stead for the election and was proud she stood as a candidate at the election.

“It might sound clichéd, but it’s genuinely not – I’m incredibly proud to have stood in the Election, especially as a young candidate,” she said.

“I can’t stand it when people try to tell others not to vote; there are countries in the world where people would love to have their voices heard in fair, democratic, non-violent elections, and we’re lucky to be able to do so.

“I was really pleased to be able to represent the Conservative voters in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, and I’m grateful to every person who put their faith in me at the polling booths.”