Written by a Conservative member in the South East of England.
Twelve gains in Scotland, thanks to a moderate Conservative message which majored on the importance of the Union. In contrast – different at times to the campaign in the rest of the country – the Tory message in Scotland was more positive, more outward looking and clearly more popular. Mrs May and Ms Davidson deserve the credit for that.
There will be many, from Paddy Ashdown to Nigel Farage who will seek to deploy electoral analysis as a ruse to talk up their own agenda. That might be what I am doing here, but I don’t think so. It brings no pleasure to see these results, results which have seen defeat for many moderate and internationalist Conservatives, such as Ben Gummer, Jane Ellison, Neil Carmichael and Charlotte Leslie. This trajectory could narrow the Conservative tradition and risk fragmenting the Conservative coalition beyond repair.
And yet, there is another way. In the story of this campaign from Scotland, we see a signpost to a broader and more popular future for Conservatives: Unionism, the logical starting point for Conservative internationalists. Standing up to narrow nationalists rather than pandering to them, won in Scotland. In clear contrast to much of the message pumped out elsewhere in the country.
The Conservative and Unionist Party, at its best and most popular, has put country before party by governing in the national interest. If the result in Scotland is anything to go by, it is a formula with appeal – unlike much else we have heard in recent weeks.
From 1990, when internationalism began to wane in the Conservative Party, we were punished at the polls in 1992 and then continued to tear ourselves apart over Europe for the next five years. Even our collapse in 1997 didn’t prevent us “banging on about Europe” until David Cameron called on us not too. We only re-gained the trust of the electorate in 2010 thanks to this ordered silence and a coalition with the Liberal Democrats until we finally re-gained a majority in 2015.
That first Conservative majority since 1992, looked then like the beginning of the Conservative Party’s return to the position of electoral dominance it achieved in the last century. It seems those within the Party who put their own ideological obsessions, whether anti-Europe or English nationalist, ahead of the national interest have lost a high-stakes gamble.
This result has pushed to the wire the Conservative reputation for sound governance in the national interest, and we appear to be on the verge of an abyss darker and deeper than after 1997. Without the support of the Scottish Conservatives, the abyss would be in very stark relief indeed.