Scottish Tories blame Partygate as they suffer big local election losses – POLITICO

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EDINBURGH — Scottish Tories have blamed Boris Johnson squarely after suffering heavy losses in local elections in Scotland.

The Conservatives lost 61 seats and slipped into third place in Scotland behind Scottish Labor in local government elections across Scotland, which left Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross “very disappointing”.

Thursday’s elections, in local councils in London and across many parts of England, Scotland and Wales, were Johnson’s first electoral test since he was fined by police for attending anti-lockdown parties in Downing Street. While Johnson’s party fared poorly in Scotland and London, elsewhere in England the picture was more mixed, giving the British prime minister just enough to keep his critics at bay.

However, in Scotland, where voters have long hated Johnson, it was clear that any remaining electoral shine had come loose.

“It was certainly the issue of Partygate that dominated the discussions I had with voters who were reluctant to come out and support us as they have in the past,” Ross told the BBC, quoting the scandal of gatherings breaking coronavirus rules in Downing Street.

He stopped short of calling on Johnson to leave, but said the Prime Minister ‘simply cannot ignore the message that has been sent by voters’ across Scotland.

The Scottish Conservative leader was one of the first senior Tories to ask Johnson to step down in January, only to quickly reverse his position due to the war in Ukraine.

The U-turn derailed his party’s campaign, which was dominated by questions about Johnson’s position and why Ross had backtracked on his call for the prime minister to quit.

Scottish Labor and the pro-independence Scottish National Party – which finished in clear first place – were the main beneficiaries of the Conservatives’ losses. The Scottish Liberal Democrats and the SNP’s power-sharing allies in the Scottish Greens also made a small number of gains across Scotland.

Once dominant in Scottish politics, Scottish Labor fell to historic lows after the 2014 independence referendum and has finished third behind the SNP and the Conservatives in every local, devolved and national election since 2016.

The party’s mini-resurgence in Thursday’s vote saw Labor take control of West Dunbartonshire Council and finish a single seat behind the SNP in Glasgow, a former stronghold more recently dominated by the SNP. Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar told broadcasters that Friday marked “the first happy day for Scottish Labor in almost a decade”.

The SNP also capitalized on the Tory’s woes to win an overall majority in Dundee, while remaining comfortably in first place overall nationally.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP finished first in local elections on Friday | Peter Summers/Getty Images

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon mentioned his party had “won the election by a country mile”.

The only party to have a worse day than the Scottish Conservatives was the Alba party, led by former Prime Minister Alex Salmond as a vehicle for disgruntled SNP nationalists. Salmond’s party failed to win a single council seat despite over a hundred.

blame game

Some Tories turned on their Scottish leader Ross as the results came in.

“It was Douglas who turned around, Douglas who flipped and Douglas who backed the prime minister,” said Adam Tomkins, a former Tory MSP who is highly respected in Tory circles. tweeted.

“He and his team have to live with the consequences, not pass the buck to each other,” added Tomkins.

The Scottish Conservatives lost their position as the largest party in two councils, including Perth and Kinross, widely seen ahead of the vote as a ‘gauge’ that would signal the party’s performance. Gains made there under former popular leader Ruth Davidson in 2017 were largely reversed on Friday, with the SNP emerging in first place.

Perth and Kinross Tory councilor Chris Ahern told POLITICO ahead of Election Day that he and his colleagues were “dropped in” by Johnson as they braced for losses. However, he also said he was concerned about the impression voters had of Ross.

“I think the fact that Ruth Davidson was there the last time was a huge boost and I think the fact that we don’t have her now and we have Douglas – I think that’s a slight concern “Ahern said.

Scottish Tory insiders complained during the campaign of struggles to motivate their normally reliable voters. One, who campaigned largely in Perth and Kinross, said on Friday the losses there were due to low turnout in the Conservative base.

“From the gates it wasn’t that people were changing [parties] — they were just less enthusiastic about voting,” they said.


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