Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tory conference opens with Scottish dust-up

And so onto the last lap, the Tory party conference in Manchester, which begins with a bit a Scottish dust-up.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell, who had stayed above the fray in the Scottish leadership contest, has now thrown his lot behind Ruth Davidson.

Mundell, the Scottish Unicorn of the Tory Party as their only MP north of Carlisle, has spoken out against the Murdo Fraser plan to close down the Tories and relaunch with a new right of centre "Caledonia" Party.

It's an idea that has given Murdo first name recognition in Scotland but also left his campaign crashed on take-off.

Mundell joins Michael Forsyth and other top Scots Tories in backing Ruth Davidson as the kind of fresh new face that will appeal to people who don't traditionally back the party. He certainly doesn't think that a new party is the answer to the Scottish Tories poor showing.

"If I'm elected the next time I'll be taking the Conservative whip in Westminster and not entering coalition negotiations on behalf of some brand new party," Mundell tells me this morning.

"I think we've got to build on what we've got not destroy it. No one denies we don't need significant change but this is throwing the baby out with he bathwater," he says dismissing the Fraser plan.

"I had intended to remain neutral in this election but its not just about the leadership it is about the future of the whole party and about whether people would be able to continue voting Conservative in Scotland. I can't just be a bystander any more."

Mundell and Annabel Goldie make platform speeches today - sticking it to Salmond and Labour in equal measure. There is a lunchtime leadership hustings at the conference tomorrow at which we expect there to be a fight over the sandwiches

So much for the Indian Summer, it's raining in Manchester, the Fort William of England.

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