The BBC is, today, running an article that suggests that the frontrunner to lead the Scottish Conservatives wants the Scottish Party to distance itself from the Party in London. In effect, Murdo Fraser wants the Scottish Conservatives to be more, um, Scottish. There is an inherent logic to this as Westminster is, increasingly, the parliament of England – and more powers are being devolved to the regional parliaments. Fraser’s ambition, apparently, is to create a Scottish right-of-centre party in Scotland, freed of London-centric coalition baggage.
I gather that similar moves are afoot to create a Northern Ireland centre-right party out of the ruins of the near-dead Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservatives in Northern Ireland. Rumour has it that several prominent Ulster Unionists are planning to defect to the Conservatives in the next couple of weeks. And, in an act of meeting them halfway, the Conservative leadership here wants to create a new NI-focused centre-right, and non-sectarian brand – much more distant from the London Party.
To an extent this seems logical. Some in the UUP genuinely want to distance themselves from the sectarian baggage the party brings to electorate – but don’t want to join a Conservative Party that has no, local, electoral prospects. Many local Conservatives have also come to the realisation that in the context of devolution there has to be an element of Realpolitik at the core of their single-nation idealism.
If the result is that a genuine non-sectarian, centre-right party is created here, I’m all for it. I’d just have concerns that the new party – whatever it’s called, will have the necessary leadership charisma to make it an electoral success.