Ruth Davidson’s route to Number 10: will talk amount to anything?

Could Scotland’s opposition leader be heading to Downing Street?

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is widely seen as a popular figure in the Conservative Party. Following last June’s election, her appearance at the Conservative Party conference was met with excited applause and hype about her future in the context of a glum conference overall.

In 2016, Davidson led her party to second place at Holyrood, beating Kezia Dugdale’s Scottish Labour into third. One year later, while the Conservatives lost their Westminster majority, Davidson secured her Scottish contingent an additional twelve seats.

Most recently, according to the Sun, a new YouGov poll suggests that Davidson would perform far better at an election than Amber Rudd, Boris Johnson or David Davis, putting her in a good position.

It’s no wonder that Davidson is seen as a future leader when the Conservatives are in difficult times. Davidson has revitalised a party that was on the brink of breaking away from its UK mother-party and has taken it to new heights.

But what does the future hold for her?

This week has turned the rumour mill up to eleven in response to this question. In Davidson’s current role as Leader of the Opposition, her obvious next step is Bute House. Replacing Nicola Sturgeon would be a significant triumph for the Scottish Conservatives, but a recent Survation/Daily Record poll indicates that the SNP remain the largest party while Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives are battling it out for second place.

The next Scottish election is not until 2021, but if things barely shift then the best Davidson can hope for is a unionist majority. Becoming the largest party and cobbling together a deal with the Liberal Democrats and potentially Labour would be the ideal Davidson situation. She could then serve as first minister and after one or two relatively successful terms could run for Westminster, much like Boris Johnson did with London, but at this stage it looks more likely that the SNP will remain the largest party.

If, however, the SNP and Greens lose their majority, as looks possible based off recent polling, that could be a significant enough victory for Davidson. She could subsequently use that as a stepping stone to enter the House of Commons at the 2022 Westminster election. From there, she could use the fact she “saved the union” to enter cabinet if the Conservatives win or run for the leadership if they lose to Jeremy Corbyn. That would put her in the prime position to run to be PM in 2027.

An alternative of this is that following stepping down from Holyrood after a 2021 defeat, but a victory for the union, she could win a by-election ahead of a leadership switch before the 2022 vote. From there she could take the fight to Jeremy Corbyn in 2022.

However, there is another more radical option that has been discussed this week. According to the IB Times, the Sun reported a rumour that Conservative MP and grandson of World War Two leader Winston Churchill, Nicholas Soames could quit his seat and trigger a by-election, paving the way for a Ruth Davidson leadership.

On top of that, a number of modern elections have resulted in the party with the most votes coming in second in the final seat count, such as in 1951 and in February 1974.

First-past-the-post is outdated and does not even meet the goals it sets itself. A switch to a proportional voting system would lead to results that truly reflect what people vote for, and would not lead to “wrong winner” elections.

4. An end to coalitions of convenience

One of the reasons the Labour and Conservative parties are so dominant and united (not with each other, but in terms of the fact they remain distinct parties) in British politics is that the voting system forces a two-party system and keeps them glued together. Under a fair voting system, the parties would likely split and be more honest about who they are. Clearly, there is a large segment of Labour voters that would like to see an end to Corbyn and a large chunk on the left of the party who kept their heads down in the Blair years.

A fair voting system would allow for the big parties to split and be honest with themselves and public about their internal divisions. Different factions could put forward competing manifestos and unite after the election to form coalitions of compromise. The plurality of political opinion in this country is far too big to be caged by a two-party system.

5. A strengthened constituency link

Another supposed merit of FPTP is that the constituency link it creates is a crucial component of British democracy and should not be tampered with. The idea of an MP being a local champion is an important one, but there does not need to be a direct trade-off between fair representation and the constituency link.

A switch to the Single Transferable Vote would create slightly larger constituencies, but would result in a diverse mix of representation. Currently, there is just representative that voters can go to with issues on the Westminster level, something which can be off-putting if said MP comes from a greatly different viewpoint on key issues from the constituent. STV, used in Ireland, Northern Ireland and in Scottish Local Elections, gives voters choice at the ballot box and choice during the parliamentary term and therefore strengthens and diversifies the constituency link. Surely a healthy democracy should result in effective communication between voters and representatives?

6. Higher turnout and political engagement