Belfast Telegraph

Ruth Davidson urges Tories to 'get stuck in' and overcome 'nervous breakdown'

Ruth Davidson has told the Tory party to "man up" and get over its "nervous breakdown" following Theresa May's general election humiliation.

The Scottish Tory leader, a popular figure within the party, played down the prospect of succeeding Mrs May, saying being prime minister appeared to be the "loneliest job in the world".

The Tories have 13 seats in Scotland, having gone into the election with just one, and Ms Davidson said while the issue of protecting the union was an important factor in that success, she also avoided the mistakes made by Mrs May's campaign south of the border.

"I was able to write my own manifesto that didn't involve things like taking winter fuel allowance off old people or asking to reform social care without being able to explain to people why it is," she said.

"You can't pitch roll a major policy shift three weeks into an election campaign, it doesn't work."

Ms Davidson urged the Conservative Party to get back on the front foot after the general election left Mrs May's party divided and without an overall Commons majority.

"I don't think the party needs saving.

"I think it needs to get over its current nervous breakdown and man up a little bit," she said at the Times Red Box fringe event at the Tory party conference in Manchester.

"Just because people are chanting 'Oh Jeremy Corbyn', let's not be fainthearted about this.

"We are on the right side of the argument on the economy, we know that we need to ensure that we adapt to a changing world, that we are supporting our public services, that we are looking after the younger generation.

"But we don't just pack up and go home because they have got a bit of a spring in their step. We get stuck in."

Asked directly if she would ever run for the Tory leadership, Ms Davidson said: "I honestly can't see that.

"I'm really lucky, and I'm regularly behind the door of Number 10, but it honestly looks like the loneliest job in the world."

She added: "I do want the job of being first minister of Scotland and that's what I'm working towards in 2021."

In a reference to the row over Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's interventions on Brexit, she told her MSPs: "If any of you think of writing anything, without telling me, that is counter to current Scottish Conservative policy; you are out on your ear because nobody is unsackable."

Ms Davidson claimed Labour leader Mr Corbyn was a "threat to the union" because he had been "very equivocal" on Scottish independence.

"I think that stopping Jeremy Corbyn is quite important but I'm 38, he's 68, I think I can outlast him," she joked.

Ms Davidson, who is a lesbian, said she sought assurances from the Prime Minister that progress on gay rights would not be diverted by the Commons pact with the DUP, which opposes equal marriage.

"I'm not sure (DUP leader) Arlene Foster would be comfortable with the idea of getting into bed with me," she said.

It was "pretty awful" that there was a part of the UK where a gay couple could not get married, Ms Davidson added.

She said the Tories had to make the case for the market economy but had to acknowledge people's concerns about a lack of fairness.

Although measures showed inequality was lower than it had been for 30 years, if someone struggling to get by saw a "Russian oligarch or Premiership footballer going by in a gold-plated Bentley, the world doesn't feel that bloody fair".

Scottish Tory MPs are learning to operate as a bloc at Westminster and because Mrs May does not have a majority, they can wield influence over the Prime Minister, something Ms Davidson suggested would result in extra funding for Scotland.

Chancellor Philip Hammond had acknowledged they were "assertive" and Ms Davidson said she was "looking forward to hearing the Budget".

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