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Apples and Oranges

Douglas Ross should stop alienating his support

Douglas Ross Apples & Oranges
Photoshop: Mark Devlin

Imagine two salespeople at your door. One sells apples, the other oranges. Both fruits cost the same.

The apple salesperson says, ‘Buy this apple, it’s tasty!’. The orange salesperson, worried at this simple message, tries a different approach, ‘You like apples? This orange is just like an apple’. 

Which one are you most likely to choose?

If the orange salesperson doesn’t believe in their product, why should we? There are many selling strategies, but dissing your own product never works. The customer says, “I was actually thinking of buying an orange until told me it’s not as good as an apple, so I’ll just take that.”

Politics is sales. A politician’s product is themselves, their party, and their policies. Not all of these are attractive all the time to all voters. It’s easy to sell popular policies; populists do it all the time. But, what’s popular isn’t always what’s good. 

Most people might think that it’s easy to sell popular products, and hard to sell unpopular ones, but all products have advantages and disadvantages. The best salespeople sell the benefits: 

You’ll love this orange. It’s far better for you than an apple. Lots of Vitamin C. Good for COVID. Think how great you’ll feel after eating it!

Which brings me to Douglas Ross’ performance yesterday…

Just after I started the Majority, I was so appalled at Jackson Carlaw’s continuing praise for Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the COVID epidemic that I wrote an article ‘Would you like a foot rub too Nicola?

Perhaps it made a difference. Another straw to break the camel’s back. In any case, a few days later, Carlaw was gone, replaced by Ross. Just a few weeks before, Ross had shown some promise at Westminster, by questioning the SNP’s ‘power grab’ narrative, and his early statements showed a willingness to confront Nationalism. 

But, Scottish Leavers were sceptical. Ever since the Brexit referendum they have been left out in the cold by the Scottish Tories. They saw a glimmer of hope when the UK party realigned, but the Scottish party, and Ross, remained Remainers.

Ruth Davidson is often praised, but she is responsible for much of today’s Nationalist narrative. She foolishly backed Remain, knowing it put her on the side of the SNP. Yet, despite no Scottish party leader advocating for Leave, over one million Scots still voted to Leave the EU. Just think what that number would have been if someone had been arguing for Leave.

Every time you hear the SNP say ‘Scotland voted to stay in Europe’ you should think ‘Thanks Ruth!’

In the years since the Brexit referendum, she never reached out to Leavers. She fought against Boris Johnson’s nomination, as did Jackson Carlaw. And that led to the demonisation of Boris in Scotland (more on this in a moment).

Now, after years of struggle to implement the largest democratic vote in the UK, and Brexit almost done, Ross, in a speech to the Policy Exchange, said:

Brexit has been damaging to support for the UK because it undermined, in the eyes of many, those common values shared across our nations.

Leaving to the side that we are one nation, why is Ross saying this? Surely, at this late stage, instead of talking Brexit down, he should be touting the potential benefits of Brexit to Scots?

By siding with those who think Brexit is damaging, Ross has further alienated all of those Leave voters who were already frozen out. One million potential Scottish voters, just left there, with no support. Demonised. Condescended to. Subverted. Ignored.

You’d think he’d be smarter: By promising to deliver Brexit, Boris Johnson delivered an 80 seat Tory majority.

In the same speech, Ross supported ‘a more flexible immigration system with a “greater role” for the Scottish Government’. An SNP policy.

Then it got worse, as if that was even possible. An ITV news interview was released in which Ross praised Nicola Sturgeon’s communication skills:

I think most objective people would say [Nicola Sturgeon] is a more effective communicator than the Prime Minister.

And, when asked if Boris Johnson was harmful to the case for Scotland staying in the UK, said:

We can’t say that the people of Scotland are absolutely wrong with their ratings on their various leaders, so we’ve got to reflect on that, and the Prime Minister reflects on it.

Carlaw got binned for less than this. Nationalists have demonised Boris from the beginning. Yet few Scottish Tories have ever stood up for him. Now that lack of support is coming back to haunt them. 

On Twitter someone said to me, ‘Ross is right because Boris Johnson is a terrible PM. The sooner he is gone, the quicker we can get on with defeating the Nationalists.’

But Nationalists will just demonise the next leader. It’s what they do. You think Sunak is safe? Not a chance. They demonise Conservatives. They demonise Labour. They demonise Brexit. The demonise the UK. They demonise Boris. They’ll demonise the next PM and will continue to demonise everything they are against. 

They demonise Conservatives. They demonise Labour. They demonise Brexit. The demonise the UK. They demonise Boris. They’ll demonise the next PM and will continue to demonise everything they are against. 

So why would anyone think agreeing with them will work? 

Then there was an afternoon of Kabuki, where Ross was positioned as some kind of saviour, fighting for us poor Scots against Westminster for furlough cash. Just like the SNP. Whoever thought up this strategy should be fired.

I’ve been told that this is to reach some group of so-called ‘indy curious’ voters: would-be Tory voters who have been seduced by Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the COVID crisis. But pretending to be Nicola Sturgeon won’t bring them back. Pointing out her many failures will. 

Pretending to be an apple doesn’t make you an apple. It makes you a fake.

It’s not as though we can’t see how this strategy will play out. Scottish Labour lost all of their voters by trying to be like, and be liked, by the SNP. But, if someone is considering voting for the SNP they won’t vote for some halfway house that is neither Labour nor SNP.  They’ll vote for the real thing. Same with the Tories. 

The only solution is to stand up, from the beginning, and fight them. Fight for your corner. Defend your people.

No-one will vote for someone who denigrates his own party. No-one will vote for someone who doesn’t stand up for their leader. Insincerity and disloyalty are not virtues and certainly not vote winners. People vote for authenticity and leadership.

Apples are apples. Oranges are oranges. Deal with it.

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Written by Mark Devlin

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Distancing himself from Boris will not win him any votes. He’s falling for the rhetoric that the Tories and Boris are hated in Scotland. This might be the case in some quarters, but not as many as some would like us to believe, after all he himself was voted in as an MP at the 2019 GE. I’m happy for him to ‘be his own man’ but there are ways and means for him to do that and to put his message across without ‘Boris bashing’. All he had to do yesterday in Parliament was highlight the strengths of and the… Read more »

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