Politics

Scottish Conservatives: Jackson Carlaw succeeds Ruth Davidson as leader

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Media captionWill Jackson Carlaw be Boris Johnson’s chief Scottish cheerleader?

Jackson Carlaw has been confirmed as the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives after winning a vote of party members.

Mr Carlaw had been the party’s interim leader since Ruth Davidson quit the role in August.

He has now won the job full time after defeating fellow MSP Michelle Ballantyne by 4,917 votes to 1,581.

Mr Carlaw had been the clear favourite in the contest, and was backed by most of the party’s MPs and MSPs.

He said he was now “ready to hit the ground running and win” in next year’s Scottish Parliament election by attracting voters from “middle Scotland”.

The new leader has already promised a full review of the party’s policies and a “new, reinvigorated” frontbench team at Holyrood.

Within hours of his election Mr Carlaw announced that Glasgow MSP Annie Wells would become a joint deputy leader of the party alongside North East MSP Liam Kerr.

Rachael Hamilton, the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP, will become a party chairwoman with existing chairman Rab Forman.

More changes will be announced next week.

Mr Carlaw said: “This is not about asking the people of Scotland to re-elect us as a strong opposition, this is about offering the people of Scotland a clear alternative to the SNP and then fighting all the way to polling day next year to provide them with an alternative government.

“I have a bigger share of the vote than Boris Johnson achieved in his leadership election, I have a bigger share of the vote than Ruth Davidson achieved, a bigger share of the vote than David Cameron achieved in any of the previous Conservative Party leadership elections.

“So I have a clear mandate from the party in Scotland now to make the changes required to lead us into the election next year.”

Opinion polls suggest that the SNP, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, remains on course to win a fourth successive term in government in next year’s election – with the Conservatives currently a distant second.

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Image caption The new party leader was congratulated by his defeated opponent when the result was announced

The leadership contest – which was delayed by December’s general election – had been bad-tempered at times, with the two candidates trading insults ahead of the result being announced.

Ms Ballantyne, who claimed to have strong grassroots support, accused Mr Carlaw of running a general election campaign that “lacked vision and ambition”, with the party losing seven of its 13 MPs.

Mr Carlaw hit back by claiming his opponent was the only member of the Tory frontbench team at Holyrood never to have submitted a “single policy proposal”.

The Scottish Conservatives are currently the second biggest party at Holyrood, with Ms Davidson widely credited with turning around its electoral fortunes in her eight years as leader.

But she quit shortly after returning from maternity leave, saying that “much had changed” both politically and personally in recent months.

As well as the birth of her son, Ms Davidson had been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Boris Johnson – particularly over his approach to Brexit.

Who is Jackson Carlaw?

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Image caption The new leader is a close political ally of his predecessor, Ruth Davidson

Jackson Carlaw worked as a car salesman in the west of Scotland for 25 years before being elected as an MSP, but has been involved in politics since joining the Conservatives as teenager in the late 1970s.

He first stood as a candidate in the 1982 Queen’s Park by-election, and after several other unsuccessful attempts was eventually elected as a list MSP for the West of Scotland region in the 2007 and again in 2011 – when he also became Ms Davidson’s deputy leader.

Mr Carlaw, who is married with two children, was elected as the MSP for Eastwood in 2016, and served as acting leader when Ms Davidson went on maternity leave ahead of the birth of her son in May of last year.

When Ms Davidson resigned as party leader in August, Mr Carlaw was immediately appointed as interim leader – with some of his supporters hoping he would be given the role on a permanent basis without a leadership contest being required.

The 60-year-old says he wants the party to appeal to “middle Scotland” ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament election, when he says his goal is to “take down” Ms Sturgeon and the SNP.

Among his key policy proposals are increasing the number of teachers in Scotland by 2,000, bringing income taxes into line with the rest of the UK, and scrapping the Scottish government’s plan to introduce a so-called parking tax.

He told his official campaign launch last month that he stands for “a decent, generous-spirited, aspirational conservatism that promotes the values and ambitions of middle Scotland”.

Mr Carlaw secured public support from the majority of Conservative MSPs and MPs during the leadership contest, as well as all of the party’s local council leaders.

He points to the experience he has built up in his lengthy stint as acting leader – which saw him go head-to-head with Ms Sturgeon during first minister’s questions every week.

But critics say that Mr Carlaw’s tenure included last month’s general election, when the Scottish Conservatives lost seven of the 13 seats they had won under Ms Davidson in 2017 despite the Tories winning a majority across the UK as a whole.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51458319

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