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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Annabel Goldie steps down as leader of Scottish Tories

So, Super Alex Salmond has not only won an incredible landslide victory in the elections to the Scottish parliament. He's also seen off three leaders, with Tavish Scott, Iain Gray and Annabel Goldie tendering their resignations during the last few days. Quite an achievement.

Who says Scottish politics isn't interesting?

Ms Goldie, my Conservative opponent in Renfrewshire North and West, has decided to step down after what she described as a "disappointing" election for the Scottish Conservatives. "For the opposition parties, we will all have to adjust to the new realities," she said. "It will be a test of our mettle and resolve to be an effective opposition. For me, and for my party, we will play our part [but] I believe that the time has come for the torch to pass and I can confirm that I will not be a candidate. I want my successor to have the maximum time for him or her to shape the party and its policies and to lead the opposition at Holyrood."

Quite a change from her attitude the previous weekend when, during a televised debate in Perth she graphically described how she hoped to be a moderating influence on either Salmond and Gray, keeping them "in order".

I don't buy this "disappointing election" rhetoric. The Conservatives lost two seats - not too bad for a party who has been heavily criticised for its role in the Westminster government. And the Conservatives were unusually positive during a campaign in which it became more apparent than ever that Ms Goldie is an asset the party can ill afford to lose.

In fact, I was discussing the Conservative leadership at the count with the candidate for Renfrewshire South and his agent. We have all been aware of mutterings in the press and elsewhere calling for Goldie to stand aside. But we agreed that currently she is as invaluable to her party as Alex Salmond is to his, and that there were no outstanding candidates lining up to replace her.

Ms Goldie is an accomplished performer and debater. During the televised debates she consistently outperformed Scott and Gray, and infused her sometimes tough policy statements with her own kind of humour. She clearly has a way of reaching out to people that is not normally associated with Conservative leaders.

There has been speculation that David Cameron has "pushed" Goldie to resign. I can not possibly deduce how much truth there is in such a claim. But I would make two points: firstly, if that is true then David Cameron has no understanding of Scottish politics. As Alex Salmond points out, "although her party lost ground I believe they would have lost more had she not been leader." Secondly, if anyone should be blamed for the "disappointing" Conservative campaign (which, when compared to the Labour and Lib Dem results, actually looks positively miraculous) then it is not Ms Goldie but David McLetchie, who shouldn't have been allowed to lead any further campaigns after his fruitless efforts at the General Election.

I am sorry that Annabel Goldie has resigned because she still has so much to offer Scottish politics. Even those who disagree with her warm to her and hold her in high regard; to put in bluntly she is the acceptable face of Scottish Conservatism.

I wish her successor the best of luck. Living in the shadow of Annabel, I suspect they'll need it.

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