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DEREK HEALEY: Will changing his mind on Boris Johnson be Douglas Ross’s biggest mistake?

Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson
Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson

Douglas Ross says voters “sent a message” to Boris Johnson over partygate at the Scottish local elections.

But it appears people who made the trip to their local polling station – and many who stayed at home – had a message for Mr Ross as well.

The Scottish Tory leader was lauded for taking a stand and publicly calling for Mr Johnson to resign when the scandal first broke.

He changed his mind, as many Conservatives did, faced with the prospect of a leadership election in the midst of a war in Europe.

But by hitching his horse to the law-breaking prime minister, Mr Ross has locked himself into Boris Johnson’s catastrophic orbit.

In Moray, the Highlands and Islands MSP was able take comfort from local success, emerging as the largest party. There were positive signs elsewhere in the north-east.

But he might need more than that as a buffer zone.

As day follows night…

A disastrous night for the Conservatives in England on Thursday set the scene for an equally bruising day in Scotland, where key seats were lost and the Tory vote dropped by double digits in a number of wards.

The prime minister had the opportunity to say sorry for the mauling he must have known he was about to inflict when he decided – eventually – to attend the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the Scottish Conservative Conference at P&J Live, The Exhibition Centre, Aberdeen.

But there was no apology for delegates and barely any reference to the weeks of friendly fire between parliamentarians loyal to Mr Ross at Holyrood and the Tory MPs happy to publicly belittle him as a “lightweight”.

Political rivals described the situation as a humiliation and voters received the message loud and clear.

Questions to answer

The men in grey suits now need to weigh up whether Boris Johnson is the right leader to fight the next general election.

Douglas Ross will also have questions to answer, with at least one former ally clear that blame for this election should not evaporate at the border.

As the votes were still being counted on Friday morning, former MSP Adam Tomkins said it is Mr Ross who owns the results, not the prime minister.

“It was Douglas who u-turned, Douglas who flipped, and Douglas who backed the PM,” Mr Tomkins wrote.

“He and his team need to own the consequences, not pass the buck.”

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