The new leader of the Scottish Tory Party, Ruth Davidson, has announced her parliamentary team and which roles the party’s 17 MSPs will fill. Of them all, only one – John Scott – does not have an official party role but then he is one of the Deputy Presiding Officers. That leaves fifteen parliamentary colleagues to chose from, including her three rivals for the post of leader – Jackson Carlaw, Margaret Mitchell and Murdo Fraser.
What to do with Murdo Fraser, the outgoing depute leader and runner-up in the leadership contest, was always going to be the interesting part of this shuffle. After all, she needs all the help she can given the low number of parliamentarians and the number of devolved subjects Holyrood covers. There’s also a question of leadership – his role a reflection of how magnanimous or ruthless (no pun intended) she is. At the weekend, Ms Davidson told BBC Scotland’s Politics Show she would be giving a “very big role” to Murdo Fraser.
Bet you’re wondering which plumb job he received eh? Carry on as depute leader? Nope, that went to Jackson Carlaw, along with the health brief. The finance brief? Again, no, that one went to Gavin Brown. Possibly external affairs and the constitution, given what the SNP have planned for 2014? No. In fact the Tories seem to have ignored that brief altogether, unless out-going leader Annabel Goldie has it under her culture and communities brief.
Same applies to the environment, planning, justice, education or any of the juicy briefs. Nope, poor Murdo is covering none of them. He is, however, now Convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, the only one the Tories control. Note, not the party’s lead on these areas – that’s Mary Scanlon – just Committee Convener. That’s a big role then for him then, eh? Now, while I’m a great believer in Holyrood’s committee system, this is not a role for someone who has performed very well over the last four years. Perhaps his suggestion of wanting to get rid of the Scottish Conservatives toxic brand in favour of a new, right-of-centre progressive party scared one too many party big wig.
Then again, when the party starts to in-fight again, which they are bound to, he’s far enough away from the centre to come out with clean hands. Maybe there is a method in his acceptance of this role after all.