Ruth Davidson announced today that she will resign as leader of the Scottish Tory as she confessed that her political career had made a toll in her private lives. The rising Tory star, who is credited with masterminding the party’s revival north of the Border, has been an outspoken critic of both Boris Johnson and Brexit.
In an impassioned letter the mother-of-one said in trying to be a good leader she had ‘proved a poor daughter, sister, partner and friend’. She admitted that while spending hours on the road and away from home once ‘fired her up’ it now ‘filled her with dread’. She neither criticises nor praises Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the letter, saying only she has, ‘not hidden the conflict I have felt over Brexit’.
The 40-year-old, who was touted as a future leader of the UK Conservatives until she explicitly ruled out taking on the post, will continue as MSP for Edinburgh Central until 2021. Sources last night insisted her decision to go was not directly related to Boris Johnson’s election as Tory leader or his controversial decision to suspend Parliament next month.
But they acknowledged that concerns about a No Deal Brexit were a factor, along with the toll that the leadership has taken on her personal life at a time when she is caring for her first child, Finn, who was born in October. Miss Davidson’s departure deals a withering last blow to Mr Johnson and his hopes of securing a majority at the next election, which could come within weeks.
Last month, Miss Davidson clashed with Mr Johnson over Brexit and warned that she did not accept his strategy going forward. ‘I don’t think the Government should pursue a No Deal Brexit and, if it comes to it, I won’t support it,’ she said at the time.
Last night, she told the Scottish Daily Mail the party was in ‘great shape’ in Scotland, adding: ‘I understand the speculation surrounding my leadership and I will be making my position clear later today. ‘Those of us who are lucky enough to serve in political leadership accept the toll it takes, but there’s a part of us which can never accept the effect it has on family and friends too.’
Miss Davidson’s direct style and charismatic personality were credited with turning around the Tory party’s moribund fortunes in Scotland and delivering 13 MPs at the last election, which proved crucial in keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street.
Downing Street sources acknowledged that the timing of Miss Davidson’s departure was ‘not ideal’ as Mr Johnson is trying to keep the party united behind his strategy of taking Britain out of the European Union on October 31 come what may.
Her resignation will fuel concerns that Mr Johnson has a ‘Scottish problem’ which could cost the Conservatives at any upcoming election.
This comes as Lord Young of Cookham resigned as a whip in the House of Lords after the Prime Minister announced he was proroguing Parliament for an extended period, a Government source confirmed this morning.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, a close ally of Miss Davidson, last night said: ‘Ruth Davidson is a wonderful talent and person, and we owe her a tremendous debt for turning our fortunes around in Scotland. ‘Our party is a better one with her in it and I hope she will continue to contribute to public life.’ Miss Davidson had dreamed of becoming Scotland’s first post-devolution Tory leader.
The ambition had led her to resist pressure from Tory moderates to relocate to Westminster and seek the party’s national leadership. It is understood that Miss Davidson made her mind up to stand down on Tuesday and had begun making preparations to hold a press conference to announce her decision, which will go ahead as planned today.