The Tories’ links to dubious right-wing organisations such as Hometown would be entirely in keeping with a Holyrood election campaign strategy based on an appeal to hard-line unionists. Robert Durward is, after all, the epitome of a fervent British nationalist. It will be interesting to see how they present such questionable associations to their target voters – British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) supporters prepared to put their devotion to the British state before both principle and party loyalty. But they will no doubt be helped by the fact that, as Professor David Miller notes, Hometown has become adept at concealing its true nature behind a veil of glossy corporate spin.
It is a two-pronged strategy that the Tories are developing. By both ramping up the British nationalist rhetoric and pushing the idea that British Labour has “gone soft” on the union, they hope to scoop up some of the disaffected Labour voters who don’t simply stay at whom on polling day. Ludicrous as it may be, the second part of this strategy seems to be working – at least on the more gullible British Labour loyalists. I recently saw a Facebook post where one of them went so far as to argue that British Labour was now a more valid option than the SNP for independence supporters.
Just as they did during last year’s UK general election, the Tories are manipulating British Labour and their supporters like glove puppets. Then, they got Miliband to embrace their propaganda about a deal with the SNP being the work of Satan. This time, the Scottish Tories are confident that they can get Kezia Dugdale to be just vague and incoherent enough on the constitutional question to make the portrayal of BLiS as the “party of independence” seem plausible – at least to the ultra-unionist wing of the pretendy wee party.
Ruth Davidson’s stated ambition is to have the Tories replace their Better Together partners as the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament. That ambition depends on her persuading a lot of traditional Labour voters to rouse themselves from despairing apathy – henceforth known as BLiS Syndrome – and vote for policies on education and much else which would normally be anathema to them.