My attention was caught the other day by an item in The Courier in which current Tory MEP and candidate in the coming election, Ian Duncan, makes a claim which is both extraordinary and dubious. Campaigning alongside Ruth “Rape Clause” Davidson in the Perth & North Perthshire constituency that he hopes to seize from the SNP’s Pete Wishart, Duncan told a doubtless carefully selected audience that he would gladly defy his party if he thought a particular policy would be detrimental to Scotland.
I scoff! Despite Davidson supporting his attempt to portray himself as some sort of rebel by calling him a “pain in the backside”, the reality is that nobody gets selected as a candidate for any party by declaring that they will work against that party in parliament. And even if they were both selected and elected, they would be subject to the party whip at Westminster just the same as any other Tory MP. Big talk from Mr Duncan. But utterly meaningless.
But there’s more. Prompted by my now habitual distrust of British politicians, I was very suspicious of Ian Duncan’s ‘evidence’ for his claim to be a political rogue prepared to “defy the UK Government line”. He said,
I am the chief whip of the MEPs and I have defied my own line because I fight for Scotland because you have to fight for the people who sent you into the parliament. Full stop, first priority, always.
In the first place, there’s a glaring contradiction in terms there. That bit about being the chief whip and defying his own line is simply nonsensical – if you bother to think about it. Being the chief whip and being a rebel are mutually exclusive roles.
And, as far as I can determine, his portrayal of himself as a thorn in the side of his party is as false as Theresa May’s claim about the SNP having been fined by the Electoral Commission. According to VoteWatch Europe, Ian Duncan has been loyal to the European Parliament group of which he is chief whip – European Conservatives and Reformists Group – an impressive 91.61% of the time. But his allegiance to this group is outstripped by his devotion to the Tory party, which is rated at a massive 98.29%.
Is that what it takes to be classed as a rebel in the British political system? If all you have to do is defy the party less than 2% of the time it might well be possible to become a rebel by accident. VoteWatch tells us that there are no fewer than 476 people more rebellious than Ian Duncan. Perhaps the Perthshire Tories should have picked one of them to stand against the estimable Pete Wishart.
The choice facing informed voters is quite clear. On the one hand we have Ian Duncan, a man who feels it necessary to make a highly dubious claim to being a rebel prepared to go against the party he nonetheless chooses to be a member of in the hope of persuading us that he has Scotland’s interests at heart.
A man who thereby acknowledges that at least some of his party’s policies are incompatible with Scotland’s interests. A man who admits that he is selling himself on a false prospectus by standing on a manifesto which includes policies that he does not support and are potentially harmful to Scotland.
A man who asserts that he will defy the Tory whip when he has been elected on a Tory ticket despite surely knowing that he would be under a strict obligation to obey.
A man who, in accepting nomination as a candidate for the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) at least tacitly undertook to accept the whip and now declares than this promise is worthless.
On the other hand we have Pete Wishart, a man who doesn’t have any need to feign commitment to Scotland’s interests as he has proved his dedication over 16 of diligent service to his country at Westminster – latterly as chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.
In the interests of openness I will acknowledge at this point that Pete Wishart is a personal friend. But my concern for Scotland transcends personal relationships. I won’t be voting for someone who considers defending Scotland’s interests to be an act of rebellion. I will be voting for Pete Wishart, the man who considers defending Scotland’s interests to be the standard priority for a Scottish MP.
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