We were greatly amused to learn this morning that Professor Adam Tomkins of Glasgow University, the bad-tempered darling of the Scottish Conservatives and the only political pundit who can make Alan Cochrane of the Telegraph seem measured and thoughtful, plans to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament next May.
We suspect he’ll succeed, too. It now seems plain that Ruth Davidson’s move earlier this month from the Glasgow list to the Lothian one was a ploy to get Prof. Tomkins to the top of the former, and while a Tory list seat in Glasgow is by no means a certainty next year, it’s more likely than not.
(We’ll be somewhat startled if the irritable English academic finds the courage to even try contesting a constituency in Scotland’s largest city. It’s moderately possible that his abrasive hectoring of Scottish voters’ stupidity in continuing to elect the SNP might not go down too well in the council schemes of Easterhouse and Drumchapel.)
Trying to pick out the funniest line in the announcement is no easy task.
It certainly gets off to a cracking start, though.
We assume that “if the SNP leader pips Ruth to the post” is being used there in the sense of “if Barcelona pip Kilmarnock to next season’s Champions League”.
The Scottish Tories aren’t exactly known for their strength in depth, drawing their current 15 MSPs from a talent pool that would struggle to dampen Michelle Mone’s celebrated deck (not a euphemism).
Davidson herself attracted just 1,845 votes in Glasgow Kelvin in 2011, barely clinging onto the Tory deposit, and with Annabel Goldie standing down in 2016 to spend more time with
her family the House of Lords, there’ll be a vacancy for the position of “fourth Scottish Conservative people have heard of”, after Davidson, Murdo Fraser and David Torrance Mundell, for which Tomkins’ omnipresence on the BBC will put him in pole position.
Of course, that’s assuming he’s still a Tory by then. In 2004 Tomkins spoke at a Scottish Socialist Party rally on Calton Hill in Edinburgh to call for an independent Scottish republic. He also co-authored a book on the subject with Alasdair Gray, but his position on republicanism now seems somewhat unclear.
Earlier this year he told the Herald:
“In the sense of being a parliament man, who thinks parliament should make [key] decisions and not judges or members of the royal family or even ministers, I’m still fully signed up. But in terms of getting rid of the Queen and having a presidency, I’m probably not signed up to that anymore.”
So a that’s a self-declared “fully signed-up” republican, just one who wants to keep the monarchy. Glad we cleared that up.
Professor Tomkins has of course already made his mark on Scottish politics. Having been elected by nobody, he nevertheless represented the Tories on the Smith Commission, shaping the Scotland Bill that will determine the nature of devolution in coming years. His goals on the Commission were clear, as revealed by a Twitter exchange with Scottish Labour lunatic Ian Smart in May:
In other words, the purpose of the Scotland Bill powers is – as this site warned last year – to hamstring the Scottish Government by forcing it to pick up the bill for brutal Tory cuts out of its own budget, even as that budget is reduced. It is at least nice to have the Unionist parties’ malicious intent out in the open for once.
Tomkins’ blog post announcing his intention to stand featured many other standout lines, including one heaping praise on “Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, ensuring that work always pays and moving people from the immiseration of benefit dependency to the liberation and dignity that comes with work”.
That’s a gushing tribute that could perhaps have been slightly better timed in the week when the government finally revealed that thousands of people have died while being deemed “fit for work” by the DWP. But Tomkins is happy to identify with it, following the paragraph with the words “This is the kind of Tory I am: liberal, modern, reformist”.
Tomkins is absolutely convinced that the people of Scotland are gullible morons, voting SNP only because they’ve been hoodwinked into unthinking blind faith by wily Alex Salmond and latterly Nicola Sturgeon. Any minute now, he insists (along with a whole parade of other Unionists), they will finally come to their senses and vote Tory. Earlier this month, he wrote:
“At the moment the SNP is, to many people, more of a cult than a political party. One poll found recently that 62% of Scots plan to vote for them next year despite only 35% of us thinking that they are doing a good job with the powers they have.
But this too will pass, as Scots come to understand that the SNP is not just another anti-austerity protest movement but, you know, an actual government with, you know, actual powers and stuff. Reason can be blinded by the passions, but only for so long.”
In May the Tories won their lowest vote share in Scotland in history – lower even than the 1997 wipeout when Scotland ejected every last Conservative MP in the country. John Major still got 17.5% of the Scottish vote that year, compared to the dismal 14.9% recorded in 2015. It’s now 23 years since the party won more than a single Scottish seat at a UK general election. Anyone believing in an imminent Tory revival is surely the faith-based irrationalist in the room.
Still, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the Scottish Tories must be at or near rock bottom, and with 56 out of 59 MPs and polls over 60%, it’s almost an arithmetical certainty that the only way the SNP can go is down. It doesn’t take a professor to ascertain that – a reasonably intelligent horse could probably figure it out.
But the Tories have been bumping along that rock bottom for a generation now, and we’re not sure that Adam Tomkins is the man to turn it around. We challenge him to prove us wrong: stand for a seat, Professor, not just a coward’s list place, and let the people of Scotland be your judge.