Last year, reacting to the Trump administration’s practice of putting kids in cages on the US – Mexico border, advocates of immigration reform in America adopted a new slogan: “The cruelty is the point.”
Those words kept coming back to me as I was reading The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing The Hostile Environment, Amelia Gentleman’s superb new account of the immigration scandal that rocked Britain and shamed Theresa May’s government.
The list of senior Tories slated to replace Theresa May when she is finally ousted from No.10 Downing Street is getting shorter by the week. Phillip Hammond’s reputation is cratering faster than the British economy, Boris Johnson is an obvious dud, and the appeal of staunch Brexiteers like David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg is limited to the narrow confines of the Tory grassroots. But another name routinely cited in the UK media as a plausible alternative to May is that of Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland.
You can see why some people think Davidson would be a smart choice. In addition to being young and media-savvy, she can lay claim to something increasingly rare in modern Tory politics: actual, sustained electoral success. In 2016, the Tories dislodged Labour as Scotland’s second-largest party at Holyrood and, at the general election in June, they won 13 Scottish seats, their best showing north of the border since 1983.
On 17 September last year, the day before Scotland voted by a 10-point margin to remain part of the UK, I attended the SNP’s final referendum campaign rally at the Concert Hall in Perth. The event began smoothly enough—saltires were unfurled, the PA system played nationalist pop anthems (such things exist, by the way), and activists gradually massed in front of the main stage, waiting for Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon to arrive.
About 25 minutes in, however, the mood suddenly changed. A BBC News team, led by its political editor, Nick Robinson, had appeared in the gallery and a section of the audience had started jeering. SNP officials gestured frantically for the heckling to stop. Moments later, Robinson and his colleagues left.