THE CONSERVATIVE Party are at risk of “imploding” amid infighting over whether Boris Johnson should resign, according to polling expert Professor John Curtice.

The Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University warned of the risks facing the Prime Minister’s party, following swipes taken towards Scottish Tories who called on Mr Johnson to step aside.

On Wednesday, Douglas Ross became the highest profile Conservative to call for his resignation, claiming Mr Johnson’s position is now “untenable” after admitting to attending a party thrown in the Downing Street garden during lockdown.

It is claimed that all 31 Scottish Tory MSPs believe Mr Johnson should step down.

HeraldScotland:

But Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, told BBC’s Newsnight: “Douglas Ross has always been quite a lightweight figure.”

He said the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, who is supportive of the PM, was “much more substantial and important”.

Polling guru Prof Curtice has warned against the potential damage of such comments – adding they will get repeated “endlessly” north of the border.

Earlier, Mr Rees-Mogg told LBC he did not think the Scottish Conservative leader was “a big figure”.

He added: “I don’t think it’s a surprise Douglas Ross takes this view.

“He’s never been a supporter of the prime minister. He has constantly made disobliging comments about the PM.”

 

Rees-Mogg’s jibes were echoed by Michael Gove, who said of the Moray MP: “My instant response is he’s in Elgin and the national Tory leader is in London.”

Asked on BBC's Good Morning Scotland if the Tories were in trouble, Prof Curtice said: “What is certainly true is that, and we can anticipate that if Mr Johnson is still there and the leader of the House of Commons is still there, that those words are going to get repeated endlessly north of the border.

“It certainly shows how, given the difficulties the conservatives are now in, they are at risk of beginning to implode themselves as a result of the internal fighting within the party.”

Prof Curtice said the upcoming council elections north of the border could help explain why Tories in Scotland are speaking out against Mr Johnson.

He said the Scottish Conservative Party “knows it is on a sticky wicket” with the local elections in May.

While he said the Tories will “not want to be fighting those elections against a backdrop of a party that has lost its popularity”, he added: “That at the moment is the prospect that faces it.

“Which perhaps helps to explain why Tory MSPs have been the first out of the hatch to say that the Prime Minister should go.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives insisted the party has “nothing to say about Mr Rees-Mogg”, but former MSP Adam Tomkins insisted he was “wrong” to brand Mr Ross a “lightweight” – describing it as “very rude and dismissive”.

Professor Tomkins added there is now some “serious thinking” that needs to be done in Scotland about the links between the party on either side of the border.

Prof Tomkins earlier told the programme: “There’s a ‘Save Boris’ operation going on at the moment, which you would expect Jacob Rees-Mogg to be… at the head of. That explains why Jacob Rees-Mogg was very rude and dismissive about Douglas yesterday.

“Jacob’s got this wrong – I don’t agree with anything that Jacob said about this matter.

“Douglas is a man of principle and a man of steel, and he will lead the Scottish Conservatives in the direction he thinks he needs to lead them in order to secure that credible fighting voice for centre-right ideas in Scottish politics.”

HeraldScotland:

Prof Tomkins, who quit Holyrood last year but remains a major figure in the Scottish Conservatives, hinted at a growing schism between the Tory party at Holyrood and Westminster and a possible shift in their relationship.

“I think there will always be ties but I think that Douglas and his team need to do some deep and serious thinking about exactly what the nature of those ties should be,” he said.

“All of the bad days the Scottish Tories have in Holyrood are not caused by the Scottish Tories in Holyrood, they are caused by events 400 miles south. And they need to reflect on that.

“The Scottish Conservative Party have a range of really important, substantive ideas to bring to the table in Scotland about economic policy and about social policy, and they are being drowned out because of the pantomime of the politics of Boris Johnson.”