General Election 2015: Conservative Annabel Goldie's uphill struggle in Glasgow

It’s not very good PR to be seen chatting to a Tory in the middle of Glasgow

Standing in the middle of Glasgow’s bustling Buchanan Street, Annabel Goldie is deep in conversation with a voter. A crowd of photographers begins to surround the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives as she talks to the man, who looks up with a nervous smile. “Don’t take my photo – security reasons,” he says.

He might have been joking, but Billy Jackson has just articulated what many Glaswegians probably feel: it’s not very good PR to be seen chatting to a Tory.

Ms Goldie, who was leader of the Scottish Conservatives between 2005 and 2011, when she was replaced by Ruth Davidson, was in the centre of Glasgow manning a “street stall” to catch the eyes of passing shoppers.

A few minutes away is George Square, which in September became the focal point of the Yes campaign for Scottish independence. As a city Glasgow voted to leave the UK, so this is hardly Tory heartland. The party still only has one MP north of the border.

 

Ms Goldie insists that she is “not nervous” doing such events and that the reaction to the Tory message is usually “good hearted”. Although they might not vote for the Conservatives, they “appreciate the frankness” of its politicians, she adds.

One of the handful of enthusiastic Conservative activists handing out leaflets and waving balloons is Graeme Brooks, who previously worked for the No campaign. “There are people who ignore us, but I’d say about 80 per cent are happy to talk,” he says. “They won’t all vote for us, but they’re at least OK to have a conversation.”

Some passers by accept his proffered leaflets grudgingly, while others politely but firmly decline. Only the odd person takes offence at the notion of voting Tory next month – which is progress in itself, according to 18-year-old activist Thomas Kerr.

“People used to get dogs abuse as soon as they did street stalls…but I don’t see that hatred any more,” he says. “For the first time ever, people are taking us seriously.”

He claims that the Tory brand is finally becoming “detoxified” north of the border and that people are starting to engage with the party on the streets. “We might be hated in Scotland but people at least respect us for coming out and standing up for our own beliefs,” he says. “That’s what’s disappeared from the Lib Dems and Labour – people don’t know what they stand for any more.”

Unfortunately, Mr Jackson will not be swayed. He says he intends to vote Ukip due to his disillusionment with the main political parties, which he believes have no regard for people’s everyday struggles.

“How can the Tory party say they’re a party of the people when they sanction people on dole money who are five minutes late for an appointment?” he says. “How do you expect a guy with two kids to go out and live like that, if they’ve stopped his money? It’s scandalous.”

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