Voting For A New Britain: Tory lawyer thrives in the `job from hell'

Poll Star

IT WAS the job from Hell. Who would want to be leader of the Scottish Tories after the party's obliteration north of the border at the general election?

When the Edinburgh lawyer David McLetchie stepped into the breach, not many rated his chances. Not only did he come with baggage - Sir Michael Forsyth, the much-disliked former secretary of state for Scotland, was a mentor - but he had never been an elected politician.

Inside and outside the party doom merchants warned that the balding, bespectacled Mr McLetchie, a contemporary of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, at Edinburgh University, was too uncharismatic to stand any chance of gluing back together the shattered Scottish Tories.

But Mr McLetchie, 46, has been the surprise of a less than scintillating campaign. Suspicions that he, of all the party leaders, was having a good election are supported by polls showing a late surge for the Tories, originally forecast to trail in fourth but who may now push the Liberal Democrats into that position.

The Tories, still pretty much a spent political force in Scotland, did not have much of a media grilling during the campaign but, even allowing for that, Mr McLetchie has proved, in debates and elsewhere, more than a match for the other main party leaders. And a successful campaign seems to have consolidated his position within a party trying to shake off its image as a branch office of the troubled and far more bitterly divided English Tories. The novice leader's progress must make the hapless William Hague rather wistful. As well as Mr McLetchie's competence, the Tories have provided other surprises, for no one would have predicted that it would be the Conservatives who would inject some fun into the proceedings.

It was not just the party's helicopter campaign trips that seduced journalists. Even slumming it on the Tory mini-bus it was clear that, in the age of soundbite and spin, Mr McLetchie was a breath of fresh air.

The vast majority of Scots will still shun the party at the polls but many seemed rather charmed by the smarm-free manner of a man who is not yet really a proper politician.

In Bridge of Allan, near Stirling, Mr McLetchie was asked if the Tories expected to do better in the Scottish poll than the general election. "It would be hard to do worse," he observed. And when he began chatting to another voter he called out to journalists, with exaggerated excitement, to come quickly: he had indeed found a Scot still willing to vote Conservative.

Perhaps it was partly hysterical relief, for campaigning this time was easier. Two years ago Tory canvassers invariably had doors slammed in their faces. "You needed a thick skin to walk up the path," recalls Mr McLetchie.

The Scots, perhaps because they are such suckers for a loser (even a Conservative), have turned pussy cat.

The Tories were the only party that had to be dragged screaming into devolution. Mr McLetchie sees nothing incon-sistent in the surge of Scottish Tory "enthusiasm" for the Parliament now it is a reality. "There was no question of us picking up our ball and going off in a huff," he says.

Ironically, the PR-elected parliament is what will provide the party with an elected base upon which to rebuild. Mr McLetchie says the Scottish Tories will use that to fight full-blown independence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all