Tory Star Who Might Succeed May Says She's Staying in Scotland

The biggest applause on the first day of the Conservative Party conference was for the woman who led the Tories to stunning electoral success in June. Not Theresa May, then.

Ruth Davidson

Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

There was a standing ovation for Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, before she’d even started speaking in Manchester on Sunday. Davidson headed a campaign that saw the Conservatives increase their number of seats in Scotland in the U.K. election from just one.

And this in a part of Britain the Tories had almost written off because of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, who used Scotland to test out unpopular policies, and oversaw a hollowing-out of the country’s traditional heavy industry.

Many Tories would like to see Davidson as the next Tory leader -- and prime minister -- in succession to May. A poll of members released last week put her as second favorite behind Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. She’s a witty orator and passionate debater, in contrast to May’s often wooden performances.

There’s one big problem, though. Davidson is a member of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, where she leads the opposition to Scottish National Party First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She’s not a lawmaker in the Parliament in London and would need to win an election to the House of Commons to be a contender to replace May.

“I’m not standing to be the leader of the party,” the Press Association newswire cited Davidson as as saying at a Scottish Tory fringe event in Manchester Sunday. “I don’t sit in the House of Commons, let’s get back to why we are here -- to talk about the real issues and not about the Tory psychodrama.”

She underlined the point in her speech in the main auditorium a couple of hours later. “Let me make this clear: conference, I love London,” Davidson said. “No plans to move there myself, but great to visit.”

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