From Murdo Fraser's launch speech:
"the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is failing.
It is failing as a vehicle for the promotion of the values we stand for.
And it will never succeed in its current form.
A clear contradiction undermines everything we say and do.
We are a party which believes in devolving power to people but we haven't devolved power to ourselves
Of course, there will be a predictable reaction to these proposals from our political opponents.
They'll say that we are changing the sign on the office, but inside there are the same people, with the same policies.
Same old Tories. The people of Scotland will see through it, they'll say.
I say to them; this time, you're wrong.
This is not simply a re-branding exercise.
This is not PR or spin.
This will be a new party.
With a completely new approach.....
A winning party with new supporters from all walks of life."
I am in a somewhat unusual position - I have been in the LibDems, my own 9% Growth Party and now UKIP and at one stage endorsed the SNP's support of cutting corporation tax as making them the most economically progressive party in Britain. I have changed my opinions little and my principles not at all so it is clear my loyalties lie with principles rather than party names. For many others party affiliations are much more important.
So how do I feel about Murdo Fraser's proposal?
The most interesting thing about this is his call to reach out to people outside the party.
We will have to see how that goes. If it is going to have new people it will have to be organised from the bottom up rather than the centralised way all the other parties are and the Conservatives in particular.
When David Cameron decided to give up the party's "cast iron" commitment to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty he did not have to seek the opinion of party members or even MPs who would certainly have disapproved. Any party that expects to get new members, anywhere on the political spectrum, will have to accept the members influence on and discussion of what they are supposed to support.
However if the party really is new rather than the same old Tories under a different flag it should do well, perhaps astoundingly well.
There are currently 5 parties in Holyrood, 3 of which (Lab, SNP, Green) are officially "socialist", one in which economic liberalism has been made officially "incompatible with membership" (LibDems) and one which has been so scared of criticism that it has supported "Scotland's socialist consensus" of big government, regulation and anti-growth policies (Conservatives).
Clearly there is a political niche and probably a large one, for supporters of economic freedom and getting out of recession. And a niche for a party where the members actually have a say as well..
If Murdo is going to really form it as a new party he is going to have to give a serious invitation to UKIP, Brian Monteith, the Scottish Enterprise Party and others. In turn the libertarian "right" should be open to a united front and not follow the sort of silliness the of the SSP/Solidarity and the Judean People's Liberation Front.
On the other hand lets not roll over on the promise of getting our tummies tickled.
Here are 3 things I would be insist on a new party that wanted my active support:
New people - Lord Monckton and Brian Monteith should certainly be on winnable positions on regional seats if they want them (perhaps Monckton should not do so in Fife since that would be displacing Murdo). Both are clearly competent and innovative thinkers head and shoulders above most in Holyrood and if they were not included it would indeed just be the Tories in a new paint job.
New policies - every party including the Tories voted unanimously for Scotland's Climate Change Act, the world's most draconian and expensive - I cannot imagine any libertarian wishing to join a party that would expect them to campaign for that. This could embarrass the present lot since it will, correctly, look like a complete U-turn. I suggest some form of words like
"Since the Act was passed the climategate email leak and IPCC's retraction of its promise that the Himalayan glaciers will all melt by 2035 have cast considerable doubt on the catastrophic warming predictions. This is the case whether there was fraud or merely accident, indeed, because accidents are accidental it would be impossible to be sure there weren't far more of them. Consequently we wish to see the Act suspended until such time as the global record is at least half way to matching the 0.5 C decadal rise, from 1979, originally predicted".
Since it isn't a repeal it isn't a complete U-turn. Any honest alarmist should support it in the certainty that the predicted warming will happen soon and sceptics can do the same in the certainty that it won't. I would also say that a commitment to economic freedom. I would like that economic freedom to include allowing the free market to build as many nuclear power stations as there is a market for - anything less means we cannot get out of recession; EU membership is not an issue for Hollyrood but a Scottish party would have to have any MP's free to vote on EU matters according to conscience; and to have the party supporting an EU referendum..
3rd but most important - members have to dominate policy and candidate choice rather than having them imposed at the leader's whim (e.g. the dropping of the "cast iron" pledge). Without that a party to which all can give loyalty is impossible - this is particularly so since the party's MSPs, for the term of this Parliament, are going to be the Conservatives. This will also mean a far greater freedom to disagree than we are used to in UK politics - much more along the lines of US politics. However, once everybody knows that the tweets of one member do not denote party policy the media will have to accept it. Personally I would like to see candidates chosen in full primaries, as the US has, but this is likely to be beyond the financial capacity of the party. It should be remembered that while the growth of the TEA party movement in America has revitalised the Republicans and makes them almost certain to win the next presidential race the refusal of the Conservatives to even contemplate a referendum on the EU caused them to split their vote with UKIP and lose enough seats to deprive them of a majority.
So lets run a fun scenario:
Murdo becomes leader and a party is formed to which, for the first year, all Conservative, UKIP, Scottish Democratic Alliance and some other groups and individuals are automatically members.
It invites membership of "Anybody who believes free market economic liberalism has repeatedly been statistically more efficient and more conducive to progress and freedom than centralised state control; that economic progress and human freedom are good things; that the union of Great Britain has been greater than the parts, historically and culturally and that, without fully endorsing even the more moderate versions of the precautionary principle, separation should not be undertaken unless there were overwhelming evidence that it would now be beneficial in the long term; that the EU has, so far, not provided evidence of being greater than its parts; that economy; that in modern times the main driver of economic growth has been, and continues to be, energy" - All of these are clearly true and not, individually, controversial but they would all prevent a successful party being infiltrated by big statists. so long as enforced.
It establishes a very democratic constitution in which policy is decided by the party at large.
With an online, members only policy discussion board; spokesmen drawn heavily from those who are not current Tory MSPs.
It calls itself the Scottish Progressive Unionists (Unionist being the historic party name and also appealing to UKIP) (Progressive being the name that Conservatives used to stand on in council elections, with considerable success; it has been kept since by people intent on establishing a more free market party than the current Conservatives so using it would require and show their approval; it is a term the "left" have tried to adopt but, by definition, progressives believe in progress, something completely incompatible with the Luddism of the "new left"; it is also a term which means almost the exact opposite of "conservative", a name which is clearly outdated and somewhat embarrassing to any radical libertarian.)
In autumn 2012 following massive open discussion it adopts as policy - 3p income tax cut paid for by ending windmill subsidies; reduce electricity prices by building as many nuclear plants as the market wants; cut corporation tax to achieve Irish style growth; adding the right of Swiss/California style popular initiative referenda to the Scottish constitution; with an undertaking to press for referenda on separation from both the UK and EU; repeal the Climate Change Act which means to destroy 80% of our electricity supply over the next 8.4 years: Scottish Tunnel Project.
Polls put it at 29%, marginally ahead of both SNP (currently 31% and Labour (29%) who both lose some votes.
As the SNP continue towards blackouts, economic failure and more state parasitism, the Edinburgh trams passing the £1 bn barrier and the new Forth Bridge price rising faster the SNP vote collapses, largely going to SPU.
Meanwhile, with Cameron failing to seriously cut the deficit or end recession the UK Conservatives, seeing the example of both Scotland and the new Republican/Tea Party Presidency and seeing themselves sinking to 24% in the polls (& UKIP rising to 12%) ditch Cameron and form a similar arrangement with UKIP on similar policies.
All the good guys win all the elections.
The UK achieves China's 10% growth, Scotland achieves Guandong province's 15%
First British atomic spaceship reaches Saturn in 2021.
OK that all depends on everything going right, everybody getting on and the other parties continuing to make a pigs ear of things. Which part of that is impossible if we try or even unlikely?