Douglas Ross: Boris Johnson must reflect on disappointing local election results

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Douglas Ross said the PM would have to reflect on ‘disappointing’ local election results (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
Douglas Ross said the PM would have to reflect on ‘disappointing’ local election results (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Boris Johnson must “reflect” on a series of “very disappointing” results for the Tories in local elections across the UK, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said.

However, Douglas Ross was clear that despite voters being “unhappy” with both the Prime Minister and partygate, Mr Johnson should stay in Downing Street.

“Voters have “sent a very clear message that they were unhappy at this time,” the Tory said.

The Scottish Conservative previously made his own unhappiness with the Prime Minister clear, calling for him to step down as a result of the lockdown parties in Westminster which have seen Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak all issued with fines by the Metropolitan Police.

Undoubtedly, as I am reflecting on the result in Scotland, the Prime Minister has to, and will, reflect on the result across the whole of the UK

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

But with Mr Ross changing his stance, and withdrawing his letter demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, questions have been asked about the impact this had on the Tories’ fortunes north of the border.

The Conservatives fell to third place in Scotland in the local government elections, with Labour now back in second place in terms of votes and number of councillors.

Mr Ross insisted his change of stance had not impacted on what he accepted were “disappointing” results.

The Scottish Tory leader said: “I don’t think, had I not changed my position in light of the atrocious conflict in Ukraine, it would have changed the situation, because voters I was speaking to were unhappy with the Prime Minister and unhappy with partygate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading efforts in the West to support Ukraine following the Russian invasion, Douglas Ross said. (Rob Pinney/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading efforts in the West to support Ukraine following the Russian invasion, Douglas Ross said. (Rob Pinney/PA)

“Had I maintained my position despite the war in Europe, those voters would still have been unhappy with partygate and still unhappy with the Prime Minister because he remains in post.”

The Scottish Tories returned 214 councillors across Scotland – down from the record 276 the party achieved in 2017 – but Mr Ross insisted it was their “second best result for many, many years”.

He pointed to areas such as Aberdeenshire, Moray, South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders, where the Conservatives are the biggest party.

But in the wake of losses for the Tories in parts of Scotland, England and Wales, Mr Ross conceded: “Clearly, it wasn’t a good night and I am disappointed.”

Voters who had traditionally backed the Tories chose to “register a protest” by staying at home and not voting, Mr Ross said.

“In this election they wanted to stay at home to register their protest and we’ve got to listen to that,” he added.

He insisted he could “hear their anger and frustration”, adding that Tory leaders across the UK would be “reflecting on the result”.

Mr Ross stated: “Undoubtedly, as I am reflecting on the result in Scotland, the Prime Minister has to, and will, reflect on the result across the whole of the UK and the various parts of the country that have said very clearly they are unhappy with the Prime Minister and his actions.”

However, the Scottish Tory leader was equally adamant that “stability” at the top of the UK Government was “crucial” during the conflict in Ukraine.

Mr Ross insisted: “I think that stability is crucial at this stage in the conflict.”

He added: “I have supported the Prime Minister to lead the efforts for the UK Government, indeed, in many cases the West, to support President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine defend their country and their freedoms against the war criminal that is Vladimir Putin and his forces.

“That doesn’t take away from the fact that the voters have been very clear in Scotland, in many parts of England, and across Wales, that they are not happy with the Prime Minister or partygate and we have to listen to that.

“But my view has always been very clear that a conflict between two nations in Europe, at this crucial stage, is something that we have to treat with the utmost seriousness, therefore we need stability at the top of the UK Government while the people of the Ukraine continue to try to defend themselves.”

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