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Ruth Davidson's election tactic: Vote for me to be the opposition

At election time, politicians always tell you they're in it to win it.

Even when the polls and common sense suggest they haven't a hope in heck, they'll say victory is in their sights.

Not any more. Not in Scotland. Not when you are the Scottish Tories.

They haven't even fudged it. They are absolutely up front about their aim for the Holyrood election in May.

The slogan placed behind the speakers and on the lectern at their Scottish conference, both designed to be seen on television, says: "Ruth Davidson for a Strong Opposition."

Now the capitalisation of the last two words may offend my old newspaper hand sensibilities, but such an overt admission of their objective is extraordinary.

You could argue that the Tories are merely accepting reality by being honest about their electoral chances - and the polls suggest they are right to do so.

We should never take anything for granted in politics but the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon has a substantial lead, with Labour apparently well behind and the Tories behind them. Perhaps.

The extent to which the Conservatives are behind Labour varies from poll to poll but the party has decided, indeed stated, that their objective is the become the opposition at Holyrood.

And they have also decided that the best way to achieve that is to highlight what they see are the strengths of their leader.

It's not quite the cult of personality, but every speaker I have heard here at Murrayfield, where the conference is being held, has mentioned 'Ruth' or 'team Ruth'.

Parties don't do anything without a reason, and we can assume that Ms Davidson is playing well in focus groups and private polling.

Credit: PA

She is not what might have once been thought as a typical Tory. She went to a comprehensive school in a part of Fife which does not have its troubles to seek.

To borrow an image from Pete Townshend she was born with a plastic spoon in her mouth rather than the silver spoon of the likes of David Cameron.

She had a good UK election by general consensus, and before that a 'good war' in the independence referendum.

She also happens to by gay, and featured her partner in a pre-UK election party broadcast. Yes, Ruth Davidson is different.

But by putting such an emphasis on her the party does heap the pressure on someone who is still relatively young and who has only been in Holyrood for one term.

Some would still argue that politics should be about issues and policies, and it is to some extent, but personalities have always played a big part.

Credit: PA

Just look at the emphasis on Ms Sturgeon by the SNP in the UK election - her image even appeared on her own personal helicopter. Labour has already highlighted their leader Kezia Dugdale and we've seen party broadcasts about the Liberal Democrat's Willie Rennie.

Whether the Greens will do a 'Patrick Harvie, the movie' I somehow doubt. Not very...well...Green as they emphasise collective leadership.

So it seems the Scottish election is being set up, by the Tories at least, as a battle for second place. Welcome to the new, SNP-dominated, Scottish politics.

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