Douglas Ross is 'quite a lightweight figure' says Rees-Mogg
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The news comes as ongoing hostilities between Westminster and Holyrood have triggered fears among Scottish Tory activists that the split could damage them ahead of May’s local elections. The crack appeared earlier this month when Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross urged the Prime Minister to resign over the party scandal, leading to a rebuke from fellow senior Tories.
Particularly vocal against Mr Ross was Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg described him as “lightweight” and “not a big figure”, adding that more “important” MPs, such as Scotland Secretary Alister Jack, were backing Mr Johnson.
But Scottish Conservatives have largely supported Ross’ position, with 27 out of the 31 party’s MSPs also publicly calling for Johnson to go.
But the Tory civil war has raised fears it could damage the party’s election chances in Scotland where they are already battling a polling slump.
Much of the ire from activists is aimed at “arrogant” Mr Rees-Mogg.
One local Tory activist, who has campaigned for the party in several elections, said Mr Rees-Mogg had shown arrogance with the remarks and pointed to another Commons question where the cabinet minister appeared to be unable to name the leader of the Welsh Conservatives.
Speaking to Politics Home, they said: “It shows the sheer arrogance of the man that he went on the radio and insulted Douglas Ross in a bid to shore up Boris Johnson and save his own job.
“He clearly didn’t know who Andrew RT Davies was either.
“It’s insulting. The idea that he would risk the party’s position in Scotland in a bid to defend the indefensible is galling.”
The rift made it difficult when out campaigning. “It’s an odd experience to have people expressing sympathy for you on the doorstep because of how badly you have been treated by senior members of your own party,” they said.
The May 5 elections will be a crucial moment for the Scottish Conservative party, which currently control the second largest number of council seats behind the SNP.
One Tory councillor, who is seeking to defend their seat, said Rees-Mogg’s history in Scotland demonstrated his “contempt” for the country.
“Sadly, I am old enough to remember when he ran for a seat in Fife where he went around the constituency in his Bentley with his nanny in tow,” they said.
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The news will come as an ideal opportunity for the SNP to leap on the negative sentiment surrounding the Tory Party.
Nicola Sturgeon recently added to the debate surrounding the handling of the so-called party gate affair, the fallout from afterwards.
The First Minister said it suggested the “moral decay” at the heart of Mr Johnson’s government was even worse than she suspected.
She also said some of the accusations emerging could be described as “corruption”.
It followed Tory MP William Wragg, who had called on Mr Johnson to quit over the party gate scandal, claiming some of his wavering colleagues had been intimidated by Tory whips.
Speaking to ITV Border after FMQs, Ms Sturgeon said: “These are gravely serious allegations – intimidation, bullying, blackmail, and using public money to do it is the allegation.
“I would suggest that these accusations need to be fully and, crucially, independently investigated.
“With every day right now Boris Johnson is tarnishing the office of Prime Minister, and I think if she had concerns for the interests of the country, he will go.”
Asked if the allegations surprised her, Ms Sturgeon replied: “They shock me.”
Mr Ross called last week for Mr Johnson to resign, saying the allegations were “extremely serious” and must be investigated.
SNP leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford has also called for the PM to resign on numerous occasions.
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