Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, tipped by some as a future prime minister, hinted she might stand for a seat in the UK parliament at the next election, a first step towards taking a more prominent role in British politics.
Davidson, 39, told the Spectator magazine that her priority was elections for the devolved Scottish parliament in 2021 but that if she failed to become first minister there, it could be time to move on.
The next British election is due in 2022. “Then we can start to have other conversations,” she said.
When asked about whether she might come to the parliament at Westminster, she added, “I haven’t ruled it out.”
Davidson’s stock has risen over the last year after she revived the Conservative party’s fortunes in Scotland, gaining 12 seats there in this year’s British election while the party as a whole lost its majority.
She had previously resisted commenting on a possible move to Westminster, which would allow her to hold more prominent positions in the British party and possibly run for leader.
To lead the Conservatives, and to be prime minister, she would have to sit in the Westminster parliament, and stop serving in the devolved legislature in Edinburgh.
Bookmakers rate Davidson’s chances of becoming the next Conservative leader and succeeding Prime Minister Theresa May at around 10%.
Her personal prospects contrast sharply with those of May, who has been left in a precarious position after her miscalculated decision to hold a snap election in June.
That move resulted in her losing her parliamentary majority at Westminster and left her party dependent on the votes of a small Northern Irish party to navigate Britain’s way out of the European Union.
But Davidson, who favoured staying in the European Union and wants close ties to the bloc, defended her party’s leader.
“Nobody wants to take such a big call and to see it not work out the way that they wanted to,” she said, referring to the June election.
“I have always found her warm and self-deprecating. When she’s comfortable with somebody, she can be good company.”
She also said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “eminently beatable” in the 2022 general election, and compared the veteran MP’s personal popularity with the support for SNP leader Sturgeon.
Davidson said: “We saw Sturgeon doing political rallies to 10,500 people at the Glasgow Hydro, release a signature clothing range, sell foam fingers with her name on.
“We had seen this kind of momentum build behind a seemingly unstoppable force before — then two years later, she went and lost 40% because we dug in. You don’t run, you just keep restating your case.
“And I don’t believe that Corbyn is unstoppable. I think he’s eminently beatable in 2022.”