James Forsyth had a very silly article in the Sun yesterday portraying Ruth Davidson as the kingmaker in any potential Tory leadership contest. No-one would deny that Davidson is currently enjoying a spell of considerable popularity among the Tory grass-roots (especially south of the border, where the myth of a "Scottish Tory victory" has taken root), but the bottom line is that everyone knows she's on the Europhile wing of the party, and that if she backs Amber Rudd for leader it'll be obvious she's doing it for Europhile reasons. Anti-European Tory members will listen carefully to what Davidson has to say, and then think "no, actually, we need a Brexiteer in there".
There are also a couple of side-remarks in Forsyth's article that had me scratching my head. He claims that Jeremy Corbyn would now be Prime Minister if it hadn't been for the Tories' mini-revival in Scotland. As I pointed out in the immediate aftermath of the election, that simply isn't true. We'd certainly be in a very different place if it hadn't been for the Scottish Tory gains, because the Tory-DUP deal wouldn't have been arithmetically viable, and as a result we'd be heading towards a second general election in the autumn. However, there would currently be a Tory caretaker administration, not a Labour one.
And Forsyth notes that Davidson doesn't want 10 Downing Street for herself, because her "immediate aim is to be First Minister of Scotland, not PM". OK, where to start with that one? First of all, it can't be that much of an "immediate" aim, because she had a chance to stand for First Minister only last year, and declined to do so. Incredibly, Willie Rennie stood but Davidson didn't. There isn't another Scottish Parliament election due until May 2021 - almost four years away. If she does have longer-term designs on a senior Cabinet position at Westminster, she may have to start planning her escape from Holyrood sooner than that. Her moment in the sun won't last forever.
But let's assume Davidson is still committed to Holyrood in 2021. How exactly does she become First Minister? There are only two realistic ways it could happen -
a) The Tories become the largest single party in the Scottish Parliament and form a minority government with the help of Labour and Lib Dem abstentions.
b) The Tories finish second in the election, but form a government after at least one other unionist party backs Davidson in the First Minister vote.
We can pretty much rule out option b) straight away. Yes, we all know Labour and the Tories are close allies in Scotland, but their cooperation has largely been of the deniable variety. The moment you have Jackie Bird telling Reporting Scotland viewers that Labour actively voted for a Tory government, it'll be game over for Labour. The problem may not be quite so stark for the Lib Dems, but I'm fairly confident they would also regard it as too much of a risk.
Which means the only way for Davidson to become FM is to 'win' the 2021 election - ie. for the Tories to become the largest single party. Well, right now we're in the afterglow of the Scottish Tories' best election result since 1983 - and the limited available polling evidence suggests they've slipped back to third place. How are things going to get any better than they are now? Tired Westminster governments generally lose support, not gain it. Perhaps Davidson's best hope would be for the Tory government to fall quickly, for Corbyn to become PM and then have time to fail...but there's no guarantee that turn of events wouldn't help the SNP more than the Tories.
Let's face it - Davidson is highly unlikely to ever become Scotland's political leader. Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson got carried away with the thrilling motion of his pom-poms a few weeks ago and announced that Kezia Dugdale is the next First Minister. He was getting way ahead of himself, but it's certainly fair to say that Dugdale as FM is now less implausible than Davidson as FM.