Mandy Rhodes: Prime Minister Johnson will be a nightmare on Downing Street for Ruth Davidson

© Jane Barlow/PA WireScottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson

Hypocrisy is an overused word but, when describing the runners and riders in this Tory leadership contest, it is a struggle to find one more fitting.

The flimsiness of past words, deeds and promises have all been exposed in a Tory psychodrama that started with a crude plan three years ago to “take back control” from the EU, but has since left the UK helpless to the vagaries of this desperate race to the bottom.

In a contest where one of its most eccentric competitors, Rory Stewart, is billed as the normal one, and where his revelation of smoking opium at a wedding in Iran is simply seen as good manners, what would happen if any of them were to properly engage with the people of Britain? To properly meet those most affected by years of this government’s concerted efforts to hammer the poor and punish the most vulnerable?

Rory Stewart is by no means the real villain of this piece.

In fact, he and Sajid Javid seem like the good guys in a competition of extremes.

Which is why Ruth Davidson, metaphorically, patted Stewart on the back for his efforts, said he could never win, and gave her endorsement to Javid.

And while some would argue she has sabotaged her efforts to be seen as kingmaker by throwing her support behind Javid – who is unlikely to win – she is showing her skill in at riding two horses in the same race, appeasing the moderates while reading the runes and making sure that no mud sticks.

The front-runner to decide the country’s future is Boris Johnson.

Some say he is a liar and a cheat. What is sure is that he is Davidson’s biggest electoral nightmare and, after an internal poll for the Scottish Conservatives last year showed Johnson as PM would reverse all the Tory gains made under Davidson at Westminster and Holyrood, a concerted drive was launched to try to sink the leadership hopes of the MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip.

But despite their best efforts, and his worst, he remained afloat, which is perhaps why Davidson, conscious of her own polling for the next Holyrood election, was wise to not formally back him.

But it is in this manoeuvring that Davidson has committed the biggest hypocrisy of all – one that could seal her fate and that of the Union.

Despite her antipathy to BoJo and her cognisance of his many, serious and varied character flaws, she has said she would support him if he was to become PM.

If Johnson becomes our next prime minister, Davidson will not be able to wash her hands of her culpability in delivering yet another old Etonian into Downing Street.

And, for Scotland, that means an arch-Brexiteer who knows or cares so little about devolution that his cunning wheeze was to bung the rich a tax bribe to get him into power, but that would cost Scots dear.

Johnson was the figurehead of Vote Leave, has the backing of Donald Trump, and has a reputation that should disqualify him from high office.

For Davidson, he is the nightmare on Downing Street that can only encourage more Scots to imagine an independent future.