Jacob Rees-Mogg has been told to “have a long lie down” after he accused the Scottish Conservative leader of being a “lightweight” in the party.
Leader of the Scottish Tories, Douglas Ross, said he disagreed with the criticism from Mr Rees-Mogg as a war of words erupted following calls for the Prime Minister to resign.
Mr Ross said Boris Johnson must stand down after he admitted attending a drinks party in the Downing Street garden on May 20 2020 when the country was in lockdown.
But defending Mr Johnson, the Leader of the House of Commons told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the Scottish leader was “quite a lightweight figure” in the Conservative Party.
“Go have a long lie down”
Asked about the comments, Mr Ross said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg, as anyone, is entitled to their opinions. I don’t have to agree with them.”
Speaking before entering Holyrood’s debating chamber for FMQs, Mr Ross added: “My message is I’m going to hold the First Minister to account and ensure that Scottish Conservatives continue to provide a real alternative here in Scotland.”
In a dig at Mr Rees-Mogg, who was infamously photographed laid out horizontally on the House of Commons benches, Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene told him to “have a long lie down”.
The party’s justice spokesman at Holyrood said: “(Mr Rees-Mogg) should go and have a long lie down, maybe not in the House of Commons.”
When asked if he believes Douglas Ross is a lightweight, Mr Greene said: “Not at all, he is a fine leader and he has my full support.”
After FMQs, Mr Ross added: “I’m not going to get into personal attacks.
“As I see, he’s entitled to his opinion, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
“I disagree with Jacob Rees-Mogg on his characterisation of me, but he’s entitled to make it.”
Scottish Tory MSP Liz Smith also backed Mr Ross in the ongoing row, stating he was “certainly not” a lightweight and adding she still believed the Prime Minister’s position to be “untenable”.
She added: “I thought that was a very ill-advised remark from Jacob Rees-Mogg.”
Downing Street said the Government was focused on action to “strengthen the union” after the derogatory remarks by Mr Rees-Mogg about the party’s Scottish leader.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked whether Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments undermined the efforts, and he said: “No, I think you can see what we’re doing on the union by what Michael Gove has set out, just today, on the review into inter-government relations, which seeks to take tangible action to strengthen our union.
“That’s very much been our focus.”
The Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, also claims to have tried to prevent Mr Ross from calling for the Prime Minister to stand down from his role.
The UK Government minister, whom Mr Rees-Mogg described as a “much more substantial and important figure”, said he also rejected an accusation that the Scottish Tory leader is a lightweight.
Speaking to Radio Forth News, Mr Jack said: “Over the last 48 hours, I have, in a number of conversations with Douglas, asked him to wait until Sue Gray reports.
“She’s a serious figure, she’s producing a report, my view is we wait until we see the report before we draw any conclusions.
“I would say that Douglas is far from a lightweight. He’s a very serious politician, he’s a very good adversary for Nicola Sturgeon. Douglas is a very serious and should be [a] well-respected politician.”
Asked about Mr Jack’s comments, Mr Ross said: “Alister Jack also tried to talk me out when I resigned as a minister (over the Dominic Cummings scandal) and I worked closely with Alistair when we were both in the Scotland office and I continue to work closely with him.
“At times we agree, at times we disagree, but I always respect Alister’s views as well.”
Under questioning in the Commons on Thursday, Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay described Mr Ross as a “hugely talented colleague”, adding: “I work extremely closely with him and I look forward to doing so”.
“Very rude and dismissive”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives previously insisted the party has “nothing to say about Mr Rees-Mogg”, but former MSP Adam Tomkins insisted he was “wrong” to brand Mr Ross a “lightweight” – describing it as “very rude and dismissive”.
Professor Tomkins added there is now some “serious thinking” that needs to be done in Scotland about the links between the party on either side of the border.
Prof Tomkins told Good Morning Scotland: “There’s a Save Boris operation going on at the moment, which you would expect Jacob Rees-Mogg to be at the head of. That explains why Jacob Rees-Mogg was very rude and dismissive about Douglas yesterday.
“Jacob’s got this wrong – I don’t agree with anything that Jacob said about this matter.
“Douglas is a man of principle and a man of steel, and he will lead the Scottish Conservatives in the direction he thinks he needs to lead them in order to secure that credible fighting voice for centre-right ideas in Scottish politics.”
During Thursday’s session of First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the Tories’ “unmasked disdain” for Scotland and said: “Even I am not as derogatory about him as his Tory colleagues are being.”
Noting that Conservatives at Westminster had described the Scottish Tory leader as “not a big figure” and “lightweight”, she added: “These might be personal insults directed at the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, but, actually, they say something much deeper about the Westminster establishment’s utter contempt for Scotland.
“If they can’t even show basic respect for their own colleagues, what chance do the rest of us have?
“The fact is Westminster thinks Scotland doesn’t need to be listened to (and) can be ignored.”
She said that this meant “an added benefit of being independent is that we will no longer have to put up with being treated like something on the sole of Westminster’s shoe” and added: “I suspect today even Douglas Ross finds that a really attractive proposition.”
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