WE have barely heard a peep from Ruth Davidson since the UK government’s regional analysis on the impact of leaving the EU was leaked earlier in the month. She’s been AWOL in the media, and for a Tory power-player, she seems to have very little involvement in the Brexit negotiations and process thus far.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see her back in our newspapers this week. As the Oxfam sexual exploitation and abuse story continued to dominate the news, Davidson visited Afghanistan with Scottish charity Halo Trust – the world’s largest humanitarian land mine clearance organisation.

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Davidson’s visit raised awareness and helped to publicise the life-saving work that charities do, at a time when they are receiving so many negative column inches. There’s no reason to doubt that she is sincere in her belief that UK aid spending should be protected and that her timely visit to Afghanistan would send a message to her hard-right colleagues back home who are calling for funding to be cut.

For somebody who disagrees so often with the right of her party, it seems odd that she seems content to sit back and watch as they seize control of it.

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Therein lies the problem. Symbolism is no replacement for a political spine, and photoshoots cannot be a substitute for policy. For all the times Davidson chooses a safe and politically convenient moment to speak out against her party, there are far many more occasions where she remains quiet or offers only tepid resistance to policies she disagrees with.

For the Scottish Tory leader, it is relatively safe to speak out against the DUP’s appalling record on LGBT+ issues – far less so to express any real opposition to her party using them to cling to power.

Similarly, to criticize Boris Johnson during the EU referendum campaign when it looked like Remain would be victorious, and Johnson would be sent to political purgatory, is easy. To do so now, while he is the emboldened Brexit puppeteer is far riskier for a politician such as Davidson, who is keen to straddle the fence.

Davidson’s conspicuous absence from our airwaves and acceptance of a hard Brexit suggests that the consequences she warned of during the EU referendum campaign aren’t grave enough for her to stick her neck out. It is unfortunate that her influence with the Prime Minister is so often noted, but rarely seen.

Real Tory Brexit rebels, like Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke have settled nicely into their saboteur status. They do so comfortable in the knowledge that they’ve no ambitions of returning to the front bench.

Davidson is playing a longer game. She is a favourite among the membership base, a darling of the UK media and touted as a future Prime Minister.

Her inaction over Brexit and unreliability when it comes to commitment to the single market and customs union is irritating, but understandable. She’s trying to remain in favour with all factions of a party that is known for political cannibalism.

But there is an inherent risk to this strategy and Davidson’s reluctance to rock the boat beyond a half-hearted shove. No matter how popular you are, or how many column inches refer to you as ‘refreshing’ or ‘different’ – if you are leader, there will inevitably come a time when you must show your hand.

Theresa May flew under the radar perfectly during the EU referendum campaign and when it came to the leadership contest, she had managed to position herself as the unity candidate. Despite voting Remain and campaigning (quietly) for Remain, she understood that the referendum result must be respected.

But capitulating to the hard-Brexiteers as the negotiations have progressed has spread chaos and confusion throughout her party and the country.

"Pick a side!" her warring party scream at her, as May desperately tries to remember what she truly believes: such is the length of time since it was that which guided her decision-making.

Ruth Davidson should be wary not to befall the same fate as our beleaguered Prime Minister. The expectation is that her star is on the rise and that the only way is up, up, up. To get there, she may continue to make gentle interventions that earn her brownie points in the UK press, but which make very little difference overall. She could carry on with her conversion into the Church of The True Believers and pretend that she doesn’t think Brexit will be a disaster.

She could stay quiet when it is politically convenient and scramble her way to the top of the greasy pole without upsetting anybody. But when she gets there she’ll have to be a bit bolder. There’s no pleasing everybody and as Theresa May has found out, trying to do only leaves everybody unsatisfied. And when that happens, it’s only a matter of time before your fortunes and political capital go down, down, down.