DOUGLAS Ross not turning up for a crunch vote in the House of Commons shows he's worried about his party could fall into third place in the local elections, polling expert Professor John Curtice has said. 

The University of Strathclyde academic was speaking to the BBC on Thursday morning after the Tory government said it would attempt to delay a decision on an investigation into whether Boris Johnson lied to the House of Commons about events he attended illegally.

MPs are set to vote today on a Labour plan for a Commons committee to look at his past comments about Whitehall gatherings.

Tory MPs had initially been ordered to back a Government amendment which would defer any decision on referring the matter to the committee until after the conclusion of the Met Police inquiry.

But in a late U-turn shortly before the debate began, Commons Leader Mark Spencer said there would be a free vote for Tory MPs and the amendment was withdrawn. 

Curtice said the fact Ross had chosen to campaign for the Tories north of the Border instead of support the Prime Minister showed he was concerned by bleak polls suggesting his party could slip behind Labour in the election. 

 

Scottish Tory losses would be a blow to the No campaign, according to a leading polling expertPolling expert Professor Sir John Curtice

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon 'not successful like Boris Johnson', Nadine Dorries claims

If that did occur, Curtice says, it would be a blow for the No campaign since the Tories have been the main voice of Unionism since 2016.

He told the Good Morning Scotland programme: “Douglas Ross is one of those MPs who has decided campaigning in the local elections is a better use of his time today than being in the House of Commons to back the Prime Minister. He’s not standing against him but he’s not evidently thinking it’s worth the trip to London.

“The truth is the Conservatives were always defending a difficult set of local elections north of the Border because five years ago they did so well. It was just a few weeks later the party reached its high watermark in the 2017 general election helping to save May’s premiership.

“The polls north of the Border since last autumn have been consistently showing Labour running in second place and the Conservatives in third and if that were to happen it would be the first time since 2016 that the Tories have not been the principal voice of Unionism north of the border.

“If at some point we are going to be holding another debate about holding a referendum, the further fragmentation of the political voice of unionism north of the border is not necessarily something that Douglas Ross or the Prime Minister would necessarily want to encounter.”

Scottish Tory losses would be a blow to the No campaign, according to a leading polling expert

READ MORE: Tory MPs 'will have free vote' on sending Boris Johnson to lying probe committee

Curtice added he felt the Tories were simply delaying the inevitable by initially trying to push back in an investigation into Johnson's conduct.

He added: "The Government seems to be increasingly making a bet on the possibility the Prime Minister doesn’t receive anymore fines and that the Sue Gray report does not come up with any damaging evidence of what happened in 10 Downing Street.

“It’s interesting although the Government is trying to deflect the impact of Labour’s motion, they have felt unable to ask their MPs simply to reject the Labour motion.

“Although the Government will doubtless win, we will be looking to see how many Tory MPs have decided campaigning in the local elections is a better use of their time today.

“I think they are, in a sense, simply delaying the fact that eventually they are going to be under pressure from the House of Commons to investigate this matter further.

“If there are more fines, if the Sue Gray report is damaging, then Boris Johnson is going to be in greater trouble than he is at the moment.”