SO it is decided. Scottish Conservatism’s bright new future is to be found in the mists of its Thatcherite past. Step forward Jackson Carlaw.

This week, the Eastwood MSP won a princely 4917 votes to Michelle Ballantyne’s 1581, securing his position in Ruth Davidson’s vacant chair in Holyrood. After more than 23 years being talked up as a potential leader of his party in Scotland, after a lifetime of Torying, toadying, and political failure, the People’s Jackson has finally triumphed.

Commander of the British Empire, MSP for Spam Valley, winner of the Mulligan’s Meats Charity Matchplay trophy eight years on the trot, we find him propping up the Whitecraigs Golf Club bar, wallet in hand, upholstered in a pink golfer’s cardie and pair of tartan plus-twos, holding forth about the club chairman’s Mondeo, the relative merits of different private schools, and the progress he is making on his handicap.

Whatever you made of her, Ruth Davidson’s political brand had a kind of social universality to it. In policy terms, her “blue collar Conservatism” may have amounted to a hill of beans, but many voters found Davidson’s persona easy to relate to. She had a bit of levity to her – which, in fairness, Carlaw shares.

But, like Nicola Sturgeon, Davidson much more neatly embodied social changes in Scotland in the last four decades. Smart, from fairly ordinary backgrounds, both women availed themselves of the opportunities education opened up to them. They won degrees, probably live fairly middle-class lifestyles, but neither woman could ever be described as desperately middle-class. Boisterous, blimpish and self-delighted, almost everything about Carlaw, by contrast, conforms to stereotype.

Carlaw is like a character from one of those 1970s English comedies of manners favoured by writers like Alan Ayckbourn and Mike Leigh. Suburban, aspirational, social climbing, he’s Margo Leadbetter’s cousin from East Renfrewshire. From every pore, he oozes smartly-maintained lawns and garden gnomes, detached homes and one-upmanship about your kids, flash cars and big tellies, outsize conservatories and keeping up with the Joneses. This isn’t the gruff aristocratic Toryism of malodorous spaniels, shotguns and tweeds, with a brace of woodcock slung over your shoulder and a small pile in the Highlands to freeze in. It’s Abigail’s Party now. Unlike Davidson – who to some extent transcended them – Carlaw is a man rooted in place and class. He’s Newton Mearns made flesh. He’s Giffnock’s soul. A man for whom God created beige chinos and the double-breasted blazer. He speaks with confidence, but like a gregarious head boy, confident of victory in a local Rotary Club public speaking competition. I’m prepared to bet substantial sums of money that a burgundy jumper paired with a blue dress shirt is part of the wardrobe rotation Mrs Carlaw keeps him safely cycling through. He’s the threat and promise of a straw hat in the summer months. He’s Weekend Brogues Man. His superpower? Being a living, breathing, chortling middle-class stereotype.

I’ve told you before, I think, about my first encounter with the Scottish Tories’ new leader when I was in high school. I was 16 or 17. At the time, the bold Jackson was not only a prominent Tory Party functionary, but a school governor. And so, when David McLetchie came to deliver an annual lecture in memory of James Maxton – oh irony of ironies – it was natural that Carlaw took it upon himself to dance attendance on his party boss.

This week, I’d done a little digging on the rest of his record. Carlaw isn’t just an old-school Tory. He’s an ancient school Tory. Having joined the party in 1978, by 1982 he was their by-election candidate in Glasgow Queen’s Park. Carlaw won 1888 votes and lost 12% of the Tory vote in the process. Writing in the Sunday Herald in 2006, Tom Shields claimed that “part of Carlaw’s manifesto was that he should have two votes in elections, one at his home address and the other at his business address. Carlaw, who is a car salesman, thought this practice from an even earlier century was a perfectly spiffing idea.”

In the dying days of Thatcher’s regime, the record shows he was an apologist for the poll tax. Rounding on what he called “faint hearts” in the South, as protests against Margaret Thatcher’s unfair community charge spread through English towns, Carlaw joined other senior Scottish Tories “to calm anxieties over the poll tax among English Tory backbenchers.” Jackson said it “stuck in his throat” that southern colleagues, who had lectured Scottish Tories about the need for “backbone”, were complaining about their “first big policy problem”.

By 1992, he was already Scottish Tory vice-chair, charged with shoring up the party’s waning electoral fortunes in the west of the country. His leadership campaign hoped to make a virtue of this long experience, reflecting that “in 1997 Jackson spent the night of the General Election on STV’s election programme commenting as the party lost every seat in Scotland”. What they neglected to mention is the grubby job he made of the campaign which saw 11 of his Scottish Tory colleagues vaporised.

Before the party’s 1997 wipe out, as chairman of the shadowy Campaign Action Group, Carlaw was head of the Tory propaganda effort. The group was made up of unnamed right-wing businessmen who had been engaged by then secretary of state – Michael Forsyth – to ramp up anxieties about devolution and a Labour government.

Their approach may strike you as familiar. Carlaw’s team ran ads claiming devolution would turn “new jobs to nae jobs” and the imposition of “a tartan tax to finance their socialist agenda”. In the spring of 1997, Carlaw even went so far as to describe the minimum wage and basic workers’ rights as “job destroying measures”.

All devolution could amount to, he argued, was the creation of a “bureaucratic, tartan yax-raising parliament dominated by Labour politicians who share similar values as those held by Glasgow City councillors”.

His propaganda unit also took a pop at the SNP. In October 1996, the group put out posters in which the legend “The Dark Side of Nationalism” appeared over a mock-up of a wall with “English Get Out” graffiti. It quoted the Scottish secretary, Darth Forsyth, saying that “patriotism is about the love of your country not the loathing of someone else’s”. “Be a patriot, not a nationalist,” Jackson’s slogan ran. You don’t need spectacles to read between those lines.

In 1996, he also came up with the wizard wheeze to replace the flaming torch of the Scottish Tory logo with “a butch lion rampant” as part of his efforts to “tartanise” the Scottish Tories and convince the electorate the Conservatives weren’t exclusively an English political party. Hear me roar.

None of which prevented him serving as Iain Duncan Smith’s tour guide around Eastwood during the quiet man’s leadership of the Conservative Party. He also wrote screeds to The Herald singing the praises of hard-right former home secretary Michael Howard, apparently unsarcastically. Here was a man, Jackson gushed, who “exuded charm and elan” and was a “revelation with the electorate”.

Astute as ever, this “revelation” secured a 0.2% swing towards the Scottish Tories in the 2005 General Election. But the bold Jackson did his best to screw that up too. Before the poll, he hit the headlines for making racist jokes at a Scottish Tory fundraiser about Chinese tourists and another about the Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s chiropodist.

Carlaw said “I had no intention of causing any offence. But if I have caused offence, then I apologise unreservedly.” It wasn’t the first – and I confidently predict, the last – time the People’s Jackson has found himself apologising for the crass excesses of spammy ebullience.

Despite the off-colour gags and the awkward headlines, Howard repaid Carlaw’s grovels by re-appointing him to the party chairman post he had vacated some years before to “focus on his business interests”. In 2003, both of Carlaw’s car dealerships went bust. Contemporary news reports suggest this receivership ultimately left the Bank of Scotland, Customs and Excise and employees out of pocket.

This is the man Scottish Tories have invested their faith in. This is the record he will, eventually, have to defend. In his leadership campaign, Carlaw argued that “to succeed, Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood need to look more like the Scotland we seek to represent”. Given all this baggage, given the narrow social constituency he represents, how do reckon that’s going to go, Percy?