DUBBING Boris Johnson the “Teflon Prime Minister” never really felt like an apt descriptor of his time in Downing Street. In reality, he is a man that plenty has stuck to – he just chose to plough ahead anyway.

So the news that he is finally to step down as Prime Minister was a bit of a surprise. After maintaining a death grip on the position through endless scandals which should have ended his career, it seemed to me there was no level to which he, and his supporters, would stoop to stay in power. Even now, I fully suspect that his resignation announcement was, in his eyes at least, a necessary step to buy himself time to find the means to stay in power.

Regardless of his particular aspirations to that end, however, the race has begun once again for yet another Conservative Party leader and future prime minister of the United Kingdom. Having lasted three years in the role despite everything, Johnson appears to have unintentionally convinced his colleagues that literally anyone can do the job – and so a rather crowded field of Conservative hopefuls emerged, knives in hand.

Already schemes are afoot, with front-runner Ben Wallace bowing out of the race (I wonder how that backroom conversation went) and candidate campaign websites popping up whose domain names were bought up months in advance. It would seem that some have been waiting with the rat sack in hand for quite a while.

The entire affair brought two distinct memories to mind. The first led me back to a meeting of Yes activists several years ago to discuss the case for independence from the perspective of the LGBTQ+ community.

Crowded together in a living room, I recall stressing that, in my opinion, the focus of any community campaign should be to make the case that our rights, without a doubt, would be better protected and advanced outwith the rule of the United Kingdom.

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The second memory was of sitting on a bus about to leave George Square for a protest at the Dungavel detention centre over its treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers. It was the morning after the Brexit referendum vote and, while we were waiting for latecomers, David Cameron’s resignation was announced to cheers from some assembled.

It always struck me as an odd reaction. The Conservative Party had been ceding more and more ground to the far right in its ranks under Cameron’s leadership and it seemed that whoever was likely to replace him in Downing Street would be elected with a mandate to continue that descent.

These memories, while seemingly quite distinct, are both acutely tied to the race for the next Conservative leader – because no matter who takes on the role, the rights of minority groups in Scotland will find themselves under further threat from a party that seems ready to recommit itself to waging a right-wing culture war.

Just days after Johnson announced his departure, “war on the woke” rhetoric has already begun to dominate the debate over who will be the next person into the position of big dog. That means more trouble for immigrants, people of colour, disabled people and LGBTQ+ communities and the workers of Scotland. Nothing better illustrates this than Penny Mordaunt’s recognition that supporting equality for transgender people – something she had mildly alluded to in the past -– would be a problem to her campaign. Upon throwing her hat in the ring, Mordaunt (pictured) immediately pivoted to assure party members that she was not “woke”, and any attempt to paint her otherwise was done with the intent of damaging her reputation.

Mordaunt is not alone. Rishi Sunak was regurgitating anti-trans talking points before the ink on his resignation letter to Johnson was even dry. Suella Braverman, another confirmed candidate, announced she would fight a “war on wokeness” if given the keys to Number 10. It’s a race to the bottom on human rights. And while trans people once again find themselves forced to fight on the frontlines, it should be obvious by now that it isn’t really about the rights of trans people at all. We are simply a popular target for the political right.

Anti-woke rhetoric has always been about creating division among political opponents, a supercharged version of warning people to watch out for migrants stealing a slice of your cake while the ruling class make off with most of it.

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Before Johnson’s resignation, the UK Government had already started preparing to overstep the devolution settlement in order to stymie the Scottish Government on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and the Welsh Senedd on protecting the rights of striking workers. Devolution is no barrier to Britain’s anti-woke warriors.

And while useful idiots try to undermine the unions and the working class by pushing the blame for poor wages on to immigrants, or destroy the decades-long solidarity of the LGBT community working toward common goals, the Tories push ahead with their real agenda.

Johnson was a disaster for the Conservatives, a boorish, myopic toff whose interests extended only as far as the wine glass in his outstretched hand. What he provided for them, however, was a distraction from their policies. As with Trump, the endless scandals and personal indiscretions that filled newspapers left less space for proper scrutiny of government decisions.

Having learned their lesson, it’s unlikely the next PM’s reign will be quite so tumultuous. The Tories will need a new shield to hide behind – and the culture war doth provide.