ARTICLE OF THE WEEK.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL. MY ARTICLE OF THE WEEK.
A WEEK is a long time in politics. The past fortnight feels like an eternity. Two weeks ago, the SNP leadership produced an 11-point plan conceding the need for a plan B if the British Government continues to refuse a Section 30 order and embracing the legal route for a second independence referendum for which I have long advocated.
I cannot pretend I’m completely satisfied with the detail of the plan but it’s a step in the right direction.
One week ago, the Justice Secretary introduced an amendment to the Hate Crime Bill to address concerns raised by a wide range of civic society bodies, MSPs and others. The amendment was designed to ensure that women who wish to discuss women’s sex-based rights would be protected from charges of transphobic hate crime. This seemed reasonable in a democracy bound by the duty to protect free speech under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
But this week the Justice Secretary withdrew his amendment after (unsubstantiated) allegations of transphobia, and I found myself summarily dismissed from the position of SNP spokesperson on justice and home affairs at Westminster
I got 30 minutes’ notice of the announcement, no proper explanation of why I was being sacked and no acknowledgement of or any thanks at all for the work I have done in that role over the last five-and-a-half years. Indeed, the press release announcing the reshuffle was a masterly piece of Stalinist revisionism in which I was not even mentioned. Airbrushed from history. A non-person. Sounds familiar?
It is not sensible to take people for fools and of course what happened was not swept under the carpet as some had hoped. While I am alarmed by the reports of mass resignations from the party as a result of my treatment, I have also been overwhelmed by messages of support from party members, constituents, members of the public and cross-party colleagues.
I could have done without the tsunami of abuse on social media and the threats of rape etc, but when a target has been painted on the back of a female politician this is to be expected and the police have been very helpful.
I want to thank all those who have sent kind messages and expressions of concern for my wellbeing and to reassure them that I have developed a pretty thick skin and I have a loving partner, family and friends and great staff which really helps.
This is not the first time I have required help from the police or indeed faced going to court to give evidence against men who have threatened me in the course of my employment as an MP.
However, it’s pretty upsetting when the threats and abuse come from within your own party and those in authority refuse to condemn them. That said, I am comforted by the fact a man has been arrested and charged. I am constrained in what I can say about the case for now but suffice to say that when the full story becomes public it will make very uncomfortable reading for some.
As to the internal politics of the SNP, what is now in the public domain is the tip of the iceberg of behaviour which I and others have had to put up with for years. I really do understand why people say – “sort this out in private, it’s harming the cause”, but please be aware there is no internal way to properly discuss policy or strategy and there is no functioning link between MPs and the leadership. I know people were shocked that I first saw the 11-point plan on a Saturday morning in the National like everyone else, but that is how things are.
And at least we now have a pretty good idea of what you can and cannot do under the current SNP leadership and keep your position.
IT’S fine to publicly call women, including survivors of sex abuse and your constituents, “Jeremy Hunts” when they write to you with concerns about self-identification of gender. In fact, you will be lauded and retweeted by the party’s official social media account.
If you are part of the party’s old guard and male, it’s fine to publicly rubbish the party’s conference backed policy on Brexit and a second EU poll and to defy the whip repeatedly. You won’t be disciplined – in fact you will be promoted.
It’s fine for staff employed by the party and the Westminster group to conduct a vendetta against a sitting MP to the extent of disrupting a National Assembly event.
It’s fine for a parliamentarian to repeatedly tweet and retweet unfounded allegations about a colleague leading to a tsunami of abuse culminating in threats of sexual violence. If you complain, you are the problem.
And it’s fine to refuse to give evidence to a committee of the Scottish Parliament and to remain in post while members of that inquiry call for you to be investigated for perjury.
All that is fine. Behaviour without consequences. Behaviour which if not actually encouraged is given tacit approval.
But it is not fine to advocate for a policy which the party leadership then adopts and to congratulate a Cabinet Secretary on the Scottish Government’s own amendment to a controversial bill. And it is not fine to get yourself elected to the NEC with a mandate of more votes than all the other candidates put together.
As one Glasgow councillor informed her Twitter followers, people have been elected to the NEC who shouldn’t have been.
And I don’t think she was trying to be funny.
There is a lesson to be learned from the backlash to my sacking – when you don’t speak to anyone and try to suppress discussion people will find public forums to ventilate ideas. And attempts to intimidate or smear those who want to debate policy don’t make the party stronger. It is left weaker when other opinions are not sought and ideas are not tested.
Notwithstanding what has occurred, I shall continue to do my job as a constituency MP and as an elected member of the SNP NEC. I love the former. I can’t say I enjoy the latter much at the moment, but it’s made a little easier by the presence of such morally upright people as Roger Mullin and some fantastic feminist sisters.
And it’s not all been bad news for me this week. I hope soon to be able to make some exciting announcements about how I will use the time freed up by the removal of my front-bench duties.
On the NEC I will continue to work with fellow elected members to try to ensure that the party adheres to its constitution and does the necessary policy and strategic work to prepare us for independence.
We cannot “wheesht for indy” much as we might want to. As a party and a movement we must address policy issues and do the heavy lifting needed to counter the arguments against independence and to prepare for the transition to a new state. No debate is not an option, if we cannot test ideas together in a civilised fashion we cannot possibly hope to persuade others.
I cannot recall ever meeting Joanna Cherry QC. It is something I hope to have the opportunity to do once the virus not longer makes that impossible. She is a figure who I can admire. She has grit, determination and an abundance of good sense and ability, and despite being treated most shabbily by her own Party emerges with her status and abilities intact and more than capable to take her arguments forward in the most formidable fashion. These problems she now faces are the result of the weakness and petty jealousies of others. She will prevail in the end, of that I have no doubt.
I am, as always
YOURS FOR SCOTLAND.
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12 thoughts on “JOANNA SPEAKS OUT!”
Reblogged this on New Scotland.
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A very fair commentary giving insight into what has been going on these last years within the party. And thank you Mr Lawson for hosting it.
It is not difficult to see how Joanna Cherry is popular. Extremely skilled, committed and straightforward, it is not difficult to see how she is at opposite end of the spectrum from Nicola Sturgeon and her foul coterie of control.
But the days of Sturgeon are coming to an end. No matter how she tries to hide it, the rottenness that she has brought to the party, is now become clear as to what has been going on. Joanna Cherry’s piece here, written plainly, succinctly by and without malice tells us that without any over elaboration.
Moreover, her comments reinforce that ultimately there is no place for the rotten treacherous politics of the kind Sturgeon and her backers have practiced. Their foot note in history will be small. The independence drive will not be stopped. Mislead for a while, undermined for a while, but not stopped. Most certainly not stopped, That is an immutable fact and change is coming – policy and personnel.
Sturgeon with the support of the deep state may have schemed well, taken control of the apparatus of the party, disengaged the membership, undermined the drive for independence and corruptly marshalled the pillars of the state to mount vile persecutions against proponents of independence. But she has not succeeded and her days are numbered.
People like Joanna Cherry and many many others with courage and commitment will take us to where we want to be. And although there are challenges, and much work still to be done, I believe we are nearer independence than we think.
And those who sought to undermine us will be a footnote in history.
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I keep hoping that one day SOON, we shall see Joanna as FM with her strength & determination for an INDY Scotland & a full team of same frame of mind people, that replace the many careerists in that once great party. But until the rot has been cleared out, I can never vote for the cabal that is Sturgeon, MURREL, Evans, Loyd, McKinnon, DORNAN whose next job should be as a Porter in a hotel carrying the dirty laundry, all of it covered in smears of many untruths, just to ensure he keeps his huge salary. So long as people still vote for the party under the leadership of Sturgeon they are as complicit in the destruction of Independence as she & her hierarchy around her. In keeping us under WM domination..
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No constituency vote from me for New SNP. Vote for someone to take the p*ss out me for another 5 years? No thank you.
I admire Joanna’s intellect and I am very grateful for the incisive way she demolishes the awful dishonesty and revolting contempt for democracy displayed by the Tories at Westminster. Scotland owes her a huge debt for taking a lead for independence and I hope she perseveres through the current troubles of the SNP.
I do not understand for one second why the party is bogged down in issues of identity and sexuality which can only be meaningfully resolved by an independent government with the power and resources to investigate and reflect the wishes and needs of Scottish society. The party turned down a blind alley on this some time ago.
I keep thinking about the campaigners who have given everything they have to the cause of independence. I think it would do our MPs, MSPs- and all those at SNP HQ – a lot of good to remember, for instance, this lady:
“A large ‘Yes’ sign has been painted on the cliffs below Edinburgh Castle, as the Scottish referendum campaign enters its final heated week.
An unnamed young woman climbed the rock face on Friday night to place the foil, pro-independence campaign’s white symbol, which has been spotted from around the city.
The night time climber suffers from a genetic illness which means she needs a double lung transplant and climbed the cliff with a tube in her nose and a tank of oxygen on her back, according to the Facebook group ‘Independence Climber’ which organised the graffiti.”
The behaviour of the people in SNP HQ and the NEC is beyond my understanding.
The headlines about individual personalities fighting with each other are disastrous in every way. They confirm one simple thing : stasis.
I used to be a teacher. If we entered a room where teenagers were behaving like the SNP are just now- we all knew the basic ideas about bringing them back together on task: a sudden surprise or shock- followed immediately by focus, clear directions and pace- it was up to us to do that.
I hope somebody does it for the SNP and Scotland as soon as possible.
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a now 60+ Female.
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How much longer can the current leadership continue ?
Not long hopefully.
Joanna is the one,no doubt about it! But to all the people that admire her and then say they will not vote SNP on the 1st vote, they are very confused. Because Joanna will certainly want you to give your 1st vote to your SNP candidate. If the SNP do not get a majority at this election it would be a monumental disaster for the independence movement. Don’t be so foolish to think anything else. These divisions in the SNP will pass and hopefully Joanna will be at the helm leading us to the goal of independence.
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A powerful statement and one that requires to be widely read by all who would seek integrity in their elected representatives to Holyrood and Westminster.
I reside in the parliamentary constituency (mis)represented by Ian Blackford at Westminster and I am truly sickened by his role in attempting to traduce Ms Cherry who through her endeavours has sought accountability of the Parliament at Westminster to matters which would be of great detriment to Scotland were they to succeed, something which to date Mr Blackford has demonstrably failed at.
It must be a matter of concern that with a few honourable exceptions the majority of the SNP MPs by their silence have chosen to support the tacit public humiliation of Ms Cherry.
Of further concern is the abject failure of Nicola Sturgeon to express any opinion on the serious threats made on Ms Cherry following her sacking and which clearly was a consequence of the decision made by the SNP leader.
It is wholly regrettable that silence from within SNP group at Holyrood would further suggest that they concur with the actions of the leadership in this matter. Kate Forbes is the elected representative for the Holyrood constituency in which I reside and it is to her great shame that she, to date, has chosen not to comment publicly particularly in view of the serious nature of the threats made on Ms Cherry. I fear an unnecessary price will be paid at the ballot box as in my book NO INTEGRITY= NO VOTE!
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I understand your frustration which I share. I would not be too hard on Kate Forbes she is also being targeted by the same nutters who picked on Joanna, this time for her Christian views. These are terrible times in the SNP.
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I believe that some of those responsible for giving Joanna a hard time, have tweeted their congratulations to one another and have said they are determined to get rid of Kate Forbes next. So it may be she is a little fearful to raise her head above the parapet too much. I did read though that she backed Joanna. I personally didn’t see it so I can’t source it, unfortunately. But I DID see a tweet whereby Angus Brendan O’Neill was told they are gunning for him too & will be getting rid of him. So don’t be fooled into thinking it ended with Jo Cherry being fired… These people are still out ‘head-hunting’ and won’t be satisfied till they’ve gotten all the folks on their ‘naughty list’, fired.
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