Tom Peterkin: SNP MPs seduced by Westminster?

SNP MPs sat on the front benches yesterday
SNP MPs sat on the front benches yesterday
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‘How ya gonna keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?” So went a popular song in the US at the end of the First World War. The song reflected concerns that American soldiers from rural areas would have difficulty settling back into agricultural life having experienced the excitement of the great European cities such as Paris.

Almost one hundred years later, one wonders whether a parallel can be drawn between US soldiers sampling the fleshpots of Europe and the possibility of SNP MPs becoming seduced by the bright lights of Westminster.

A visit to the House of Commons last week gave the inescapable impression that the new cadre of SNP MPs were thoroughly enjoying themselves down in London.

That was apparent on the spectacular terrace overlooking the Thames and the Sports and Social Bar which they appear to have taken over. It was also apparent in the chamber itself, where SNP MPs are now getting down to business and are putting on a broody hen act by getting up early to pinch Labour’s seats.

Their outrage over David Cameron’s plans for English Votes for English Laws (Evel) was tempered by glee that they had played a key role in getting the proposals delayed.

Similarly there was delight at the role they played in disrupting proposals to relax the English and Welsh foxhunting ban. The 56 MPs are emerging as a tight and able force. At the moment they have bags more energy than most of the rather moribund group of Labour MPs who were the last lot to enjoy the trappings of Westminster.

With Scottish Labour having surrendered their seats to the Nationalist onslaught and the party suffering from a leadership vacuum at both UK and Scottish levels, there is a real chance for the SNP to become the effective opposition.

As parliament breaks up, they come back to Scotland plotting how to embarrass the Tories on welfare and the detail of the European Union in/out referendum when they reconvene next term.

Having spent an entire independence referendum campaign slagging off Westminster politics, the Scottish National Party’s 56 MPs now find themselves at the heart of the system that they professed to despise.

Despite their supposed antipathy towards the place, what chance of the “fifty-six” going native?

How ya gonna keep them supporting independence when such an eventuality would deprive them of their seats on the green benches of the House of Commons, a cool £74,000 salary (after 10 per cent rise) and the potential to hold back/disrupt a Conservative government?