SNP's reaction to Lisa Cameron MP's defection to Conservatives is not just distasteful but dangerous – Murdo Fraser
The politics of someone crossing the floor – defecting to another party – will always be raucous. And so it has been since my colleague, East Kilbride MP Lisa Cameron, decided to leave the division of the SNP and join the Scottish Conservatives. Lisa, you are very welcome unto the fold.
But the politics of being bullied should not be met with more bullying. Defending the rights of a victim who has been abused should not be met with further attacks. Those who blow the whistle on threats do not deserve to be threatened further. Yet those have been the responses of the SNP after they drove one of their own colleagues out of their party and into the arms of mine for the crime of showing compassion.
Let us remember how this whole affair started. A young SNP staffer complained of being sexually pestered by Patrick Grady MP, then the SNP’s chief whip. An independent inquiry upheld the complaint and Mr Grady was suspended from the SNP for six months – then readmitted.
The staffer complained of a lack of support after his trauma, but Mr Grady cannot make the same complaint. Despite his guilt being established by that independent inquiry, the then SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford urged his colleagues to back the sex pest.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that the former city banker showed less compassion for the humble victim. Mr Blackford is a man who was elected after an aggressive campaign against Charles Kennedy, which many friends believe helped drive the former Lib Dem leader to his early grave.
Dr Cameron’s ‘crime’ was to back the victim of sexual abuse rather than the abuser. For that, she was shunned by her colleagues, belittled, bullied and ostracised. It took a toll on her mental health. By profession an NHS psychologist, she became the patient, needing counselling and being prescribed anti-depressants.
You might have thought the camaraderie of politics would have seen her SNP colleagues try to support and protect her, but no the bullying intensified. You might have expected the leadership to show that they owed her a duty of care. But no, there was just more bile. You might have thought someone in the SNP would show her some basic humanity. But no, that was not the case in Mr Blackford or Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP. Nor is it in the case of the SNP of Humza Yousaf and Steven Flynn.
Now Dr Cameron may have found her political home, but hateful nationalists have driven her and her family from her actual home. Our newest MP is in hiding. She has had death threats to top off a tidal wave of abuse. “I hope someone throws a brick at you in the street,” said one. “I hope you burn” another. And: “Think your mental health is bad now – wait til you see what abuse and nastiness yer going to have to put up with.”
You might have thought death threats would be enough for the SNP finally to show some compassion to someone who was one of their own. You would be wrong. When asked about a former colleague – now in hiding with her family after a year of medical treatment for the abuse she received at the hands of her colleagues – SNP president Mike Russell described her as having had “a tantrum”, and described her behaviour as “absolutely bizarre”. And then, without a hint of self-awareness, he accused her of “ego-driven politics”.
Mr Russell has gained the status of an ‘elder statesman’ of Scottish politics, not by being a statesman but just by getting elderly. These comments suggest he is none the wiser for his many years. He joined his leader Mr Yousaf in heaping pressure on Ms Cameron and calling on her to step down. Thankfully, despite all the abuse that has come from her nationalist former colleagues, she is made of sterner stuff.
From time to time, every party finds itself embarrassed by the behaviour of one of its elected members, but on those occasions every party backs the abused over the abuser – apart from the SNP. Every party shows compassion for the victim – apart from the SNP. Every party rallies around its own when they are in difficulty – apart from the SNP. Even robust old hands like Angus Brendan McNeill have found themselves drummed out for not toeing the line.
The SNP leadership’s stance isn’t just distasteful, it is dangerous. When an elected Member of Parliament is forced from her home and into hiding by threats of violence their response is not to appeal for calm, but to pile on the pressure.
The murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess, Labour and Conservative MPs respectively, chilled every one of us who has a soul and a sense of decency. The failure of the SNP leadership to condemn those who have made threats against Dr Cameron is in sharp contrast, and a national disgrace. She defied her party’s discipline to stand up for the victim and has now become one herself. No word of support either from the Scottish Labour party. Clearly being miffed over Dr Cameron not joining them is more important to Labour than threats of violence against a woman.
Almost every politician at some point in their career calls for a ‘new’ style of politics, while attacking their opponents in the same old way, but the SNP seem to be endorsing a new style of politics that we should all condemn. One where standing up for what you believe to be right can cost you your health. One where the vilest abuse is not just tolerated, but tacitly encouraged. One where death threats are not condemned.
Scotland must show courage to reject this style of politics just as Dr Cameron has shown bravery in rejecting the bullying of the SNP.
Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife
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