Why it's wrong for SNP to talk about sending me 'homeward' – Luke Graham MP
Politicians should be smart, witty and decent rather than engaging in rhetoric about traitors, lynching opponents or a "surrender bill", writes English-born Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham after a potential SNP rival spoke of wanting to send him "homeward".
“Go back to England” – this was the phrase flung at one of my staff members when in their local Co-Op buying milk a few months ago.
You can imagine the gentleman’s embarrassment when my staff member replied that she had been born in Africa but raised in Stirling.
However, this sort of rhetoric seems to be ever-increasing. In recent times, we have seen the division this language is causing between communities.
Whether it be the SNP’s Mike Russell calling Scottish Conservative and Unionists “traitors”, Labour’s John McDonnell calling for a female opponent to be “lynched” or talk of a “surrender bill” by some Conservative MPs, politicians have got lazy with their language, deploying simple, inflammatory words to try and settle complicated arguments.
Resetting our political discourse is essential if we wish to overcome these challenging times and I hope MPs of all shades stay true to their word and conduct themselves in the way our constituents expect – holding debates that are robust, informed and substantive.
Therefore, it was with a mix of surprise and disappointment when I saw the campaign video by a local SNP councillor who is bidding to be the prospective SNP parliamentary candidate for Ochil and South Perthshire.
In the video, the councillor repeats his claims to be born locally, while promising to send me “homeward”. As I was born down south, his implication is undoubtedly clear.
The sad truth is that my team and I are no strangers to this kind of language – my staff receive it over the phone, we see it in letters, tweets, comments and even in their local shop.
The difference is when this comes from a councillor and potential parliamentary candidate who is campaigning on a "positive and progressive" message. It needs to be called out for what it is. No one, regardless of the job they do or the role they play in their community, should be told to go “homeward”.
When our politics descends into the toxic language of nationalism, we must take a step back and ask ourselves if this is the way we want to do things.
As I said in the House of Commons just last week, nationalism promotes an exclusiveness based upon geography, puts people into imaginary categories of ‘us vs them’ and aggravates divisions rather than looking for the fibres that unite us. And yes, this means all forms of nationalism – Scottish, English or whatever guise it uses.
I have had to justify where I was born – a factor I had no control of – far too many times since getting involved in Scottish politics, which has been difficult when I was raised to believe that in Britain it doesn’t matter where you were born, but where you choose to be and what you choose to do is what truly matters.
Right now, people are angry, and to a certain extent, deservedly so. However, an MP's job is not to stoke the flames, but understand the challenges our constituents face, the opportunities they are looking for and provide solutions to improve our communities.
If you want to be the MP who is constructive, brings investment, delivers the projects and policies that will transform your constituency for the better, you must connect the dots and find the common lines between MPs across our country. Divisive language only serves to stifle and delay this understanding of our common goals.
Our political debate should be robust, but it should be smart, witty and decent. That is what our parliamentary democracy is about, without it we really have lost Scotland and our entire United Kingdom.
Luke Graham is the Conservative MP for Ochil and South Perthshire