Analysis: Lisa Cameron's defection to the Tories is clever sabotage and a knife in Humza Yousaf's back
Defections in politics are high drama, but rarely are they as extraordinary as a sitting SNP MP crossing the floor to the party’s bogeymen rivals, the Conservatives.
Lisa Cameron’s decision to do so on the eve of the party’s conference in Aberdeen this weekend and with such a withering take-down of the culture at the Westminster group and of independence is a demonstration of Francis Urquhart-style machiavellianism.
It appears designed to inflict maximum damage on her former party.
For the Conservatives, they can highlight how an SNP of eight years has decided independence is no longer the answer, while Labour can recycle the SNP’s own ‘vote Labour, get Tory’ attacks for their own benefit.
Any sane strategist in Bute House will be ditching those ‘red Tory’ attacks with immediate effect as Anas Sarwar roles out the “we are the alternative” slogans.
The defection also allows the continuation of the narrative of a divided SNP turning against one another, with the added spice of bullying allegations against party leadership.
MPs in Westminster were a mixture of furious and unsurprised when the news broke. Some believe the new Tory MP has been offered a seat in the Lords after the election.
In truth, she was facing an embarrassing defeat in the selection battle for her seat to a party activist, had threatened legal action against the party, and was threatening to call a by-election if she was deselected.
Dr Cameron is not well liked within the local party in East Kilbride, SNP insiders say. They claim she would likely have faced deselection in 2017 and 2019 had it not been for the nature of the snap elections, meaning a full selection process did not take place.
The local party released a statement stating the MP had “very little support” and her defection was a “slap in the face”, adding many had “lost faith” in her.
Dr Cameron’s backing of the use of Section 35 by Alister Jack, her opposition to gender reforms and of abortion has also sat poorly with some activists in recent years.
For many within the SNP the defection is considered the latest toy discarded from Dr Cameron’s pram, there is no sense of a talent lost.
If anything, this is being viewed as the latest self-purge from disaffected and ultimately disposable troublemakers that started with the creation of Alba in 2021.
But the image of the SNP as a broad church for those backing independence continues to weaken, week-by-week.
The SNP have demanded Dr Cameron stand down to allow a by-election, but they should be careful what they wish for as another major by-election defeat to Labour could spell the end of the First Minister.
For Humza Yousaf, it is yet another internally inflicted wound by a divided party which seems intent on destroying itself from the inside out.
Conference will likely be used to demonstrate a change of approach by the party, one Yousaf will hope dominates the news agenda more than internal party wrangling.
But as long as the knives of the Caesar-haters remain unblunted, the SNP leader will stay at risk from an ever-growing number of political stab wounds.
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