Joanna Cherry in swipe at SNP ‘backstabbing’ as party row deepens

Joanna Cherry campaigning with Nicola Sturgeon
Joanna Cherry campaigning with Nicola Sturgeon
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A growing row within the SNP over bullying allegations against one of its MPs has intensified after Joanna Cherry accused party colleagues of “backstabbing” her.

The Edinburgh South West MP has said she is the victim of a “smear” campaign over claims of bullying behaviour towards former staff working in her office.

READ MORE: SNP veteran ‘quit party after bitter clash with MP Cherry’
The row threatens to widen rifts within the SNP over its approach to a second Scottish independence referendum and its attitude towards former leader Alex Salmond, who faces a criminal trial this year for charges including sexual assault and attempted rape, which he denies.

Four former members of Ms Cherry’s office staff have made formal complaints to House of Commons officials over claims of a bullying atmosphere.

The allegations are being investigated by House authorities, with the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford saying the complaints are not a party matter. Ms Cherry denies the claims.

Media reports have suggested tensions between Ms Cherry and the SNP leadership centre on party vetting procedures that have seen sitting MPs and MSPs interviewed to confirm whether they can remain candidates. Interviews are understood to have included questions about their conduct as employers.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon defends MP Joanna Cherry after bullying claims
Ms Cherry, seen by some in the party as a possible successor to Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader, would need to be re-vetted to stand as a Holyrood candidate.

After news of the bullying allegations surfaced at the weekend, Ms Cherry told a newspaper they were part of a smear campaign, and accused senior SNP figures of failing to contact her after she was the target of death threats.

“I am confident I will survive the attempts to smear my reputation,” she told the Sunday National. “I won’t lie when I say it hurts that they may have come from within my own party. The problem we have is that from the moment the first parliamentarian complained against was hung out to dry, a signal was given to those with petty motivations that if you seek to smear an SNP parliamentarian the party won’t get behind them, even if they are subsequently exonerated.”

Ms Cherry stepped up her rhetoric yesterday, posting on twitter after Prime Minister’s Questions: “At PMQs [Tory MP] Peter Bone tells Theresa May that loyal Tories want her to resign… I’ll say this much for the Conservatives – at least they do their backstabbing in public.”

An SNP insider described the atmosphere within the Nationalist group at Westminster as the worst in recent memory, and “total s***”.

Ms Cherry is understood not to have attended and SNP group meeting at Westminster on Tuesday.

Ms Sturgeon offered words of support to Ms Cherry earlier this week, describing her as “massively talented” and saying she was a “massive asset” to the party. Ms Cherry declined to comment when contacted by The Scotsman yesterday.