SNP could come to regret early exit of Ian Blackford

Ian Blackford has been ousted as the SNP Westminster leader, with his successor to be confirmed on Tuesday.

Having shrugged off an apparent leadership challenge from Stephen Flynn mere weeks ago, Mr Blackford has stood down regardless.

To observers on the opposite benches, this is good news, with the Ross, Skye and Lochaber treated as an irritant, a joke.

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On any given session of PMQs, his mere standing up would attract loud groans from the Conservative MPs, as would whatever question that followed.

Outgoing SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford

This ire was not limited to politicians, with journalists similarly making jokes about the length of his questions and tweeting their disdain.

The thing is though, while his questions could be overly long or confrontational, they nearly always worked to the base he was trying to address.

Every week the soon-to-be former SNP Westminster leader generated a video hit shared not just by his party, but more casual followers of politics.

His words go viral with campaign groups, indy activists, and also just those angry at the Tories asking why Labour can’t be as critical.

PIC LISA FERGUSON 14/04/2021 The Scotsman Westminster Correspondant Alexander Brown chats with former Labour MP Paul Sweeney who is now running for a Labour MSP seat in the May elections. ALex chats with Paul in Springburn WInter Gardens ON THE HOLYROAD - Scottish Election 2021 The Scotsman Scottish Election feature with ALexander Brown the Scotsman Westminster Correspondant

He became a recognisable and popular with his supporters politician, something increasingly rare in modern politics, with a net approval rating that somehow only went up when he resigned.

It has been easy and frankly a little lazy to dismiss Mr Blackford for his tone in the chamber, but for casual viewers, it just looked like he cares.

And he does, care. Speaking to those who work with him, they describe the 61-year-old as a workaholic who never stops, needing to be prised away from his desk and told to go home.

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I have heard of occasions where, in hearing a family he’d been trying to help were set to be deported, Mr Blackford cried in his car because this stuff gets to him.

In my own experiences, I should add he rang on my first day at The Scotsman to congratulate me, which while kind, more importantly shows a leader across the details of securing coverage.Under his stewardship, the SNP in Westminster has seen Alba crash and burn, numerous Prime Ministers do the same, and is not without its own scandal.

But he has a popular appeal, raised the profile of the party, and following that will be no easy thing for whoever comes next.