All commentators are asked at some point if they have ever considered going into politics. They say you spend your life thinking and arguing about it, so why not trade the page or screen for a debate room and legislator’s life? Or, more aggressively: well, smart guy, if you think you can do a better job, then let’s see how you try.
I can only speak for myself, but I get shrill dabs at the thought of becoming an MP or MP (a duchy I could handle). I lack discipline – like most hacks, I’m nine-tenths wild, impatient, inherently incapable of sticking to a line I consider utter nonsense, and I have an uneasy relationship with the authorities. I would find it impossible to take orders from some impudent Oxbridge without answering them in the mature language of Glasgow. I’ve also been infamously rude at every party and almost everyone at them over the years. I would be in constant trouble, although, I note, this did not stop the current prime minister.
It is for this reason that I have always had a particular liking for clumsy parliamentarians—those who refuse to play the game, who cling to their weapons to the point of eccentricity, and refuse a greasy pole for their own pleasure. beliefs. At times it must be a lonely existence. It certainly calls for a real moxi.
You won’t find many of these types in the SNP, which emphasizes social cohesion and the suppression of individuality. This makes Joanna Cherry even more wonderful. The MP for South West Edinburgh has been a disaster since she was first elected in 2015. She probably had an irreparable quarrel with the party leadership, and many of her colleagues were fired from the first bench, deprived of the opportunity to run for election. Holyrood, and was subjected to constant abuse on social media, including threats of rape, which forced her to take some time off from public duties last year.
She is not an angel. Her fellow SNP MPs often swear inappropriately and speak privately of an arrogant, argumentative, and overbearing personality (she’s a QC, after all). She stayed with Alex Salmond for longer than one might think. She faced allegations of bullying by former employees, although the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner exonerated her.
Cherry seems to have come out of it all not only battle-hardened, but dedicated—or at least resigned—to a different career. Whatever ambitions she once had – perhaps to become the leader of the SNP in Westminster, a government minister in Edinburgh, even first minister – they did not materialize. She refused to go to Salmond’s Alba party, as many expected her to. Instead, she stayed with the SNP, a free-thinking wrecker, and handled some of the toughest issues in modern politics.
Most controversially, from an SNP perspective, Cherry did the unthinkable and inexcusable by repeatedly challenging Nicola SturgeonRussia’s strategy to ensure independence. She said last July that the Sturgeon government had been “terribly silent on the independence front” since the May election in Holyrood, calling the slight increase in support for independence since the 2014 referendum “poor” given the opportunity presented by Brexit. as well as Boris Johnson. She contested Sturgeon’s demand for a referendum by the end of 2023.
[See also: Surely the SNP can do better than Ian Blackford?]
She has been a regular critic of the way the SNP is run through the small cabal surrounding Sturgeon and her husband, party chief executive Peter Murrell. Earlier this year, she warned Sturgeon that any comparison of the situation in Ukraine to the struggle for Scottish independence was “crude and tactless.” Needless to say, this is not standard practice among elected representatives of the party. However, for the rest of us, it is extremely interesting.
This week, Cherry again aimed her guns at the SNP, criticizing her party’s handling of former Chief Whip Patrick Grady’s unacceptable sexual behavior and how she fulfilled her duty of caring for his victim. “The SNP has had major issues with the way it handles complaints for some time,” she said. “My party needs to reflect on the contrast between the treatment of different ‘offenders’ and rethink our pastoral arrangements for complainers.”
Perhaps the most daring of all – by far the issue that led her to the highest level of abuse – was her stance on gender recognition reforms, when she constantly raised concerns about planned changes to self-identification rules. This again put her at odds with Sturgeon, who is determined to push reform through the Scottish Parliament.
After the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned that self-identification could create problems for women’s rights, she said it was time for SNP colleagues to address these “well-founded” concerns. “There is nothing ‘transphobic’ about defining what a woman is,” she said. “You can’t defend women’s rights if you can’t define what a woman is. Likewise, you can’t legislate on trans rights if you’re not prepared to define what a trans person is.”
Her colleagues are “worried that they will be labeled as ‘transphobic’, that they will lose their jobs and receive threats of violence,” she added. “From my personal experience, they are right when they are worried. However, my personal experience also shows that it is possible to survive such attacks and continue to stand up for what you think is right.”
Cherry responded to “social media lies, slander and foul language directed at me by a number of predominantly young male members of the party who seem to have issues with middle-aged lesbians who support women’s rights based on gender.”
Often only the stubborn, the difficult and, yes, the arrogant have the courage to go against the current. Obviously, it’s easier to stick to the party line and suck up to the bosses, but who remembers the sheep? Joanna Cherry goes to great lengths to keep SNP honest, at considerable personal cost. Drawbacks and all, politics is much better if it refuses to go quietly.