If there is any one policy critics of SNP ineptness can point to as emblematic of how the party has ripped apart a once cohesive movement by their inability to perceive fault lines in their competency, it is the Gender Reform Bill, (GRA) a slavish adherence to the discredited Stonewall’s warped idea of what womanhood should be. To my observation, the party has suffered from Nicola Sturgeon’s utter conviction her way is the only way, and to bully her colleagues into slavish adherence conformity. Boris Johnson takes the same line with his party MPs; say ‘Yes’ or forget the knighthood; rip up agreements, or I shall appoint another who will, gang up on him as a group and you will be thrown out of the party.
In every society there are the mediocre on the make who will grab the opportunity to take on an unpalatable commission if a higher authority asks for their loyalty. Decency and ethics have nothing to do with their decision. Boris has made an entire career of promoting deadheads and bigots who suit his purpose. And the Eton Mess is a known misogynist who cannot remember how many children he has fathered. He is also very clever at creating diversions to keep attention of his stupidity and transgressions.
Journalist Kevin McKenna has similar trouble telling Sturgeon from Johnson.
TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE
By Kevin McKenna
This week’s most predictable development: Nicola Sturgeon is to host a summit of women’s groups in Scotland to discuss abortion rights. Last week the First Minister couldn’t bring herself to define what a ‘woman’ is. Perhaps she could sub-contract Stonewall to provide her with an updated guide before she meets the women’s groups. She surely wouldn’t want to be excluding anyone while she’s in the process of coming to a decision on what defines a woman. And if she’s still harbouring doubts, I suppose she could always convene a focus group to help her identify their chief characteristics.
You don’t want to be cynical about what’s motivated the First Minister’s enthusiasm for convening this abortion summit. She’s previously described herself as “a feminist to her fingertips” and so we probably ought to assume sincerity in her eagerness to “convene and personally chair” the abortion summit. Perhaps having a chance to meet and greet women in the raw will help her come to a decision about what they really are.
Now that she’s decided to become personally involved in an issue about women’s rights perhaps she might show similar enthusiasm in tackling another matter that affects their health and security. For more than two years now dozens of complaints made by female members about alleged intimidation, bullying and threats of sexual violence from within her party have been ignored by the SNP leadership.
Joanna Cherry has been the chief target for the SNP’s internal hate mob simply for advocating a reasonable debate about how the self-ID proposals in their proposed GRA reforms might affect women’s sex-based rights. Whenever Ms Cherry and others within the party who share her concerns have sought to raise the issue of their personal welfare they have been bullied into silence at the National Executive Committee and by the toxic boys club that operates under the SNP flag at Westminster. The First Minister who has shown a commendable burst of pace in convening the abortion summit has been somewhat more glacial about addressing women’s safeguarding concerns within her own party. It renders all her lofty idealism on related issues little more than performative grandstanding.
Fifteen months have elapsed since a former SNP member was convicted of threatening Ms Cherry with sexual violence, yet the “feminist to her fingertips” at Bute House never once inquired after her welfare. Instead, Ms Cherry has been demoted from her front bench position at Westminster and says she has been subjected to routine bullying at her place of work, in an orchestrated attempt to force her out of politics. Whether or not this is connected to concerns by Sturgeon loyalists that she’s a plausible candidate for the future leadership of the party can’t be verified beyond doubt.
The Scottish Government, like its counterpart south of the border, proceeds by the ancient law of any port in a storm. Lacking any identifiable centre of gravity beyond a half-hearted commitment to independence it scans Scotland’s political firmament looking for contrived excursions and alarums to deflect attention from this month’s mess.
Embroiled in a multi-million-pound ferry fiasco? Not to worry, Downing Street’s party-gate scandal will conveniently occupy the spotlight. Accused of privatising Scotland’s renewable energy bounty for a pittance? Never you mind that. Those Russians have invaded Ukraine and we must only be concerned with that right now. It would be callous not to.
It helps, of course that the spike in law-breaking in London’s SW1A postal area is almost entirely due to the activities inside 10 Downing Street (100 fines for Covid delinquency and counting). And that when the Tories’ Covid bacchanals were in full swing they were also operating a mafia enterprise in dodgy PPE equipment. It all helps divert attention from your own negligence in turning Scotland’s care homes into mortuaries.
And anyway, wicked though those Tories might be it didn’t stop you voting with them in providing Scotland’s poorest communities with a basic legal right to food as you did this week. Who knew the SNP and the perfidious Tories shared so much common ground? There they both were again linking arms to vote down compensation for miners and their families whose livelihoods were destroyed by being falsely arrested by during the strike in 1984-85. Tory psychopathy might have helped maintain the SNP’s Westminster Group in keening sanctimony for a decade but from time to time they make jolly decent bed-fellows.
Every generation of politicians on either side of the Border has its rogue element. In a polity that can host up to three national elections every few years it’s impossible to ensure that only those with personal CVs cleansed of all impurity are ever considered as candidates. Even so, it’s difficult to recall another period in UK politics when law-breaking, deception and cynical manipulation of the electorate was accepted as the mainstream and not the exception. This seems to proceed on the basis that as political malfeasance becomes so commonplace so will the electorate become desensitised to it.
The consequences of this though, are obvious. If we become so impervious to the effects of our politicians’ abject conduct in office and their daily micro-aggressions towards each other and to the laws of common decency then this will inevitably have a knock-on effect in our neighbourhoods.
The perfect storm of a hard Brexit; the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic will menace our most vulnerable communities for a generation. What might once have been deemed to be a transgression to ease a family’s burden could become a moral imperative. Once, it was only a collective sense of personal ethics and personal pride that stopped good people from breaking the law to mitigate their losses and reversals. But when these people see the lawmakers operating recklessly and with contempt for any legal censure – then they’re entitled to think that the breakdown in society has already begun to occur. And that it didn’t start with them.
If privilege and entitlement can break the law with such insouciance then what’s stopping those who have neither?
NOTE: Kevin McKenna is a columnist for various Scottish newspapers including the Guardian. This article was first published in the Herald.