Yet more trouble in paradise for the SNP, as senior SNP MP Angus MacNeil was observed berating his party’s Chief Whip, Brendan O’Hara in the division lobbies last night. MacNeil was witnessed booming at his somewhat diminutive colleague “You’re a small wee man!” several times before throwing a clutch of letters at him, which then scattered across the floor. MacNeil then charged off, not before lobbing a final “Small man!” in his colleague’s direction.
Guido hears the source of Angus’s anger was the Chief Whip’s decision to send a series of terse letters, instead of having a polite word, complaining about missed votes. Angus provided further context to his behaviour on Twitter this morning, with a statement of “general advice”:
“Always stand up to bullies, – esp any abusing their positions – particularly those who scurry around shouting to anyone listening, “I’ll get him, I’ll get him, I WILL get him! – mark my words” These are people, who from school, we should get taught to face down”.
You’ll take the high road…
Mr Speaker granted Angela Rayner an Urgent Question to interrogate the Government about the multi-billions of Covid PPE. This concerned £10 billion in general fraud, and the particular millions squirrelled away by ‘Baroness Bra’ in the Lords (£29 million is alleged to have gone into an offshore Trust owned by Lady Mone, the profit from a £203 million PPE contract).
At a time when parliamentary rhetoric is ebbing low, when Transport minister Mark Harper feels free to tell a sparse, early Thursday House that there is a range of stakeholder options he is working through, that he has set out his ambitions, that he wants to pay tribute to doughty champions, stalwart champions, true champions and tireless campaigners, that it is inappropriate to comment further . . . Guido has only praise for the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara for his description of the PPE scandal as “a dripping roast of sleaze”.
People say it’s easy to criticise, but that is far from true. “A dripping roast of sleaze” makes a powerful visual case at once gorgeous and disgusting. The gleaming carcass, slippery with fat, is something that we instinctively want but know in our better nature that we should not have. O’Hara might have considered more straightforward censure of the fraudsters and incompetents in the Covid contracting process with words like suppurating, pustulent or feculent. But that would have absolved us, his guilty listeners. O’Hara’s phrase implicated us all. He skewered us. Thinking of that “dripping roast of sleaze” – which of us wasn’t reminded of the impulse to hop on a plane to China and come back with a container of masks, or gowns or dental floss that could be delivered as masks or gowns?
From Gladstone to Churchill, Benn to Hague, Parliament’s seen its fair share of great oratory. It was in this tradition that Brendan O’Hara stood to speak during the second reading of the elections bill – the legislation set to introduce, among other reforms, voter ID to British elections. The SNP MP isn’t happy with the bill, so what great profound peroration did he settle on to voice his opposition?
“I think it’s total bollocks.”
One observer suggested the parliamentary language was allowable as he was technically quoting Ruth Davidson, though procedural brain Chris Bryant denies this is the case. Guido suspects a new precedent allowing MPs to label policies as ‘bollocks’ would quickly backfire on the SNP…