22 October 2020
A matter of fairness.
By John Watson
I cannot say that I like the Scottish National Party and there is very little on which I would agree with Margaret Ferrier, the MP who took the train back to Glasgow despite being tested positive for Covid. Accordingly, when I heard of their respective discomfiture, I began to draft a smirking and self-satisfied article, the upshot of which was that Ms Ferrier deserved all she got, particularly after her demands for Cummings to be sacked following a far less dangerous transgression and particularly after her risible attempts to avoid blame by saying that the virus had affected her judgement.
It will no doubt be a disappointment to some of our readers that that nasty little article will never see the light of day and nor should it. It is certainly not the practice of the Shaw Sheet to “hunt with the hounds” when mud is being thrown. We pride ourselves on retaining our perspective and being fair, so here goes.
I have no knowledge of how confident Ms Ferrier was that her test would prove negative when she took her fateful journey down to London to vote. Her story is that she was feeling better. There is no reason to disbelieve that. What she should not have done, of course, was to take the train home once she discovered that the test was positive rather than checking into one of the hotels which runs isolation facilities in London. Probably she panicked. Probably she saw a busy schedule for the next two weeks falling apart and thought that it was worth taking the risk of the ride home (not her risk of course) to solve things. It was a bad and wrong decision but that does not mean that she needs to be totally destroyed.
For Nicola Sturgeon to withdraw the whip, at least for a time, was probably necessary as a matter of politics. Politicians have to set an example in times like these and clearly sanctions needed to be imposed when they fail to follow the rules. But to demand that she resign her seat was surely going too far. MPs, like those who elect them, are human beings and I do not believe there is one of them who has not in his or her time made weak, stupid, dangerous, self-centred decisions. Usually they get away with it of course; when they don’t they get heavily criticised but generally they do not resign their seats.
Why then is the SNP leader so hard on Ms Ferrier? Is there some angle of which we were unaware which means she was looking for an excuse to get rid of her? Did she feel that firm action would make some political point about Johnson’s support for Dominic Cummings? We will never know but one thing is certain. The imposing of heavy sanctions is very much in tune with the increasingly intolerant spirit of the age. Say something which is regarded as culturally insensitive and you get de-platformed. Make the wrong joke after a drink or two and your academic honours are stripped from you. Careers destroyed, achievements lost, all because someone said something foolish or panicked and got on a train. Where now the consciousness that we all make mistakes? Where now the injunction to remove beams from your own eye before you look too carefully at the mote in someone else’s?
It runs right through society, the willingness to judge and to judge harshly, the willingness to ignore achievements just because in some areas there were feet of clay. It is a little man’s approach. If you cannot make it yourself through achievements and hard work then damage those who can by seizing on their weaknesses. That is the current tide and it is a very unattractive one. I expect that Senator McCarthy would have understood it well. When it recedes, as it surely will, we will wonder how we could have been so intolerant and unforgiving. Meanwhile it is hard for those in work to stand against it because the fact that the posse moves quickly from the victim to those defending the victim exerts commercial pressure. It is therefore up to the blogosphere, the amateurs, the Shaw Sheets of this world, to stand up against unfairness and intolerance where they see it. That is why my article will remain unpublished. The truth is that Margaret Ferrier has done something she should not have done and can justly be criticised or sanctioned for it. But should that error terminate her career? Surely not.