The extraordinary aspect of Margaret Ferrier’s interview with the Scottish Sun yesterday was the length she went to in the ‘plea in mitigation’ stakes.
Despite the fact her egregious behaviour was a clear cut case of ‘mea maximum culpa’ the article read more like a petulant whinge than striking the correct note of contrition.
One of the lines of argument she advanced is that Covid means you don’t think straight. I can only assume she hasn’t shaken the virus as this would help explain a spectacular misjudgement on her part.
What was she trying to achieve with this?
She perhaps thought by offering an exclusive to one media outlet they would go easy on her or she could help condition the copy to her benefit. By tabloid standards the content was certainly at the benign end of the spectrum.
After the deluge of comment of the last week or so she perhaps thought, ‘I need to say something.’ Fair enough. But what she said did her case a whole world of harm for it sought to explain away conduct for which there is frankly no defence. The MP does not seem to see this and that in a nutshell is why she has to go.
Now the other motivation in ‘breaking her silence’ as the red tops like to put it, was to get over another message. She has no intention of resigning her seat. By breaking her silence she has now made her career untenable as attitudes will have hardened even further.
She is now an embarrassment to the First Minister, the SNP Westminster leader and to the party as a whole. By digging in her heels there is no way back. Her party membership will now be a casualty of yesterday’s ill-advised defence.
She has also frankly incited the parliamentary authorities to throw the book at her. One consequence of that is likely to be that her suspension from the Commons will allow her constituents to trigger a petition that will in turn trigger a parliamentary by-election.
The recall procedure means that Ferrier is not master of her own destiny. The issue of her parliamentary career will in all likelihood be taken out of her hands and referred to the jury that is the electors of Rutherglen and Hamilton West. The end game will be humiliation of which she will have been the architect-in-chief.
Although I have always thought she should have resigned immediately, until yesterday I felt sorry for her in one regard. Her family and friends will be upset by the public portrayal of her which will simply not accord with their private knowledge.
Public figures need to steel themselves to harsh criticism but loved ones become collateral damage and that is a cause for our understanding since they can rarely deal with the aftermath of a media storm.
Ferrier did a bad thing but a bad act does not make a bad person and there will be a lot of people she has helped who will be grateful for her public service.
Yesterday’s break with silence was bad, it struck the wrong tone and only made her plight worse.
She says she wants to continue to represent her constituents. In a democracy when your constituents don’t want you to represent them there is only one thing to do and that is to go and go now.
To refuse, worse still to take over £300,000 in salary in the next four years for being a lame duck MP would be the actions of a bad person.
It won’t come to that. She will come to her senses or her constituents will drive her out in a show of people power.