Scottish by-election a step closer
With Boris Johnson and Covid-19 back in the news, this week has had a slightly retro feel to it. Yet his is not the only seat which could face a by-election over pandemic rulebreaking.
As reported in the Guardian, Margaret Ferrier has lost her appeal against a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons. The SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West was dubbed ‘Covid Margaret’ after she “put people at risk after taking part in a debate and travelling by train while she had Covid in September 2020”.
Should ten per cent of her constituents sign the recall petition, which is automatically triggered by any suspension of over ten days’ duration, it will force a by-election. That contest would be a big early test of whether or not a revivified Labour Party is really making inroads into the Nationalist vote – YouGov projects that they could take 23 seats off the Nationalists.
Indeed, Euan McColm argues in the Scotsman that Anas Sarwar has more to lose than Humza Yousaf. (He also has an excellent piece in the Spectator on Alex Salmond’s latest reinvention.)
Meanwhile, a row has broken out between the First Minister and separatist ginger group All Under One Banner after the SNP had the nerve to schedule an independence event on the same day as one of the latter’s rallies.
And the SNP’s education minister has been told to act urgently on school violence, the Scotsman reports. “Demands for action have been growing after a series of incidents”, apparently. Another good-governance triumph for devolved Scotland.
I also did a ToryDiary on Monday about what the next election might look like for the Scottish Conservatives.
The biggest story this week was Sinn Féin’s cementing its position as the largest single party in Northern Ireland at the local elections. But we try not to duplicate in this column what we’ve covered elsewhere – read Tuesday’s ToryDiary for my theory that the result is bad for the Unionist parties but not, perhaps, the Union itself.
In the meantime, the Government is still stuck in a staring back with the Democratic Unionists. The latter have refused to go back into the devolved executive until (amongst other things) Westminster increases the Stormont budget; Chris Heaton-Harris insists that power-sharing is restored before any more money is handed over.
It will be interesting to see if this line holds, because unlike the big constitutional stuff about the sea border, more money is precisely the sort of thing that previous Northern Irish secretaries have been happy to hand over to bribe the Assembly back onto its feet.
But given the NIO’s general attitude towards the Unionists, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson might have more luck if he somehow got Sinn Féin to demand the money instead. Then paying up would be the act of a statesman – and what is Heaton-Harris if not a statesman?
Rishi Sunak has also, entirely meaninglessly, ruled out a coalition with the DUP after the next election.
Setting aside that the landing zone where the Unionists would make the difference between the Tories staying in office or not is both tiny and a long way from current polling, the DUP didn’t have the stones to enter a proper coalition even in 2017. Why would they enter one in 2024?
The post Henry Hill: Key by-election for Scottish Labour inches closer as ‘Covid Margaret’ loses appeal appeared first on Conservative Home.
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Author: Henry Hill
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