Last night there was a general election debate on BBC TV involving the six Scottish party leaders.
A woman in the audience, a nurse, asked Nicola Sturgeon an awkward question about the NHS. The details of the question and their following exchange don’t, for the purpose of this quick note, matter. What happened next does.
Even while the programme was continuing Twitter went ballistic with nationalists denouncing the questioner. The barrage of criticism and allegation continued into the night:
- the woman was the wife of a Tory councillor
- she had been on a recent Question Time programme as well
- she was a Tory plant
- she earned £30,000 a year. How could she claim to use foodbanks?
- she should be investigated by Wings over Scotland (this from more than one of the egregious exile-in-Bath’s followers)
- and I suspect much more that I’m pleased to say I didn’t notice.
The SNP was in the vanguard of the attack. One Westminster candidate, Joanna Cherry (yes, a senior lawyer, a QC even – something in there about standards of evidence, my lord), quickly realised that whatever she’d said or retweeted was wrong and at least had the decency to apologise. Another, Angus MacNeil, famous for all sorts of things far beyond his Western Isles constituency, merely deleted his tweet on the subject (politicians doing that are invariably caught out by the excellent Politwoops – ‘all deleted tweets from politicians’). Not to be outdone SNP MSP Sandra White (found to have made anti-semitic statements once upon a time) retweeted a denunciation that gratuitously described the nurse as ‘English.’ And an SNP branch joined in:
(They included a photo of the woman which I’ve omitted)
This morning I woke up to find the media has latched on to the subject. The Scottish Sun names the nurse (her age too in case you’re wondering), reports the specialism she works in and in which city, and includes six photos of her alleged ‘swanky’ lifestyle, culled from her Facebook page. They include what are, I am pretty sure from other comments made on Twitter, photos of her daughter. Intrusive or what? And this, from an ITV political reporter:
This was only in the ten minutes I was online before breaking off in something approaching disgust.
What, for God’s sake, have we come to?
Here was a programme meant to give politicians a chance to set out their stall, and for a studio audience to question them in an attempt, on our behalf, to hold them to account for their claims and promises.
Instead, it has turned into a witch hunt by nationalists online, some SNP politicians and at least part of the media, a witch hunt of one member of the audience who had the temerity to challenge Nicola Sturgeon robustly.
There’s more than a hint of paranoia in the nationalist response to an awkward question. The SNP do themselves and their cause no good in their participation in and connivance at this nastiness. They will pay the price.