No, Ian Blackford, you really weren’t the victim: your campaign against Charles Kennedy was a disgrace

Few things have made me quite as angry as SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s revisionist interview in The Times (£)last weekend in which he claimed that the SNP’s vicious campaign against Charles Kennedy in 2015 was nothing to do with him and he was in fact the victim.

He said:

I did not enjoy the election campaign in 2015 but that was more to do with the characterisation of me from the Liberals. I’m not in any way blaming Charles, who was the MP. It was the campaign against me. It was pretty nasty.

Blackford objected to the Liberal Democrat literature which referred to him, accurately, as a banker from Edinburgh. While his supporters were going round being pretty blatant about Charles’ health problems and calling him a quisling. At the time former Labour minister Brian Wilson outlined some of the horrendous abuse Charles received on social media from Blackford’s allies:

Mr Smith sent at least 115 offensive tweets to Charles Kennedy between January and May as well as countless Facebook messages. He was not alone. A member of Charles’s constituency staff worked full-time on deleting abuse from his own social media sites. Any attempt to communicate on behalf of his own campaign met with another torrent of well-orchestrated poison.

When Charles asked for supporters to put posters in their windows, one Clare Robertson (if that is indeed his/her name) sneered: “Just put an empty whisky bottle in your window. It’s the same thing.”

The Mr Smith referred to was Blackford’s constituency chair who resigned over his comments on Twitter. 

Blackford also refers to a visit he made to Charles’ campaign office in Fort William:

What about the infamous episode, I ask, when you and some supporters were said to have burst into the Liberal Democrat campaign rooms and had a shouting match?

“That wasn’t the case,” says Mr Blackford. “I’d been in on several occasions. We even took some cake into them when we opened up our offices. I’d actually gone in to him because we’d had a public meeting the night before and I’d gone to see Charles to say, look, could you lay off this personal attack on us.

“With the benefit of hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, perhaps it would have been better not to do that, but that’s what happened and the Liberals have sought to characterise it in another way.”

On the day, in April 2015, we brought you the story of Blackford’s ill-tempered and aggressive visit to the campaign hq where he had a right go at young staff members. 

 I’ve just been speaking to members of Charles Kennedy’s team in his office in Fort William. They told me how the SNP candidate for the area, Ian Blackford, stormed in this morning with 4 supporters and shouted at everyone, wagging his finger at a member of staff. If he’d tried to do that at the doctor’s surgery or to a member of Scotrail staff, for example, he’d have found himself in big trouble. Why, then, did he think it was acceptable to treat young people in that way?

He threatened “retaliation,” of an unspecified nature if they did not apologise and retract something entirely verifiable that they’d said on Facebook.

Candy Piercy was there and she gave her first-hand account:

I was an eyewitness. I was helping in Charles Kennedy’s office in Fort William when Ian Blackford walked in with three male supporters and one women. Events unfolded as Caron has already described. Mr Blackford was angry, aggressive and unpleasant, wagging his finger at us. He demanded an apology for and a retraction of, a Facebook post on Charles’ page which had described Mr Blackford as a banker.

Brian Wilson said in yesterday’s Times (£) that we must challenge Blackford’s “odious” attempt to rewrite history:

As soon as Mr Blackford was selected as prospective SNP candidate in January 2015, he launched the hashtag “#Where’sCharlie?” which became dog-whistle politics that undoubtedly unleashed a torrent of abuse.

Anyone paying attention knew exactly where Charlie was. He was battling alcoholism. He was mourning the death of his parents. He was grieving the early demise of his closest friend. He was desperate to spend time with his young son. And he still had a better Commons voting record than any SNP MP.

Ian Blackford may try to pretend that he and his supporters didn’t behave badly. But he did. And we all know they did. The evidence is clear.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • nigel hunter 2nd Aug '18 - 12:39pm

    We need another Kennedy (male.female) in our party. One who shows he/she is human in every respect. One of us.l

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Aug '18 - 1:09pm

    Nobody who knows politics at it’s lowest can be shocked but everybody who does can criticise this disgraceful behaviour.

    The SNP are very hypocritical on these types of incidents.

    I am completely against their stance but this about more than policy it is about a lack of decency.

  • David Evans 2nd Aug '18 - 1:19pm

    Well said Caron. I’m sorry to disagree Lorenzo, but bursting in and hectoring junior members of staff is not policy and it does show a total lack of decency.

  • There is a story on the Scotsman website now in which Charles’s agent publishes the note he sent to the police after this incident. It was all very squalid and I’m afraid shows up the SNP as the deeply unpleasant party they are.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Nov '20 - 10:58am

    Today is Wednesday. PMQ is on and the whole country will see the SNP’s leader in the
    Commons performing.
    Politics Live is on BBC2 at 11.15 – 13.45 including Ed Davey.

  • nvelope2003 25th Nov '20 - 5:45pm

    I have had some debates with SNP supporters. Everyone of them unpleasant and devoid of reason or any form of objectivity. A bit like the supporters of a certain US leader. I guess we need to try to understand why some people behave like this and see what can be done to deal with it.

  • Brian Ellis 27th Nov '20 - 7:39pm

    Thank you for this item. Blackford needs to be held to account more often. When Charles came to my home town here in Dorset he was brilliant. He was recently described in public down here as the most genuine politician that this particular person had ever met. He spent the day with Charles doing photos. The person is not a committed Liberal Democrat but will vote for us when we project ourselves as being committed, genuine and caring. Blackford and the SNP need to shown for what they are which in simple language could be bullies.

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