The SNP and the Tories are using the same playbook to delegitimise opposition and checks on their power

There has been a very unfortunate trend in recent years of those in power condemning anyone who stands in their way. We all remember the failure of the Conservative Justice Secretary Liz Truss to stand up for the Supreme Court judges who upheld the law after the “enemies of the people” headline. However, that wasn’t the first time the judiciary had come under such attack. Back in 2011, Alex Salmond insulted Lord Hope, a judge who had found the Scottish Government to be wanting on human rights. As I wrote at the time:

Peter Cadder, whose case sparked the SNP’s casual quadrupling of pre-charge detention time in an afternoon last year, won his human rights case because, then a teenager, he had not had access to a lawyer before a police interrogation that led to his conviction for assault.  Now, to me, it seems eminently reasonable that people should have access to lawyers. A system that does not allow that is flawed. Rather than slag off judges and court judgements, surely the Scottish Justice Department would be better off comparing Scots law with European human rights law and sorting out where there could be problems. You could argue this should have been done years ago.

Alex Salmond is pandering to a Daily Fail type agenda with is comments and he needs to catch himself on.

The Tories and the right wing press are playing from the same playbook with their “saboteurs” and “enemies of the people” narrative as if they alone are the true diviners of the will of the people as if that is as immovable as Mount Everest. There’s a certain irony about those who claim to be all about enacting the will of the people zealously ensuring that the people don’t get a chance to mark their homework.

The Tories now have their own army of keyboard warriors to rival the cybernats. As a liberal, and a woman who dares voice her opinion on the internet, I get it from both of them. Do I care? No. I will not be silenced by these people. But it does matter, because it poisons our political environment and discourse. It also damages our democracy. What the SNP and the Tories want is to have any excuse to get rid of anything that holds them in check. It’s all a bit like Trump firing anyone who gets in his way.

What happened to the nurse who challenged Nicola Sturgeon last night is pretty despicable. Predictably, the cybernats subjected her to some really unpleasant personal insults. They trawled through her social media to try to discredit her. Even some of their candidates seeking re-election as MPs took part. Even one who doesn’t normally behave like that got sucked in to it. It’s not good enough.

Some of the attitudes we saw were appalling.

Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged the First Minister to sort out the cybernats. He said:

Last night the First Minister faced perfectly fair questions from a nurse, which she was unable to answer. Within minutes the nurse was set on by the online Nationalist army. It was ugly, but is typical of a movement which has always been intolerant of differing views and is now losing support.

The First Minister must launch an immediate investigation into who sanctioned this public mauling. We know the cybernats are a problem for the SNP but when the official organisation feeds them in this way it requires action from the top.

Efforts to discredit the impartiality of a public sector worker went right to the top of the SNP, as shown by the comments made by Joanna Cherry, which were later retracted.

Freedom of speech, especially the right to criticise our political leaders, is something we must cherish. That is why the First Minister must act now.

People need to be really wary about giving either the SNP or the Tories more power. What they have already has gone to their heads. They both need decent opposition to hold them in check. There is nothing worse than the thought of a landslide Tory majority on 8 June.

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

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9 Comments

  • Phil Beesley 22nd May '17 - 7:10pm

    Nobody in the world thinks that delegitimise is a word.

  • ” immovable as Mount Everest”………………. Isn’t there some doubt about the Hillary Step ?

    BBC News 2 hours ago : Days after a British mountaineer claimed that a famous rock feature near the summit of Mount Everest had disintegrated, two Nepali climbers have contradicted him. So has the Hillary Step collapsed, and if not, why the confusion?

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd May '17 - 9:18pm

    Judges should absolutely be fair game for strong comment. It would do the judicial class some good to read the morning papers (to mangle an Americanism). Leaving that aside – three words – It’s The Internet.

    There probably never was this great golden age of civility – just the sewer is more visible now. Having lots of people write on the internet is nothing more than modernised driving around with a megaphone – just more irritating. The best thing to do with strident internet comment is to treat it for the e-chip wrapper it is. Frustrating as that may be.

    If these people wish to submit themselves to the voters then so be it. I remain free, of course, to tell anyone on the internet, at my front door or elsewhere to take their strident view and insert it into their colon. Sideways.

  • Theresa May is not only opposed to opposition, she is also opposed to scrutiny. For example, she is planning to go ahead with these Brexit negotiations without having to answers questions about it in Parliament. She says that she will not give a “running commentary”, by which she means that she will act in secret. She is adopting the very same approach to the dementia tax, where she refuses to say precisely what it is that she plans to do. Jürgen Habermas says that for democracy to have any meaning there must be public scrutiny. He was right. Theresa May is setting herself up as an elected dictator, a term that was coined by a Conservative, Lord Hailsham. For Tories on the doorstep, it is worth reminding them that Margaret Thatcher actually extended the amount of scrutiny of government by Parliament (or at least allowed Norman St John Stevas to do so). Secret government is bad government.

    No, it is not legitimate for politicians to insult judges. We have a thing called the separation of powers which protects the judiciary from intimidation by the Executive. Tories who defend Dacre’s attack on the Supreme Court should be reminded that when Labour politicians attacked Lord Denning in comparable circumstances, they were roundly condemned by the Conservative Party and most newspapers.

    I was down at the recycling bin a few hours ago and found it to be bung full of Tory leaflets. Good on my neighbours!

  • @Phil Beesley: Apart from the Oxford Dictionary https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/delegitimize

  • Simon Banks 23rd May '17 - 6:40pm

    I can’t comment on the SNP, but the Mayan Tories are slipping into a totalitarian mindset and they could make us not unlike Russia or Turkey. The Leader represents the National Interest, which is undefined. So anybody who stands against her is working against the National Interest. Issues that don’t fit in easily to a narrative of unity in the national interest – tax evasion, poverty, home care, liberty – are sidelined. The role of the political system is to support the Strong Leader. This is NOT traditional Toryism. After all, Churchill was a rebel and Baldwin saw one of his main duties as encouraging the Labour Party, his main opponent, to develop as a fully constitutional alternative.

  • Joanna Cherry’s cavalier attitude towards fact-checking would be marked down in a high school essay, and yet she’s a QC who makes sure that everyone knows as much. To call it an ‘honest mistake’ is ridiculous, and I can’t tell if it’s political opportunism, or foolishness that allows so many people to make excuses, saying that she just repeated something ‘someone else’ tweeted.

    It’s also unacceptable to justify full forensic analysis of someone’s history on the grounds that they were on tv. It’s stalking and intimidation, and that so many people think that in doing so they are one of the good guys should be a source of concern.

  • John Littler 24th May '17 - 9:22pm

    The SNP

    “It’s Scotland’s…………..” fill in the blank:

    Right to over ride the mother of Parliaments

    Independence Question

    Money

    Oil

    Pound

    EU Membership

    Single Market

    Barnet Formula

    Right to govern without using powers or doing anything much but allow a slide into decline, while bleating incessantly about Separation.

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